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Played in 2023
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Sumio must have calves of steel after all the walking he does in this game.
Flower, Sun, and Rain might be one of the most unique games I've played. Spending copious amounts of time doing nothing but walking back and forth between distant locations, solving esoteric math equations... None of that sounds like fun, and yet I loved every minute I spent with this game. While I'm not too crazy about all the puzzles being number-based (I'll admit I found myself having to consult a guide at times), the way the game handles them by technically having the solution to every single one of them on the player at all times is brilliant. The monotonous gameplay loop of slowly getting closer and closer to your original destination each day is oddly exciting, and once I started making serious progress I found myself unable to put the game down. The simple early-game tasks the player is presented with evoke a sense of comfort, which is quickly ripped away once the plot threads start unravelling and the truth of the island you've been walking around on starts becoming more apparent. Many of the big reveals in the game left me genuinely surprised. Some confusion is inevitable, but the links the game has to The Silver Case become very clear. This didn't stop when I finished the game, as dwelling on what I'd just played (as well as talking with friends that are fans of the Kill The Past series) had me drawing more and more conclusions in regards to both FSR and TSC (and even Killer7) that continued to blow my mind.
It's definitely not for everyone. But The Silver Case is a game that definitely deserves to be given a chance, and you'd be massively missing out to stop there and not play this one. Flower, Sun, and Rain has me very excited to dive into the next entry in the series, The 25th Ward, and see what it has in store.
Trying to decide whether this deserves to overthrow Snatcher as my favorite Sega CD game. The Sega Genesis library is full of combat-focused platformers like Shinobi, Valis, or the X-Men games. Most of these games are fun, but Popful Mail is such an excellent well-rounded experience that if I were to rank them from best to worst, this one would EASILY be at the top of the list. Some features typical of RPGs are added to this formula, which really sets it apart from most of the others. The level design has some light metroidvania elements to it, making them fun to explore without ever getting too overwhelming. The combat is smooth and simple, with three characters and a variety of different weapon upgrades to choose from. The bosses provide a nice challenge, and learning their patterns in order to weave through their attacks and deal damage is satisfying. The graphics aren't anything special, but the game is full of fun animation, especially when it comes to the expressiveness of the dialogue portraits. From a gameplay standpoint I have zero complaints, I had a blast from start to finish.
The character designs and setting appear to take inspiration from a lot of the fantasy anime of the 80s and 90s. It’s hard to look at the game and not be reminded of Slayers or Leda: The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko. The plot here is much more generic than these anime, with the titular bounty hunter Popful Mail inadvertently ending up on an adventure to stop the resurrection of a villain known simply as “The Overlord” from being resurrected. Despite some unnecessary dated references to TV shows and movies of the 90s that were obviously added in by the American localization team, character interactions tend to be entertaining, though this is partially reliant on which character you’re playing as. Mail herself is a lovable hotheaded dumbass that's full of personality, while I found Tatt and Gaw to be kind of boring. Side characters are hit or miss in this aspect, but most of the major ones such as the cast of villains lean towards the more positive side. The voice acting, however, is absolutely atrocious. Mail’s voice is one of only a few that stand out as being of actual quality, with most other characters ranging from “amateurish charm of a 90’s anime dub” to “I am begging you to stop talking”.
Voice acting aside, Popful Mail is definitely a must-play for any Sega CD owner, and worth emulating if you don’t own one. Just be sure to play the Unworked Designs hack if you do, which reverts some of the awful changes to the US localization such as the difficulty being drastically increased.
They fucking killed him. Finally.
This game had a lot more care put into it than I would've expected from an April Fool's joke. The art is wonderful and filled with little easter eggs and references that fans of the series will be quick to pick up on. Aside from a few instances of bad grammar or improper use of punctuation, the dialogue was thoroughly entertaining. A few times it got me to actually laugh, and the characters are as charming as ever. The plot twist at the end was pretty predictable, but the events that actually lead to finding out who was behind everything did offer a few actual surprises. The running minigame was cool, nothing groundbreaking of course, but the later ones felt like a good challenge (and it's nice that difficulty options were included for those that might find the minigame to be frustrating).
The game definitely put a smile on my face. I'd honestly love to see more bite-sized Sonic visual novels like this one. The series as a whole has had a drastic boost in quality lately, and it's been a blast playing and watching all the new stuff.