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Flower, Sun and Rain DS is an unusual mystery adventure. It includes Suda 51's (killer7, No More Heroes) usual absurdity - the confusing dialogue and frustrating mechanics will put many people off. Under the surface though, it's infused with layers of meaning, creating an implausible yet intriguing landscape.
My day job is usually enjoyable, but sometimes it's just a grind. Every morning I drag myself out of bed, walk to work, plod through necessary tasks, get sidetracked, and then walk home again. I played Flower, Sun and Rain during a particularly grinding period at work. After a monotonous day I would turn on my DS for a while and be surprised to discover more of the same - it felt like my daily routine replicated in miniature.
Although that sounds terrible, it was actually quite exciting - like having a shared secret. It felt as though someone understood what I was going through and designed a game just for me. No wonder so many people hated it!
Sumio Mondo is a professional 'searcher' skilled at finding lost objects. Although he's called to Lospass Island to deal with a terrorist threat, he finds himself constantly sidetracked by the bizarre requests of other characters. The day repeats itself in a Groundhog Day-style narrative, as though the island itself is determined to keep Mondo searching until he gets things right.
At first the strange characters and situations appear to be following dream logic. It's surreal, from the deliberately over-written conversations about sport and philosophy, through to a middle aged man in a pink bunny suit dancing in a field. On many levels it's confusing and hard to follow.
It felt like my daily routine replicated in miniature.
On another level it makes perfect sense. Rather than using subtle composition and writing, Flower, Sun and Rain puts game design under the scope and delights in common traditions. It makes it clear just how weird some things we take for granted actually are. Clear game logic, rather than dream logic, drives events - and is revealed to be no less random.
No matter how strange a request, in the context of a quest-game it makes internal sense. As a player I'm accustomed to searching for solutions and objects, as well as being easily distracted from my core objective.
Flower, Sun and Rain is often more concerned with metaphor and making a statement than with stereotypical fun. Frustrating elements, such as needing to manually run back and forth over a long distance, are even referred to in fourth-wall breaking dialogue. It was apparently a deliberate design decision to include frustration.
Superficially, there is a lot to dislike. Character models are formed of crude polygons, and most of the 'puzzles' consist of finding the right code in a 50-page guidebook. As a Research Assistant I've had a lot of practice scanning information and picking out the relevant details, so this was very straightforward.
I like finding connections with my life and ideas, and Flower, Sun and Rain certainly gave me a lot to think about.
The occasional worthy puzzle felt like being back at school. Since all answers are in the form of a number code there is a lot of basic maths. I kept a notepad and calculator handy, but still resorted to a cheat website a couple of times rather than using my atrophied maths-brain.
As microcosm gamer I like finding connections with my life and ideas, and Flower, Sun and Rain certainly gave me a lot to think about. I could practically write a thesis on the symbolism and possible interpretations.
I feel like I'm discussing one lonely, slow-moving art-house movie among a sea of accessible Hollywood flicks. The ideal may be somewhere in the middle, where both meaning and fun are possible. However, I would still argue that both ends of the spectrum have their place.
I feel like I'm discussing one lonely, slow-moving art-house movie among a sea of accessible Hollywood flicks.
Flower, Sun and Rain's approach is often confusing, but I don't consider that a negative. I really enjoy being confused -- it keeps me stimulated, gives me new things to learn. Whenever I find some sense among the confusion it's comforting. I realise not everyone is so open to being confused, and might even be scared of the sensation. It's a niche I certainly wouldn't recommend to everyone.
A lot of patience is required, so I needed to be in the right frame of mind to really appreciate Flower, Sun and Rain. Stuck in my own daily grind though, I was relieved to find something meaningful under the pointlessness of life.
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