|Rule of Rose|
|Release date:|| January 19, 2006|
Rule of Rose is a PlayStation 2 exclusive psychological survival horror game. It was developed by Punchline and published by Sony on January 19, 2006 (Japan), by Atlus on September 12, 2006 (North America) and by 505 GameStreet on November 3, 2006 (Europe).
It has often been compared with other similar survival horror gaming series such as Silent Hill and Clock Tower, due to the psychological horror elements used throughout, and its distorted storyline. It is also compared to Haunting Ground due to the use of a canine companion for the main character.
Upon its release, the game received mixed reviews. It was praised for its intriguing, original, and in-depth storyline, as well as its graphics and soundtrack. However, it was criticized for its combat system and confusing plot. The game was also the subject of controversy, due to the scenes of violence against the protagonist inflicted by the children cast and the suggested sexuality among its underage, female characters.
Rule of Rose deals with very complex topics such as animal abuse, loneliness, death, memories, childhood, trauma, bullying, rankism, poverty, sexuality, relationships, peer pressure, psychology, mental disorders, alcoholism, murder, suicide and rape. It is a dark and twisted coming-of-age story. The morals of the story include the importance of keeping promises, as well as questioning authority and the dangers of being passive.
- For the full plot of the game, see Rule of Rose (plot).
Set in 1930, Cardington, Bedfordshire, England, a few years before World War II broke out, the game tells the story of a 19-year-old young woman named Jennifer, whose parents were killed in a tragic airship accident. She is taken to the Rose Garden Orphanage, located in a remote portion of the countryside. What Jennifer discovers is a dilapidated building and a ragtag mob of children who call themselves the Red Crayon Aristocrat Club. The demented residents of Rose Garden kidnap Jennifer and take her into the dark heart of an impossibly large zeppelin, on a meandering course for a distant land. Now, with the help of a canine companion named Brown, Jennifer has to find valuable gifts for the Aristocracy, or suffer a fatal punishment for her insolence.
Throughout the game, Jennifer recovers the forgotten memories of her childhood and remembers the people she knew at the orphanage. Because the plot is based on Jennifer's memories alone, what really happened is not always obvious to the player due to the fact that Jennifer's memory can alter or distort events and dates. The fact that the plot is only based on Jennifer's point of view also stops the player from seeing all sides of the story as well. What happened before and after the events of the game is never revealed, although many hints are given.
A major theme in the game is the difference between a child's and an adult's way of thinking and how children might treat adults if they were given power over them. Players are unable to prevent their player character from being bullied by the children.  Another is how attachment to one thing can bring out the worst in people. 
For most of the game, the player explores the environments and searches for items, furthering the plot by accomplishing tasks and experiencing cut-scenes, as well as encountering random enemy battles and a few boss battles. The gameplay was most notable fail of the game with frustrating battle system, slow loading screens, too many enemies were put on screen and the boss battles were too dificult.
Early in the game, the player encounters Brown, who accompanies Jennifer throughout the game and will respond to commands; such as tracking items by scent, being commanded to 'stay' and being called to Jennifer's side. Brown cannot attack enemies, but can growl, which distracts some Imps and bosses, allowing Jennifer to retreat or land a few blows without fear of retaliation. He can be injured to the point of collapsing, causing him to stop distracting enemies or tracking an item.
Brown's ability to locate items is an important part of the game and is used in every chapter of Rule of Rose to progress further in game and plot. The same system allows the player to find health restoratives and other items which, while not essential to complete the game, can help the player and unlock hidden items.
Finding items is very much like a treasure trial: the players selects an item from the inventory for Brown to locate another, which is then connected to the 'find' command until changed or removed. When tracking items this way, Brown will lead the player through the environments, scratching at doors in his way for the player to open. Most items are hidden and must be uncovered by Brown, though the player can choose to avoid searching for these items in order to progress quickly.
Combat is almost exclusively melee in Rule of Rose, with a variety of improvised weapons available, such as kitchen knives and pipes. Since Jennifer is a timid character, her melee attacks are neither powerful nor very long-ranged. Due to this, Jennifer needs to be close to attack enemies and may become seriously injured, especially against a large group of Imps.
The only "real weapon" in the game is the Revolver and Gregory's Gun: a simple handgun which isn't achieved until the final battle against Stray Dog. The pistol gives the player a longer-range and no real need to get close to the boss unless needed.
Restorative items are snack foods in the game, such as candy and scones, which each heal varying amounts of health. Animal Bones and meat can be used to restore Brown's health if he becomes injured. Other items - such as marbles and ribbons - have no immediate use, but may be traded with the Aristocrats in order to obtain food, unlockable items and weapons.
- Main article: Rule of Rose Original Soundtrack
A 6-track promotional soundtrack CD was produced by Atlus, which was issued to customers from certain retailers when Rule of Rose was pre-ordered. The musical score was composed by Yutaka Minobe, who also composed the music of Skies of Arcadia and some tracks from the Panzer Dragoon Orta soundtrack. The entire score was created without electronic instruments - most of the music was produced by musicians, the Hiroshi Murayama Trio, using pianos and string instruments such as violins and cellos. According to the game's developers, the music was intended to bring a human element to the atmosphere in the game.
The theme song of Rule of Rose is entitled A Love Suicide, and was preformed by The Hiroshi Murayama Trio with Hiroshi Murayama on the piano and the vocals were provided by Murayama's wife, Kaori Kondo.
Reaction to Rule of Rose has been lukewarm, with mixed reviews. It is generally agreed that the game has an interesting plot, with The AV Club observing that "aside from a few deep curtsies and an unlockable Gothic Lolita costume, the characters are more sinister than sexualised". However the gameplay is widely lambasted as clumsy, archaic, and unrewarding. The press was generally divided upon how much the gameplay detracts from one's ability to enjoy the story itself. Edge magazine found neither plot nor gameplay appealing: "It’s just a murky brew of meaningless, exploitative dysfunction filling an empty game, and it leaves a bitter taste."
Acegamez, on the other hand, not only admired the game's plot but also found the gameplay appealing if slow: "a wonderful psychological thriller that will draw you in with its bizarrely compelling narrative, atmospheric presentation and thoughtful story-based gameplay". The game has also obtained a Metacritic metascore of 59/100 and a GameRankings average ratio of 61%.
Despite the average reception that the game received, it has become infamous in the survival horror genre of gaming. Many fans revere it as one of the most overlooked unique, intriguing, underrated, and beautiful video games.
When designing Rule of Rose, the developers decided to focus on an adult's view of "the theme of darkness within children." They drew on the "mysterious and misunderstood" nature of girls and the cruelty from fairytales. They did not take inspiration from Lord of the Flies.  The story formed through trial and error as the developers figured out how to create fear. They added the children's secret society to the story to give it the sense of fear that they wanted. Originally not in the game, Brown was added to balance Jennifer's "helpless and unhappy" personality.  Because of budget and time problems, the combat system was left a little rough. 
Rule of Rose raised controversies in Poland, where the Ministry of Education raised questions concerning the game's suitability for minors because of the themes of child violence and sexuality - the game was rated 16+ in Europe.
The European Union justice minister Franco Frattini attacked the game, saying that it contained "obscene cruelty and brutality". He also called for changes to the PEGI rating system in place across Europe and for government officials to engage in discussions with industry representatives.
According to news site The Register, Frattini received a letter from European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, who criticized Frattini's actions: "It is...very unfortunate that my services were not pre-consulted before your letter to the Ministers of Interior was sent out." Reding reminded him of the commission backed self-regulating ratings system called PEGI that has operated across the EU since 2003. The PEGI system of classification, according to Reding's letter, offers "informed adult choice" without censoring content - "This is in line with the Commission's view that measures taken to protect minors and human dignity must be carefully balanced with the fundamental right to freedom of expression as laid down in the Charter on Fundamental Rights of the European Union".
On 7 March 2007, a group of MEPs presented a Motion for a European Parliament resolution on a ban on the sale and distribution in Europe of the game and the creation of a "European Observatory on childhood and minors".
The games publisher for Europe, 505 Games, chose to cancel the release of the game in the UK in response to the complaints by Frattini and other EU officials, and "largely misleading" commentary from the UK press. It was released in the rest of Europe. Review copies of the title had already shipped to UK journalists when this was announced. The Video Standards Council, the UK rating body which had granted the title its 16+ PEGI rating, responded to the press and Frattini's comments:
|“||I have no idea where the suggestion of in-game sadomasochism has come from, nor children being buried underground. These are things that have been completely made up. [...] We’re not worried about our integrity being called into question, because Mr Frattini’s quotes are nonsense.||”|
In Australia and New Zealand
In November 2006, 505 Games' Australian and New Zealand distributor, Red Ant Enterprises, confirmed that the release of the game had been canceled in both territories. Red Ant stated that the game had not been submitted to the Australian Classification Board for approval, without which the game cannot be sold in Australia. Rule of Rose had a Australian release in February 2007.
In the United States
At E3 2006, Atlus announced that they would be releasing Rule of Rose in the United States, following Sony's decision to pass on a US release. Sony's decision was on the grounds of the game's erotic undertones involving a cast of female minors. Punchline disagreed with this, saying that the sexual themes are only a small part of the game.
Due to the lukewarm reception and enormous controversy that the game received, along with the questionable state of the game's developing company, chances for a sequel are slim.
There has also been some request for a possible HD remaster of the game, possibly with improved controls and graphics.
The closest thing to an HD edition of the game is the PCSX2 emulator, along with a widescreen patch for it. However, FMV cutscenes in PCSX2 do not work in hardware mode as it will result in a black screen, and the system must be switched to software mode with the F9 key whenever a cutscene appears. It is recommend to increase the contrast to 7 or 8, and decrease the Noir Filter to 1.
Similarities with other stories
Lord of the Flies
Although the developers said it was not an influence, both stories include British children governing themselves with no adults present, ending with disastrous results. Both stories contain aircraft crashes. The stories contain similar themes of childhood, peer pressure, friendship and society.
A Little Princess
The setting for the two stories is exactly the same: England, early 1900's (excluding the 1995 version of the movie, which took place in New York). For another, both the main character's predicaments are similar, as Jennifer and Sara were both orphaned and were sent away to places where they were shunned from the other children. The game is also similar to the theme of A Little Princess; "all girls are princesses," in how the children of Rule of Rose are depicted as either a Prince or Princess. In this case, Jennifer can be compared to Sara, Diana to Lavinia, Wendy to Becky, Mr. Hoffman to Miss Minchin, Martha to the cook, Olivia to Lottie, and so on.
Alice in Wonderland
The game has a "lost in a Wonderland" feel to it, as Jennifer is taken to a strange world. It is revealed that the entire game was a essentially a dream conjured by Jennifer. Inanimate objects sometimes speak and give clues to the protagonist. One part of the game also includes chasing a "white rabbit".
Deleted and unused content
Rule of Rose contains various deleted and unused content not seen in the final release.
- Master Wrench — A weapon that can only be accessed through cheat devices. The name suggests that there was going to be another costume for Jennifer such as a worker's outfit.
- Torture Stick — A weapon that can only be used through cheat devices.
- Stray Dog's Story — Unused audio
- Rule of the Rose — Unused music
- Gregory behind the Gingerbread House cutscene — An unused cutscene found in the game's files. It suggests a possible game over, or another way of ending the chapter if Jennifer goes back to Gregory instead of escaping with Wendy. The cutscene also implies that Jennifer hasn't moved on from Gregory's massacre and deep down, still fears him.
- Brown's Game Over cutscene — An unused cutscene showing that a game over could be achieved through Brown dying.
- J's Diary
- Unused audio