Flowers: Le volume sur printemps (AKA Flowers: Spring Volume) is a yuri game set in an all-girls catholic school. You play as Shirahane Suou, a shy girl who has come to the school seeking friendship. You see, she has heard that at this school a certain system exists that pairs up girls who are in the same year. With a system such as this, even an introvert like Suou can surely make at least one true friend! Or, so she hopes...
Let's introduce our three main characters:
Suou is an introverted bookworm who has been homeschooled most of her life. Her lack of interaction with others her age has crippled her socially, and her one experience attempting to attend a normal school was a disaster. On the plus side, she has striking good looks that earn her easy praise from all around her, and when it comes to anything nerdy, including such things as fantasy novels and horror movies, she is quite knowledgeable. She's also got the mind of a detective, but we'll get to that bizarrely out-of-place addition later on.
Mayuri is a cool beauty whose laid-back attitude makes her an instant hit in the classroom. She is a bit of a tomboy, and sometimes she takes things perhaps a bit TOO easy, but it's also clear that there are times when her sunny smile is just for show...
Rika is the class president, and has a very mature, lady-like personality. She is very concerned with making sure everyone obeys the school rules, but even more concerned with making sure everyone in the class gets along. She is a mediator and defuser of situations, though perhaps she is too quick to help others, and not quick enough to find help for herself...
I am only covering characters here who have routes in the game, though I will say that the supporting cast is full of great characters who I hope to see more of in later games in this series.
Anywho, on with the review.
The writing in this game is very good. The feels are for reals. As you watch Suou change and grow through her experiences, and as you see the many, many layers of each character being peeled away, revealing lifelike complexity and multi-faceted personalities, you can't help but feel that you are one of these girls, going through these things with your dear friends. The emotional scenes strike home very hard, and I found myself teary-eyed multiple times on both of the routes.
The music, though sparse, is very good. Especially during the opening scenes, music is used in an almost sound-novel like manner to emphasize the scenes. One song blends into another in a kind of crescendo that really sends a thrill through you as you go through the prologue. While I wish there would have been more tracks and a few more cases where music was used to great effect like in the prologue, what is there is effective (though you will get tired of the one or two 'everyday' tracks that play almost constantly when there isn't another special song to play).
The CG is... excellent. Absolutely amazing. I've seen good CG in VNs before, but I've never felt as much like I really wanted to collect each one as I have in this game. Normally in non-H games CG seems to serve very little purpose except emphasizing certain scenes, but in this game the CGs are definitely rewards worth striving for.
Just... AHH! And they're all like that!
This game appears to be low budget. There are a few reasons why I feel this way. First, there are maybe like 10 music tracks. It's seriously hilariously bad how often they force you to listen to the 'everyday' music. I mean yeah I realize it's the theme meant to represent your everyday life at the school but it plays for 90% of the game, I kid you not. No matter how much you like it at first you will get sick and tired of it before you pass the halfway point. Second, every character has all of two poses and maybe 2 changes of clothing (with the same poses for the changes). It's bad. Especially when the text describes a character doing something they are obviously not doing. Also, for certain characters (who I will get to in a moment) the poses given them are good for basically none of the emotions they actually want to show. Now, I realize we're probably going to get more costumes in later games and that this is meant to be the first of probably 4 games (one for each season, the 2nd one is already out), but that's still no excuse to only have 2 poses. That's just sad.
But a low budget can be forgiven. What can't be forgiven is the absolutely bizarrely bad character design. I want you take a look at these two characters:
When I first met these two I was convinced they were going to be the villains; bullies that spread bad rumors about me or something. They don't look like friendly, puppy-like little sister characters who act in huggable adorable ways. Except that's the role they actually play in the game. Their voices are also adorable and don't fit the images they were given at all. In fact, even in CG they look completely different from their normal sprites:
See? HERE they look like cute little kids, which is what they act like. If they had expressions like these on their sprites I could probably forgive the narrow necks and angular faces, but they have all of 2 expressions they can give and neither of them are cute! I don't know what the sprite artist thought he was drawing, but he and the CG artist (I can only assume for my own sanity that they were different people) obviously got mixed signals.
Also, the writer gets hung up on his own cliches way too often. This is mainly targeted at two characters, one of whom we are constantly told has a 'smile like a patch of spring sunlight' and another has a 'teasing, catty smile'. Which, I mean yeah that works for description, but we are literally told this about those two characters CONSTANTLY. There are seriously times with the latter character in which she has the cat smile multiple times in the same scene. If you take a drink every time that character is likened to a cat you will be drunk by the end of your first meeting with her in the story. It's ridiculous and a small failing on the part of the writer.
And, my final complaint (well, for the Bad section... I've got one or two for the Ugly) is that one of the two endings is a horrible sequel-baiting cliffhanger. I mean I should have expected that from a game that appears to be the first in a series of possibly 4 games, but it was still a low blow. A serious punch in the gut, especially because I was so emotionally invested in the characters.
I've got to say the saddest thing for me (besides the stupid cliffhanger sequel-bait ending for one of the routes) was honestly the character design fail I mentioned above. I really loved those two characters and I feel that the designers really dropped the ball on making their sprites, and now they're just going to re-use those sprites for every subsequent game in the series so it's never going to get better. If this was a novel, without visuals, I never would have pictured those two looking like they do, not in a million years. All I can do is look forward to the CG, in which they are actually drawn correctly.
The mysteries in this game made me mad, but we'll get to why and how in The Ugly, because they were that bad.
Gahh! Everyone's wearing the same thing all the time! Even in their pajamas everyone looks fairly similar. Happily there is at least one costume that stands out during the game:
Just. Yeah. You can feel the power of the prayer. I wonder what's going on in this scene? Guess you'd better read the VN and find out!
There is a scene where Suou and two other girls are up at night in the library of the school and they decide to tell ghost stories to each other. The stories are great chillers and, even though they're not meant to be terrifying or horrific, they hit just the right notes to send some shivers up your spine. There are even special CG just for that scene to add to the spookiness with images. It's a great scene and it felt like a kind of bonus, since the plot of the game itself has basically nothing to do with the paranormal. Definitely my pick for the raddest scene.
The two girls mentioned earlier could have been this if their character designs had been handled a bit better. I still liked them in the CG, but it just wasn't enough. Sadly I must say that this game really does not have a sufficient level of cuteness, so moe fans should stay far away.
The mysteries, again, were bizarre and stupid and horrible but again we'll get to that in a bit.
There were neither animals nor pet-like characters in this title so there's nothing to discuss.
Also, no villains. Skip!
The mysteries in this game are stupid.
I thought Innocent Grey was sort of known for making psychological thriller stories, so you'd think they would know their way around writing a good mystery, but in Flowers it is quite the opposite. Firstly, I don't think this game even needed the shoehorned-in mysteries that mainly just act as barriers during the story. Failing one causes you to get a bad ending and, in fact, that's basically the only way to get a bad ending. I won't even say I didn't like them because of how difficult they were. I think if you carefully read all the text leading up to the mysteries (and by this I mean ALL the text, on both routes leading up to the mystery) you would probably have a good chance at guessing the correct answer. Even failing that, you can save and just guess and check easily enough.
The problem is that the mysteries make no sense IN CONTEXT. While it's simple for you as the player to pick from the small selection of answers given to you, there are several moments when I felt like there was no possible way the characters in the game could have made the logical leaps necessary to arrive at the conclusions they do. Not only that, but the ways in which the mysteries are set up are incredibly contrived and make it clear that the mysteries were apparently added in either as an afterthought, or because Innocent Grey felt they couldn't write a story without having some element of mystery in it.
Characters say or do things no one in their position would say or do, people jump to bizarre conclusions based on little to no evidence, events line up perfectly so that some obscure bit of knowledge the characters just happen to be talking about ends up being the key point to solving a mystery that happens a few days later that, for all intents and purposes, should have absolutely nothing to do with that obscure bit of knowledge.
The only mystery that felt like it actually fit into the plot and was well made was also the most idiotically obvious one, with the answer being painfully clear almost before the mystery even begins.
When I first heard about this game a lot of the rumors said it would have mystery elements or might have a darker side due to Innocent Grey's influence. Instead what I found is that it was an amazingly emotionally complex yuri story with the most out of place, dumb obscure-fact riddles thrust in as checkpoints that made no sense in-universe.
It's easy to set aside the stupid mysteries and the low-budget quality hiccups in light of the amazing, emotional writing. This is a great yuri story, and the start of a great yuri series. The experience isn't too long, and it will leave any player hungry for the next game. I think it may be early to give a final verdict before the whole series is available to look at as a whole, but as a beginning it definitely has me sold on wanting to know more about these characters and what's in store next for them. Avoid it if you're not into yuri or games that are severely lacking in moe, but anyone else should pick this up and enjoy this short, bitter-sweet tale.