Over the last few years there have been a lot of games inspired by TV shows like Twin Peaks and The X-Files. But there's one game that doesn't really get talked about that also bears resemblance to those shows. It's a game called Flower, Sun, and Rain, and it was written and directed by Goichi Suda, aka Suda 51 (whose name you might recognize from games like No More Heroes and Killer 7).
I stepped away from games journalism and criticism in late 2009, but after picking up a used copy of Flower, Sun, and Rain in the winter of 2010, I realized I had to write about it. It was the only way for me to wrap my head around what this thing really was. And it was the game that got me back into writing about games.
You play as Sumio Mondo, a "searcher" who is paid to find things for people. And in FSR, he's being paid by a group who wants him to find a bomb that's hidden somewhere on a strange island
resort, centered around a hotel called (what else, but) The Flower, Sun, and Rain.
The island is filled with all sorts of strange characters pulled straight from something like a David Lynch film: A masked wrestler training to recover his "lost fighting spirit," a fast-talking comedian, a girl with a pet pink crocodile, another different masked wrestler. (Suda loves his wrestlers).
Eventually, you find the bomb. And the second you do? It explodes. And then you wake up in your bed and you have to do it again, except the bomb is hidden somewhere else, locked behind new puzzles (and new characters).
Exploring this island and looking for this bomb isn't fun. This isn't Skyrim, this isn't Fallout, this isn't Zelda. The point isn't to have a good time while looking around at interesting locations. The point, I think, is that this game hates you.
You have to walk everywhere in FSR, and walking is incredibly slow. And it counts every one of your steps, so you know exactly how much time you've wasted. Eventually you unlock the ability to sprint, but you don't do it until you've walked 75000 steps, which for me came a dozen hours into the game. And the sprint isn't even that fast!
It's mean. It's cruel. I kind of love it.
All of the rest of Suda 51's games, from the wrestling games he made before FSR to the games that made him popular, like No More Heroes, are all about empowerment. But FSR is different. It's not even that it is about disempowerment: FSR isn't Far Cry 2. Instead, FSR is dedicated to the idea of banality having its own appeal.
Yes, I loved the wacky characters, but the real appeal of FSR was the mundane repetition. I enjoyed the miserable act of walking across this long island. I stayed up late at night so that I could walk the length of a highway, find the bomb in the only tunnel that would take Sumio away from this place, explode, and have to do it again from the top.
Flower, Sun, and Rain was experimental in a way that Suda hasn't been in years. There was a point when it felt like he could do anything. That he was unpredictable. That he was really this punk rock star of games. He was putting in things that didn't make sense in the context of other video games. But they touched people in a way that made them want to make weird stuff too.
I just can't help but wonder what the old Suda would do with the new Suda's budget.
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Flower, Sun, and Rain footage used with permission by YouTube creator Faundon.