[VN Review] Flowers -Le Volume sur Printemps-

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Flowers -Le Volume sur Printemps- is my first Innocent Grey game, played on the Playstation Vita. The original PC version was released in spring of 2014, with the Vita port released a few months afterward. The ladies, shoujo-ai setting, and art is what lured me into this game.

Flowers begins in spring with Suoh Shirahane, our protagonist, entering Saint Angraecum, an all-girl school that’s both religious and prestigious. The school has an Amité system where she will form bonds and friendship with other members in the school.

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Suoh lived with her grandfather before entering Saint Angraecum. Before that, she stayed with her father who remarried after her mother passed away. Her stepmother is harsh and strict on her, especially with piano lessons, which essentially scarred Suoh from playing the piano. As she’s heading to school, she stumbled upon Rikka Hanabishi, and crosses path with Mayuri Kohsaka under a sakura tree. After meeting the two, the story begins. As you may have expected, Rikka and Mayuri are the only two girls the protagonist goes after.

In the start, classmates are all mesmerized by our protagonist and calls her a cool, tall, and beautiful woman with sumptuous large breasts, a slender figure, and a very pretty face. Suoh gets embarrassed since she never had people compliment her that way, especially a group of them. We then find out she shares a room with both Rikka and Mayuri for better or worse. Throughout the game, Suoh’s character changes from a quiet and shy girl who fear new things to a more daring and confident girl as she makes several new friends, experiences new things, and loves.

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Rikka is a very scrupulous and law abiding girl who often brews tea and prepares sweets for her fellow classmates. At first sight, she looks like a shy and kind girl who sometimes barges in between conversations and is a party pooper. Later, I realize she’s not the type you’d want to mess around with because she will put things in order and do what it takes to succeed, even if it ruins relationships. Early on in the game, I can easily see the affectionate hints she’s sending to our heroine, but Suoh thinks it’s just friendship. Sometimes Rikka’s hints are so strong, she becomes disruptive. I guess, it’s only human when she gets jealous, but she can be somewhat ruthless.

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Mayuri is a carefree type of girl and is very chill in most situations. There’s just something about her that makes her very likable. Maybe she’s charming, maybe she’s smart, maybe she’s just better than Rikka. Aside from her personality, her build up was slow and anti-climatic, which left me a bit disappointed.

Ichigo and Ringo Sasaki are twin sisters, Ichigo being the troublemaker and Ringo being the calm one. Both are friendly to Suoh and are a good supporting pair, often creating comedic scenes. We get a slight hint of the type of character they are during a mystery in the school.
We have Yuzuriha Yatsushiro, an upperclassmen that has a manly personality and often flirts with Suoh. Suoh frequently joins her in the cooking club.
Erika Yaegaki is an amusing and mischievous girl in a wheelchair. She and Yuzuriha are the two friends Suoh often goes to when she’s faces problems, seeks help or advice, and just talk to in general.

There’s a lot of tension between the characters. They keep a lot of things bottled up inside them, which seems obvious to the player, but the characters only realize it until way later in the game. Not only do they take a while to talk their feelings out, sometimes their way of speech is  not “normal.” The way they say things sounds too formal and eloquent; it takes them several lines to get to the point. Hearing their sweet and soothing voices as they ramble on a subject is fine and all, but please, just get to the point. Speaking of voices, all of the girls’ voices are flat and without emphasis. I liked Yuzuriha and Erika’s voice more compared to the rest of the characters as they sound very fun and playful, but that’s not saying much. Although all the characters have their good and bad points, my favorite character so far is Suoh, Erika, Yuzuriha, and Mayuri. These characters are more adult-like and think quite rationally and make scenes more enjoyable.

Now, how about the story itself. Haha, what story? The story is in an episodic pace that feels like it’s not even part of the plot at all. It’s just daily lives of the girls building up friendship, doing girly things like eating and making sweets (lots of it), practicing ballet, and whatnot. Some scenes are just meaningless with not even a hint of fan service at all. In short, the story is bland, same goes with the characters and the entire game. Because of their speech and narration, the story feels like it’s dragging on, which makes the game a drag. The game is too slow paced and none of the scenes were really thrilling at all, until the CGs appear. Some scenes were interesting, like when Suoh gets all flustered when she sees everyone changing clothes, or when they talk of love stories and their interests, but the story itself isn’t something to be praised at. Maybe it’s because I played Flowers on and off for over a year, so the story was never really stuck in my head. That’s also the problem, because there wasn’t a hook that seduced me beside the girls and the art. I don’t really know how long it took me to finish Flowers, it feels longer than it is, but I believe it’s around 15-20 hours long, or shorter.

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The game presented mystery and friendship, and we do have several mysteries, maybe 4-5 throughout the game, but so what? It’s not like the mysteries mattered at all and it shouldn’t even be included. One of the mysteries accentuated the situation of girls stuck in an all-girl school with no fun like TV or games, just books, cooking, and other old-fashioned hobbies girls would do. Other mysteries felt pointless. Actually, most of the “mysteries” were more or less pointless and were a bad transition in the story. As an example, Suoh and the twin sisters were talking to Yuzuriha about cooking and hot dogs, and suddenly, they began talking about the mysteries of the school, which eventually led the girls to do some bloody mary type of ritual. Sure we find out the true reason behind it which strengthened the girls’ bonds, but they could have replaced the “mystery” with something else. I just find the mysteries poorly executed and just wasn’t good to begin with.

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I’m also not fond of the numerous choices the game presented every few seconds/minutes with transitions occurring all to frequently in some scenes. The large amount of choices aren’t even needed and doesn’t add any value to the game. The constant choices are just there to help the protagonist reason, as you can see from the image above. But what differentiates a good protagonist from a bad one, is how well they act with that reasoning to progress the story and make it worthwhile. Suoh does act, but it seems like she already knows everything and says several brief sentences explaining the situation to herself or to her classmates, and everything is resolved just like that. That’s anti-climatic. And how about those scenes where something randomly happens, which is then explained with a flashback minutes later. I guess it’s their way of keeping me interested in the game like including a random scene of Suoh cleaning Mayuri in the bathhouse all of a sudden. Flowers have numerous poor positioning of scenes that doesn’t really demonstrate why it’s beneficial and valuable in that moment of time.

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Since this is a Vita port of the PC game, I can only talk about Prototype’s system. Prototype uses similar settings for the games it publishes, which I greatly appreciate. You can do almost anything with the game like skip to the previous and next choice, save voice clips, change the text speed by the second, change tone color of the screen depending if you have a Vita 1000 or 2000, etc. To make gameplay more simple, Innocent Grey implemented an indicator that shows which route you’re on, illustrated with a budding lily. After completion, the game opens up a 4-koma section with some cute comics of the girls. I’d rather have more of these funny scenes than boring ones in this game.

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The music fits right in with Flowers’s boring storytelling and atmosphere. Manyo is the composer, incorporating several violin and piano tracks playing smoothly and beautifully, but it doesn’t have intensity at all. The music almost drove me crazy as the same tracks are repeated over and over and I had to mute it countless times. During happy scenes, same track. Suspenseful and sad scene? Same track. Flowers have 19 music tracks, but it seems like only 5 or so tracks are played often, too often. Those few tracks loop around the entire game, thus making the game more sleep inducing than it already is. The music does fit in with the overall setting and it’s “good” music, but boring. Maybe here and there, there are a few new tracks playing after a mystery is solved or after a confession, but after that, it’s back to the same old music again.

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One of the redeeming factor of this game that kept me playing besides the girls is the art. The art is basically the best thing about the game. There are 45 CGs in total excluding variations, but I would say 34 of them are real CGs, the rest are images of hands, legs, and items. Sugina Miki’s drawing is just fantastic and every background and CG is beautiful with great attention to detail; you can barely find anything wrong with any of the art in Flowers. Every scene is bright and soft, showing off the innocence of the girls and the overall feel of the game. I don’t even have to explain, here are some images.

Flowers -Le Volume sur Printemps- isn’t “bad” per se, it could’ve been better. The story isn’t gripping and the overall game is boring. The girls and the CGs are the only things that kept me playing, even if the characters are quite boring themselves. Even so, they are cute and the game ended on a good note, surprisingly. I was considering checking out the sequel, Flowers -Le Volume sur Ete- with Erika as the protagonist, but I fear the game will also be dull, so the possibility of me continuing this series is low. I wouldn’t recommend Flowers to someone looking for a serious and fun game. But If you enjoy yuri (Flowers is shoujo-ai though) with cute girls doing girly and cute things with great art, and you don’t mind the story and repetitive music, then you’ll probably like Flowers.

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