Flower, Sun, and Rain Review: It’s Happening Again
It’s not every day that you see a port of a PlayStation 2 game to the Nintendo DS; it’s just not a natural jump to make for so many different reasons. It’s even more surprising to see a game released by the now infamous game designer Goichi Suda, better known as Suda 51, on Nintendo’s little portable, especially one that doesn’t center around the player killing people. And those are just a two of a handful of things that make Marvelous Entertainment USA’s latest release, “Flower, Sun, and Rain” an anomaly, but it’s also unlike anything else found on the handheld.
“Flower, Sun, and Rain” could best be described as the Groundhog’s Day of video games, since you play one day over and over, until everything falls into place, and your mission is complete. The plot of the game, while seemingly basic grows into a much more developed, and tangled web as each day repeats and the game’s main character, Sumio Mondo (”F.S.R.”’s Bill Murray), tries to make it to the airport to stop a terrorist’s attack. While it seems like it should be a very basic, and easy task to accomplish, Sumio and his partner, Catherine (a machine in his suitcase that allows him to “jack” into things, essentially hacking them), seem to get tied up in helping out different people every step of the way, and that, in turn, keeps him from stopping the attack… and forcing the day to start over again. It’s a concept that stretches out over the different chapters of the game turning the island of Lospass, into a wonderful world of intrigue, and home to a host of well-developed, odd characters.
As the first few chapters of the game progress the tasks that Sumio has to perform are redundant, and grow to be a bit boring, boiling down to basic fetch quests all resulting in the same thing – an unaccomplished mission, and an exploding airplane. If you can work your way through the first few hours of the game’s occasionally confusing dialog, and solve all the puzzles you’re rewarded with a mostly satisfying second half of the game. Right around the middle of the game, the actual story starts to pick up, and the characters begin to be a bit more entertaining, one of them going so far as to break down the 4th wall, and start making fun of the game itself. In the end, the game twists and turns itself into a corner, and will most likely end up falling a little flat with American audiences. There are a lot of ties from the characters in “Flower, Sun, and Rain” to one of Suda’s earlier titles, “The Silver Case” which was never released in the U.S. (supposedly it’s coming later this year), and those extended story lines are simply lost on players that aren’t familiar with both titles. Fortunately, it isn’t an entire loss, since the game’s resolution still manages to be entertaining, and, at the very least, fulfilling.
While the plot is really the main selling point of “Flower, Sun, and Rain” the game does have a few other things going for it. As soon as you turn on the game you can see that “F.S.R.” is oozing with style – from the opening cinematic, to the save screen, Marvelous did a great job keeping this game looking cool, hip, and trendy. Unfortunately, menus don’t make or break a game … controls do, and the controls in this PS2 port work pretty well. As long as you use the stylus and touch screen to move Sumio around you’ll have no problems navigating your way though Lospass, however, if you opt to use the D-pad, you’ll feel like you’re driving a car with a broken axel. The game was obviously created with an analog stick in mind, and when you try to walk around using the D-pad Sumio has problems walking in a straight line, and always tends to veer off to the side just a bit. There’s also very little forced use of the touch screen, which is always good to see, and the only real time it’s actually incorporated into to the gameplay is when you use Catherine to jack into things. There’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple, especially in what can be a fairly complex game.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to the game’s graphics. They are artsy and blocky at the same time. While I’ve never sat down to play the PS2 version of the game, I’m sure they looked a bit better on the console, and that was one of the things that didn’t make the cut in the port. It’s not really something that could have been done “better” since the source material was presumably of a significantly better quality, but the experience of the game suffers a bit simply because, on occasion, some characters don’t even have defined faces, and their movements aren’t smooth at all – fortunately “Flower, Sun, and Rain” isn’t an action title, and this can always be viewed as an “artistic choice.”
Overall, “Flower, Sun, and Rain” is an experience unlike anything else on the DS, and something different than most American made games. It’s a slow paced, dialog heavy, thinking game with well-developed characters. The good makes up for the bad, but it’s still not a game that’s going to appeal to everybody. However, fans of Suda 51 should definitely pick it to at least do their homework on one of the most creative game designers in the world today.
“Flower, Sun, and Rain” was developed by h.a.n.d. Inc. and published by Mavelous Entertainment USA and Xseed Games on June 12, 2009 for the Nintendo DS.