"Flowers appears to tell a different type of story than what the average visual novel audience is used to, and I'm interested in seeing where it goes."
Innocent Grey is a visual novel developer primarily known for Shōwa-era detective stories that are heavy on gore and adult content. That puts the majority of their work outside the scope of RPGFan, but the studio has taken things in a slightly different direction with their latest release, Flowers -Le volume sur printemps-. Still a Shōwa-era mystery, Flowers eschews the sex and violence to present an all-ages VN about adolescent homosexuality between girls.
Wearing its Class S
inspirations on its sleeve, Flowers is set in a Catholic boarding school and follows shy transfer student Suoh Shirahine as she forges new friendships that have the potential to blossom into romance. As the game is appropriately due for release sometime this spring, publisher JAST has released a short demo showcasing Flowers' second chapter, which I sat down with recently.
The demo begins in medias res: Suoh is spending time before class in her shared dorm room when she recognizes a pile of stolen library books on the bed of class president Rikka. Suddenly, her boisterous classmate Ichigo bursts into the room and Suoh can choose to either attempt to hide the books or show Ichigo what she's found. The choice — which happens to be the only choice in the demo, mind you — ends up not being a choice at all, as Ichigo discovers the books either way and naively broaches the subject at the next class tea party. This causes Rikka to become visibly upset, as she feels she is being accused of a crime she didn't commit. Suoh feels responsible for discovering the books and offers to help Rikka clear her name. The two begin to investigate who the real culprit may be, and start to bond in the process.
The book thief's identity is soon uncovered, and the demo ends as quickly as it began. The text scroll accompanying the ending assures players that a larger mystery will unfold over the course of the full game, but it makes this promise in a literal fashion, without so much as a hint as to what the macro plot could be about. This makes it a little hard to gauge whether Flowers will provide a compelling mystery, but ultimately it's likely to be window dressing on the game's larger theme of same-sex romance.
The demo doesn't boast the greatest font; it's easy to read but looks painfully unstylized, as if it simply uses the Roman characters of a basic kana typeset. Matters are not helped by the game's restrictive text boxes, which only allow for three lines of 35 characters, although they appear large enough to accommodate much more than that. As a result, there are several instances of sentences being cut off, with a single word carried over to a new text box. If dialogue is cut off, clicking to advance the text cuts off the voice clip prematurely. There's definitely some formatting issues here that need to be addressed before the full game is released. I reached out to JAST PR, who assured me that the full game is currently undergoing rigorous quality assurance.
Text and font foibles aside, Flowers' visual presentation is very nice indeed. Sugina Miki's large character portraits are bright and attractive, with shading that brings a watercolor effect to mind. The backgrounds are just as bright, but the characters stand out thanks to their firm yet unobtrusive black outlines. The soundtrack, composed by MANYO, makes use of everything from piano to upright bass and sounds absolutely lovely. Although the demo is brief, it contains a surprisingly large number of compositions which are all pleasing to the ear.
Class S is a genre that has enjoyed a modest level of popularity within literature and manga, but it's not often that we see it tackled by visual novels — certainly not in English. Flowers appears to tell a different type of story than what the average VN audience is used to, and although I'm not its target demographic, I'm very interested in seeing where it goes.
If you'd like to try Flowers' demo for yourself, it's currently available on Steam
, free of charge.