Flower, Sun and Rain
Just like the film world has its fair share of odd auteurs, our beloved gaming culture has a few, similarly odd designers – namely one Goichi Suda, otherwise known as Suda 51. He has worked on titles such as Killer7 and No More Heroes – games with an undoubtedly unique visual style and a wealth of extreme ideas. Flower, Sun and Rain is his most recent work, but unfortunately it only succeeds merely on a scriptural level. As a videogame, it is disappointing and can only be regarded as average.
The game begins with a neat intro movie that makes you believe FSR is going to be something truly special. Similarly, when you get to the menu it charms you immediately with subtle key sounds and slickly presented patterns. Once you get into the main game, however, all that visual sheen disappears when you’re left with a particularly ugly 3D world, characters and all. There are glimmers of hope within the graphics engine in the inspired design of certain locales, but otherwise you’re left with a shoddily realised game world.
The premise is interesting and littered with mad ideas, as you would expect from Suda 51. You play as ‘Sumio Mondo’, a so-called ‘searcher’ hired by the hotel manager of the Flower, Sun and Rain hotel on the remote island of Lospass. Said manager gives Sumio the task of finding and eliminating a bomb rumoured to be placed on an airplane set to leave the nearby airport in the next 24 hours. Sumio, the social dog he is, aims to complete this task as is his speciality, however, other people’s problems get in the way and before he knows it the plane has blown up. You get the feeling this guy needs to sort out his priorities.
The next day he wakes up, but finds out that the same plane presumably planted with a bomb has yet to set off. From then on, in a groundhog day-esque set of events, you carry out a multitude of tasks in the lead up to eventually stopping the time-bomb. It’s an intriguing story, and one that starts off plodding but eventually gains speed and gets good. The scripting helps it along well; with a genius sense of humour that even has moments of self-referential brilliance. The English translation is flawless, too.
Sumio is a ‘searcher’, and his job is to find things (literal and not) that are lost, discovering mysteries of the island. The tasks that you are expected to complete all need a code to be implemented so that you can learn more about the island and the stories that surround it. In order to do this you require the help of your accomplice – a suitcase turned code-cracker turned memo turned guide-book. You’ll be spending precious time with you accomplice, humorously named ‘Catherine’ for all kinds of innuendo fun. The memo lets you write out clues and ideas with the stylus you feel worthy to note and the guide book will be where most of your codes will be worked out, but it is the jack system which is most important.
Whenever you are prompted in the main game to touch the screen, it usually means there is a mystery, or something of importance to be found out. You then need to ‘jack-in’, using an odd trial and error gameplay mechanic where it won’t be long till you choose the right plug to the socket. Then you need to put in a numerical code based on what you’ve been led to believe is the correct answer. This code cracking act is the central focus to the game, and it’s a shame it’s so unbearably simple and overused. Answers are usually found in your island guide book, and there’s no real sense of accomplishment given successful code input.
This, then, is pretty much all there is to FSR, where you traverse the island in often long, linear journeys to solve more clues. It doesn’t help that player control is basic, with poor area detection.
Music is decent on the whole, with some neat electronic arrangements of the classics of Gershwin, Satie, and Bach. Unfortunately the dialogue is uttered in gibberish, which starts to grate after the first conversation you encounter. In a sense the gibberish is relevant, as the writing is so refreshingly nuts.
It’s a shame that a game with so much promise in the areas that maybe we underestimate in games such as the story and scripting, can fare so badly in the audiovisual experience and general gameplay. With some great ideas hidden behind a truly ugly veil, Flower Sun And Rain is like an ugly Jennifer Aniston. Exactly.