Just how much better does shooting zombies get with a harem at your side? Seed of the Dead: Sweet Home by TeamKRAMA offers an answer more promising than it looks.
Seed of the Dead: Sweet Home is an action-packed horde shooter in which the player faces legions of zombies (referred to as Z’s) while being accompanied by deadly waifus. The game was developed by TeamKRAMA and published by Eroge Japan as a direct sequel to the first Seed of the Dead, but experiencing the first game isn’t necessary to enjoy the sequel.
The aftermath of the first game's events is introduced in the game's establishing shots: a zombie plague has taken over the world and a group of girls managed to construct a safe haven within the underground metro system. Throughout many of their struggles, they’ve been aided by one heroic man — the protagonist of the prior game — who then left to provide aid to those still on the surface and guide them to the newly-established hometown.
The sequel’s protagonist is one of the new survivors coming into the town. When initially introduced, he’s suffering from depression, unable to motivate himself to strive for survival. He soon encounters Hikari, the leader of the survivors, whose altruistic attitude rouses something within the hero, inspiring him to help others as well.
By sticking close to Hikari, the player quickly meets the other two town leaders: the mature, reliable Aya Kagano and the petite, yet bossy Kirara Suzune. The trio hears of trouble brewing on the surface, as the Z’s are attacking some of the safe zones they'd established to gather supplies. Worried about the safety of their community, they depart to investigate these recent events. To their surprise, the unassuming protagonist insists on following them, which they eventually agree to.
During their first investigation, they fail to find a reason for the Z’s unusual behavior, instead, stumbling upon another survivor: the shy and nerdy Ichika Hazuki. Armed with a sniper rifle and a cynical attitude, the girl has no interest in revealing her secrets to the party. Despite this, she understands how suspicious she must appear and agrees to follow the team back to their hometown. Given her valuable skillset, Ichika later comes to follow the group on future investigations, and as she warms up to them, reveals what she knows of the new dangers lurking on the surface.
Admittedly, the story itself isn’t particularly novel or interesting. It’s simple, following basic zombie horror tropes, but it's told just well enough to motivate players to keep playing and gives good reasons to push the player out into the zombie-infested streets. A lot is accomplished just through each of the character’s well-defined personalities and their stellar voice acting. Aside from the main story, the player can also unlock personal romance stories between the protagonist and each heroine.
These romance stories are divided into nine chapters, each of which has to be unlocked by granting the girl gifts she enjoys, which can be found while exploring during missions. The personal stories focus on exploring the various heroines’ personal quirks and are also where the game's erotic scenes lie. Each girl offers a unique dynamic to explore, such as how Hikari offers a classic, wholesome romance with the player, while Ichika is more of a comic relief of misunderstandings and bad logic. Due to her nature, Kirara makes the protagonist into her pet, while Aya's story involves her being raped by the protagonist to prove his manliness, only to discover that she's into this style of rough play.
These personal stories may seem somewhat disjointed at first, especially since the protagonist’s personality is all over the place as a result of him accommodating each of the girls’ different quirks. They do eventually manage to wrap up rather nicely, though, with extra threesome chapters establishing each girls’ views about being part of a harem. There’s also a third type of story in the game: the optional NTR chapters, which require the player to find a specific item hidden within the levels. In order for these items to even spawn, the player has to consent to these stories in the options menu.
Enough with the romance, though. Seed of the Dead: Sweet Home isn’t just a visual novel: it's also a horde shooter. Throughout the game, the player will have to progress through eight levels, each divided into two parts by a checkpoint, with these two halves representing different areas. The majority of the game takes place in cityscapes, but the heroes will also travel through factories, train stations, a school campus, and various labs. Each area makes for a fitting backdrop to the action, but they also tend to become progressively more claustrophobic, making it easier for the Z’s to overwhelm the player.
To combat the tide of the undead, the player has access to 24 different weapons. Most of these weapons are rifles, but there're also shotguns, a grenade launcher, and a selection of rare, but powerful melee weapons. The guns handle in a very similar fashion to each other, but some are clearly stronger than others. You only get to bring a pistol with you when you start a level, though, so your ability to find a stronger gun during the level will be crucial to your survival. While the missions are largely linear, the need to arm yourself helps give a decent motivation to explore the levels' side paths and look for secret item locations.
As far as the game's enemies go, the Z’s themselves are rather basic for zombie hordes. The standard enemies are mostly harmless fodder that becomes more dangerous when special creatures appear, of which there are five such unique enemies. Most of them can restrain the girls and each one has a unique quirk about its attacks or behavior, be it striking from a distance or gunning directly for the player themselves. Altogether, the game's enemies do their jobs quite well, but in the end, the levels just begin to feel repetitive over time. This is mainly due to the lack of variety in the different mission objectives. There tends to be a unique event reserved for the end of most stages, but until that point, you're simply moving forward through zombie-infested streets, with only the special units occasionally livening encounters up before then.
Of course, you aren’t fighting through the hordes of undead on your own; you can choose three of the four heroines to accompany you through the levels. Each girl has their own weapon, stats, and special ability. They’re also quite capable: you don’t need to worry about being stuck in a constant escort quest, as they'll not only keep themselves alive but may also get you out of a bind if needed. That said, they aren’t impervious to harm and will need help dealing with the game's special foes. Even then, your companions aren’t perfect. Occasionally, I saw them trying to shoot Z’s through the walls or ceilings while in an empty room, but at least their behavior never caused me to lose a level unfairly. I do wish I at least had the option to issue them commands, though.
If one of the girls suffers too much harm, you’ll have to heal her up through a quickie. The game’s lore tries to explain this mechanic by saying that the side effects of the vaccine make people unusually horny. During the act, you'll have to perform a well-timed QTE, with each successful input improving the potency of the healing. Doing so will also restore your own health and help charge the girl’s special ability. This mechanic turns daring sex in the middle of a firefight into a legitimate combat strategy, as a well-timed use of a special skill can turn the tide of battle. The trade-off is that you aren’t immune to damage while being frisky, so try not to be too reckless about satisfying your needs.
Additionally, one extra benefit to doing well during healing is being rewarded with bonus points. These can be gained from doing nearly anything, with the main source obviously from killing zombies, with even more bonus points if you finish them off with a headshot. These points can be traded for items and new skills between missions. Most available skills are passive and you’re limited to only having five equipped, but they can substantially affect your play style. It makes for a pretty cool progression system that really makes you want to crank up the difficulty. The only issue I had with this system is that you’re competing against your own teammates for the points: if one of the girls gets the last shot on a special enemy, you don’t get any points for that kill.
If we were going by its decent gameplay and reasonable story alone, then Seed of the Dead: Sweet Home would’ve been an easy recommendation, but unfortunately, there’s a catch: the game suffers from a severely undercooked presentation, and even that’s putting it lightly. If you’ve stumbled across my past review of MY]R, you’d know that I don’t mind more abstract and amateur art styles, but for "cheap" visuals to work in my eyes, there needs to be a certain level of deliberate intent behind the style. In other words, a clear plan on how to make the entire visual presentation cohesive and appealing to some degree. When taking those terms into account, Seed of the Dead: Sweet Home just looks unfinished.
The game's visuals aren’t all bad, doing wonders with shading to create very moody environments, but struggles greatly when it comes to depicting characters. There’s a constant clash between art styles, with the lead characters basically resembling anime protagonists, while everyone else is rendered in a hyper-realistic fashion. The clothing on the girls also clips extremely often and there’s an abundance of issues with first-person animations. For instance, guns either hover or clip into the player’s hands and the reload animations tend to be broken or just seem random. My personal favorite is the gun with a drum magazine that you reload by unceremoniously shoving a typical rifle mag into it, right through the walls of the model. Enemies seem to be animated a bit better by comparison, save for one special enemy that T-poses while shooting out its tongue. I believe that might be an intentional joke, but in a game that already looks unpolished to the point of feeling unfinished, it's not a joke that comes off well.
When the presentation isn’t outright bad, it’s just completely absent. The visual novel segments read well, but aside from the models of characters acting out various emotes, they're simply lacking in visual flair. Sharing a moment with fireworks during an apocalypse is a fun scenario, but I’d rather see the fireworks appearing on the screen, at least as a still image. Meanwhile, the background scenes are renders of various in-game locations that are related to the current narrative in some general way.
The most bewildering part of the games’ visual problems is actually the complete lack thereof during the game's sex scenes. Intimate moments shared during the girls’ personal chapters are all amazingly done, with animated transitions and a good variety of poses. The same animation quality even holds true for the game over scenes: if one of the girls dies and bleeds out during gameplay, a scene of her death will play out. It's always a gruesome scene in which she gets raped and murdered by one of the monsters. Despite their horrific nature, these scenes cannot be toggled off, unlike the game's NTR content, though you can simply skip them once they start playing. In other words, they had what it takes to achieve a good presentation, but for some reason only did so for the game's lewd sections.
The sound design is also a mixed bag. I did praise the voice acting before, but I can’t say the same for the music. There aren’t that many tracks in the game, and they’re hardly noticeable. Good sound design can go a long way to elevate horror-themed games, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way for Seed of the Dead: Sweet Home. For instance, monsters lack any sort of distinct audio cues for their different actions, which is an extreme shame. The biggest disappointment to me, though, was the firearm sound design. A handful of them are fine, but most gunshots sound anemic and muted, giving weapons that should feel strong a weak impression.
Lackluster presentation aside, the game also suffers from bad optimization. Frame drops are rather frequent, though that might be considered by some to be an understandable curse of the horde shooter genre. I'll praise the team for trying to improve this specific aspect of the game, though. They’ve at least released two updates that have noticeably improved stability since the game's launch, but you should still expect some occasional stutters.
The technical issues unfortunately continue outside the game as well. Seed of the Dead: Sweet Home is distributed without erotic content, so in order to add in the lewd content, you have to download a separate patch available on ErogeJapan. The main issue is that you have to do this after every time the game updates. What’s more, the game still features mosaic censorship, even after being patched. To remove that, you’d have to mod the game itself. Fortunately, there's a handy guide on how to do exactly that on the Steam forums, by DarkSpartan. Since this isn't an official feature of the game, I haven’t used the mod for the screenshots in this review. Just keep in mind that you’d have to repeat this process every time you update the game.
Overall, you could do far worse than Seed of the Dead: Sweet Home. The game’s uneven quality makes it more of an oddity than a truly memorable experience. Even as I’m writing this review, the game is still receiving updates, so there’s a possibility that some of these issues will be improved upon in the future. In its current state, though, I cannot recommend grabbing it at anything more than half-price. Aside from the game's technical quirks, it’s not terrible; just overpriced.
Seed of the Dead: Sweet Home is available on Steam for $29.99. Adult content for the game has to be installed separately, using a patch available on the publisher’s website. You can also support the game's developers through their Patreon.