After nearly a two year wait, Flowers -Le volume sur ete- (the highly anticipated sequel to Flowers -Le volume sur printemps-) was made readily available to Western audiences. How does the second installment compare to the original?
First things first: this visual novel is a love story between a snarky, self-described misanthropic bookworm/movie junkie (that’ll be our protagonist, Yaegaki Erika, who also happens to use a wheelchair) and a blunt, initially self-absorbed transfer student who is skilled in both ballet and singing (that’ll be Takasaki Chidori, who helps take care of Erika). If the idea of seeing two girls, both of which have always kept others at arm’s length, fall in love with one another is interesting to you, then I would highly recommend Flowers -Le volume sur ete-.
Secondly, you really need to have the game’s font, Overlock Mod, installed. Otherwise the text wrapping will look amateur and difficult to read. It’s really easy to download and install. Just like on the following link and improve your visual novel experience by several times: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XPyp-GSUfJf3dMJ7m4oXFpDYoQHAFH7V/view?usp=sharing
Thirdly (alright, I’ll stop counting – this isn’t Sesame Street, after all), you more or less have to play Flowers -Le volume sur printemps- (which will be referred to as printemps from here on in this review) first before giving Flowers -Le volume sur ete- (which will be known as ete from this point onward) a shot if you want to have the full experience.
While ete has Erika helpfully sharing her thoughts on the other characters, such abridged introductions are inherently limited since she mostly kept to herself during printemps. As as a result, there are obviously minor knowledge gaps in her narration which means several subtle yet key details would remain unknown to the reader if the reader opts to jump straight to ete. Furthermore, printemps ends on a heart-wrenching cliffhanger which sets the tone for this four-part series that heavily revolves around mysteries – for better or for worse.
Speaking of which, there are aspects which remain relatively unchanged between the two games. One such feature would be the Thinking Puzzles which are actually rather controversial. In both printemps and ete, the two protagonists end up having to solve mysteries via logical deduction in order to progress through certain points (in other words, if you fail to solve a puzzle you will get a bad end). While some of the puzzles can be figured out logically, other puzzles usually have to be solved via brute force (i.e. you either consult a guide or keep reloading and retrying different choices) since the game hopes that you were paying attention to small, tangent observations. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who likes this aspect of the game.
Just like Suoh in printemps, Erika in ete finds herself involved in a love triangle. However, the readers are still blessed with the lily flower indicator that flashes either blue or orange depending on your choices, which makes following routes much easier. Just keep the following mantra in mind: “if you want your love to be true, then make it bloom by choosing blue.”
Be that as it may, the specifics of the love triangle in ete are comparatively less messy than that of the one found in printemps. Furthermore, it’s a lot harder to dislike the non-canon love interest in ete. Personally, I despised (and still despise) the non-canon love interest in printemps who is spiteful, vindicative, hypocritical, and has no qualms with blackmail. Here, the one who isn’t meant to be with Erika is actually rather likable.
While there are similarities between ete and printemps, there are also poignant differences. There is a True End in ete that can only be accessed after playing through the Chidori End, first of all, whereas printemps only had a Mayuri End and a Rikka End, which could only be accessed after successfully completing the Mayuri route.
Furthermore, Erika is distinctly different from Shiragane Suoh, the protagonist in printemps. Although both girls are avid readers and film buffs, Erika is even more prone to throwing out references to pop culture and media.
In printemps, Suoh struggled a lot with self-image and initially enrolled in Saint Angraecum Academy after hearing of the Amitié system (for those of you who haven’t played either games, it’s basically an enforced buddy system where you get paired up with one or two other girls) since she desperately wants friends. Meanwhile, Erika is a playful prankster, has no problem with making self-depreciating jokes about her personal limitation, is much more direct, and (initially) tries to maintain a sense of distance between her and others.
Their personal conflicts are reflected in the routes and choices they make to a degree, too, as both girls voluntarily fight to change themselves in their canon routes. In the case of Erika, the canon True End has her making an effort to attend class, allowing herself to become closer to others, and being kinder to her teacher, classmates, and Amitié partner, Chidori.
Just like in printemps, each chapter remains prefaced with a monologue in which the protagonist describes a story which then somewhat symbolizes an important character or segment in the upcoming arc. Erika, however, opts to stick strictly to fairy tales, which makes sense since a recital of Rapunzel and a ballet of Sleepy Beauty are both very important events in ete. Be that as it may, it sort of hints at how Erika, despite her mask of maturity and detachment, is still a child at heart.
There are also some quality-of-life changes. ete now features a Prev button, which means you can go back and choose a different option if you misclicked. No longer must players reload entire save files! I also liked how there’s now music playing during the transition screens (which may or may not anger people but it’s a part of the game at this point and they’ve done their best to make it not too bad. The transition screen also changes throughout the game which was a nice touch).
I do have a minor grip with the game, though. I still can’t access the Voices section in the Gallery despite unlocking all of the CGI, playing through all the routes (including the bad/alternate ends, which were quite painful), and playing through the Extra “sidestory” that unlocks…I want to say it unlocks after you finish the True End? I’m not quite sure, however. The Voices section of the gallery in printemps just had the seiyuu talk about the game and other stuff with no subtitles, so it’s not I’m really missing out. Still, the completionist in me makes me feel like I’m disappointing the world by reviewing a visual novel without having explored 100% of the game’s content.
EDIT: In order to unlock the Voices menu, you have to unlock and read through all of the lines. That more or less means you have to pick all of the choices presented in the game since what Erika and the others say or do are very dependent on your selected choices. Thanks goes to @k_kqz who filled me in.
If you’ve completed all of the ends and still can’t access the Voices menu, then I would recommend enduring at least one more playthrough. Since unlocking the True End basically forced you to go for all blue choices, there’s a chance that you might not have unlocked particular scenes which are reliant on you choosing primarily orange choices. For example, if you opt to select blue choices early on, you’d be having Daria help you search for the culprit in the first case. But if you had chosen orange choices early on, then you’d be having Chidori assist you instead. It’s these different, choice-reliant scenes that people may miss due to mixing-and-matching blue and orange choices, I believe.
I’ve really rambled on for a bit so let me do a bit of a pros vs cons list to wrap things up, okay?
- Excellent art. I don’t think anyone can disagree there.
- Lovely music – some tracks from printemps make a return but there are still original songs. They effectively convey certain moods or evoke particular feelings and I would totally buy them to have some wonderful background music to listen to as I write.
- Well-written story!! It’s very thoughtful in how it reveals emotion and mindset and all that goodness.
- Erika is unlike any other visual novel protagonist I’ve seen before in any visual novel, in my opinion. Masculine yet feminine, competent and dependent, snarky but secretly kind… She’s a fantastic character.
- Both love interests are easy to like even with the canon love interest becoming incredibly jealous late into her route – I’m afraid the same can’t be said about the non-canon love interest for Suoh in printemps.
- The addition of a Prev button makes misclicks much less punishing.
- The Extra “sidestory” and the main story itself gives us more clues about what happened in printemps yet still leave us in the dark, excited for the next installments.
- You basically have to purchase and play printemps first in order to fully enjoy ete. There’s also two more games in the Flowers series. Translations are planned and has begun, but we still had to wait a long time between printemps and ete.
- You must have a particular font installed or else the text wrapping is abysmal. I’ve provided a link earlier, however, so don’t worry. It’s very easy to install!
- The fact that the girls are only 14 years old might deter some, but nothing explicit ever happens. Be that as it may, these girls are clearly gay and the narratives takes great care to emphasize that they like other girls and that this isn’t just gonna be a “gay-until-graduation” phase.