If you've had any involvement in the world of consoles, then the name Suda51 may be familiar to you. Goichi Suda is the man responsible for several stylish, surreal action games such as Killer 7 and No More Heroes. But one of Suda51's earlier creations was an adventure called Flower, Sun and Rain, released only in Japan on the PlayStation 2 some years ago. At long last, the game has finally received an English language release on the Nintendo DS. Regrettably, while there is some enjoyment to be had, the repetitive puzzle solving and senseless storyline combine to ensure that this isn't one of the acclaimed designer's finest works.
The adventure revolves around Sumio Mondo, a “searcher” whose profession involves finding items for other people, or even intangible things such as lost memories, key words or even dreams. Driving a car named Giggs and carrying a briefcase he fondly refers to as Catherine, it is clear from the outset that this is a game that doesn't take itself entirely seriously, further reflected in the increasingly bizarre developments in the storyline. Sumio has been called to the Flower, Sun and Rain hotel by the manager Edo Macalister on the premise of foiling terrorist attacks that have been taking place at the airport on the island of Lospass. Yet things are not that simple: each day a guest requests something from Sumio that distracts him from reaching the airport in time, resulting in the disastrous end of another plane exploding in a variety of different and quite amusing ways. When this happens, Sumio ends up back in bed, waking up the next morning to try again.
At first it appears that you are hopelessly stuck, seemingly fated to watch each new catastrophe without any ability to stop it, but as the adventure progresses, players will begin to learn how to bypass the pseudo-time loop that Sumio has found himself in. In order to do this, he needs to make use of Catherine, which is really a sophisticated computer system under its briefcase exterior, where a guidebook about the island and its inhabitants is also stored. There he will 'jack in' around 4-5 times per day, which requires choosing an electronic lead from a small selection (finding the correct one is always trial and error) and connecting it to a visual representation of the person or item that he is trying to crack. Succeeding at this then brings up an input code system, where you have to enter the correct code using a number dial. How you find the correct code is usually hinted at in the game's dialogue, and for all but a few puzzles, the answers can be found in the comprehensive guidebook. Entering the correct code results in a 'Hit' message, which then enables the storyline to progress a little further. Failure to get the correct code just means you can try the puzzle again without any penalty to the player.
While in theory this is a very original idea, the problem is that there are no other puzzles in the game, which naturally means it doesn't take long for the gameplay to become repetitive. It’s required for many of the people, objects and even places that Sumio encounters, and the DS-specific inclusion of a Lost and Found list each day simply provides more opportunity to pursue the same formula, though at least it provides an added brain-testing element. The list is discovered in Sumio’s room at the beginning of each day and challenges you with riddles to solve before finding the relevant item needed to jack in. Like the rest of puzzles in the game, however, clues to solving these riddles are found within the guidebook, removing any real sense of mystery.
Aside from traveling through the hotel and across the island talking to the various characters you encounter, that's effectively it for player involvement in FSR. There isn't an inventory to speak of, or even any dialogue interaction – the game is entirely scripted without any input. On the plus side, the puzzles are logical to solve, but the constant reliance on the guidebook for answers means that you never really feel you're getting to think outside of the box. There are also times when you’ll work out who to talk to next, yet the game insists on limiting your actions to a certain order, which can feel unnecessarily restrictive.
Sumio can be guided through the game’s 3D environments either with the +Control pad or the stylus, while any items or characters that can be interacted with will be highlighted with a circle when you walk past. The entire game takes place on the top screen, with the bottom screen used only as a basic map when Sumio is exploring the locations, plus a “Catherine” screen that includes a memo option, the guidebook, your missing items list, and access to the 'jacking in' process when applicable. Jacking in uses the touch screen to select the electronic leads required, and the numerical dial can either be moved with a sliding motion of the stylus (quite fiddly) or the +Control pad can alter the numbers. The memo feature allows you to write your own notes on the touch screen, which comes in handy for reminding yourself of key details.Continued on the next page...
What our readers think of Flower, Sun and Rain
Posted by TimovieMan on Sep 28, 2013
A weird mixed bag that is fortunately self-aware
Flower, Sun and Rain for the DS is a strange little game. There's a whole lot of bad, but there's also some good making up for part of it. Let's start with the flaws... The graphics are iffy, with cheap-looking 3D character models who should all get funded...