[Review] The Flower Shop
So, I have to admit that The Flower Shop (from Winter Wolves ) is the first visual novel-style anything I’ve ever done anything with. According to a comment in the facebook page for the app, The Flower Shop – Summer in Fairbrook, the version I played on CD is closer to a flat dating/farming simulator than an actual visual novel, but it was advertised as a visual novel when we found it in Huntsville. For that reason (and for me to feel as though I have put a foot in the VN door) I will continue as such! It is not a bad thing, and in fact The Flower Shop was so appealing that I am interested in branching further into the VN world.
The first thing to be noted is that the main character in this VN/dating sim is a complete loser. This kid has an amazing girlfriend and, from the look of his home’s interior, a pretty smooth life. Despite his luck, Steve completely squanders the love offered him by a beautiful girl. The final blow comes as he stares at two girls jogging by where he stands while speaking with his girlfriend. Mind you, this is a special space from their past. Even as you witness her blushing, smiling face and your heart starts to warm, your wonderful virtual avatar – Steve – is staring at two of his classmates jogging by in short shorts and sports bras. He gets detailed, too. And of course he has to add how grateful he is that they wore what they wore; at this point, I really started to wish I could mute his inner-self and only pay attention to the stuff that came out of his mouth. However, it is OK! Hang in there through these tough times; he gets better! In addition, the art in The Flower Shop is absolutely beautiful, and the dialogue is well-written. It is well-worth overcoming the initial “I hate the guy I’m forced to be” stage.
To be honest, the absolute lack of intelligence in the “protagonist” actually made me want to push forward, though. He is so dumb that, if you are anything like me, you will start to become interested just so you can find out how he could possibly go on to date any of the women involved in the game. Seriously, he seems that honestly dense at the start. I am not sure if this was an intended design, or if it was just a slightly biased take on the average male, but it worked in any light. Steve does start to improve at some point too, and that makes up for any hurt feelings over the stereotype. Don’t worry, brothers. There is no need for a call to arms!
So with our girlfriend (Jill) now deciding she wants little to do with him, our dad has finally decided the cause is lost. His only option is to send us to live with our uncle (who happens to look about forty years older than Steve’s father) for the summer. With some fuss, the whole thing is moved to where the bulk of the visual novel/game experience takes place; the quiet town of Fairbrook. Now, in the beginning of the game it does not seem to matter what choices you make; you are going to be dumped one way or another so far as I have experienced. It is seriously tough to make Steve seem worth it. However, the first discussion options with Steve’s uncle are where choices start to make noticeable difference. Shortly, we will be introduced to many young, beautiful and enticing women. Oh, and one slightly older yet still rather enticing woman who happens to be a librarian (score!).
After the first, pre-planned length of time spent farming and being shopped around to these somehow single ladies, the ability to plan out Steve’s week becomes available. We can either rest that day, farm the whole day (you farm one way or another before and after activities), or communicate with the women. The first woman is obviously Steve’s ex-but-maybe-not-ex-girlfriend. Her days are all spent on the phone talking to her about what Steve has done around the farm and what is happening in the big city. Woman number two is a sassy, attractive and active young woman who hates Fairbrook and goes by the name Clara. She absolutely adores the city, and due to being from the city she loves running with you in the mornings. This is a prime example of a dynamic character in this story other than Steve. In the beginning I hate this girl; She whines too much and seems not to care about anyone but herself. She’s like Steve without the Y-chromosome. This tones down later after much family drama. She is a very interesting character. Next is the owner of the Flower Shop, Susana. My first impression of her was along the lines of “Hellooooooo extremely-environmentally-conscious nurse!” Susana is a very cute blond firecracker (when she’s angry, at least) who loves eating natural foods from her garden. She likes when you try her cooking. She also has a very protective older brother. Finally we have my personal favorite, Marian. Marian is a (dare I say it) gorgeous older librarian. She also happens to be the hardest woman to please in the world. See, every girl raises a certain stat as you interact with her, but requires a different stat to make them fall in love with you. Marian raises your Culture levels, but requires a high romance level to end with. To end with Marian, you must have every other woman wanting to be with you and be careful to stop interacting with those women before their “love” scenes start popping up. Marian also likes poetry and has some parental issues. It’s a very honest subject to tackle, in that parents don’t tend to support their children whole-heartedly when they want to become writers for a living.
You can spend the summer making money with your farm, spend it interacting with but not romancing any of the women, or else choose a honey and finish off the meal with a companion rather than just Steve’s father. Personally, I think I have covered every possible ending. The story is actually pretty enjoyable, and it changes enough with each play through if you have different goals each time that it is not easy to become completely bored with the development. There is also some difficulty present; I ended with the women I did not intend to on multiple play throughs before I finally hit my jackpot in Marian! However, despite my fascination with the poetic librarian, it is almost impossible to forget the moments you shared with your first love.
Stay dreamy, CEN.TAKU.ME readers.