|Rule of Rose|
Atlus (North America)
505 Games (Europe, excluding United Kingdom)
|Release date||January 19, 2006 (Japan)|
September 12, 2006 (North America)
November 3, 2006 (Europe, excluding United Kingdom)
Rule of Rose is a PlayStation 2 psychological survival horror game. It was developed by Punchline and published by Sony on January 19, 2006 in Japan, by Atlus on September 12, 2006 in North America and by 505 Games on November 3, 2006 in Europe. Despite that the game is set in the United Kingdom, the game was banned in the United Kingdom due to controversy.
Upon its release, the game received mixed reviews. It was praised for its deep storyline, as well as its graphics and music. However, it was criticized for its combat system and a plot which some reviewers found confusing, sometimes due to taking the plot too literally. The game was also the subject of controversy, due to scenes of violence against the protagonist inflicted by children and suggested sexuality among girls.
Rule of Rose contains very dark themes such as animal cruelty and human indifference towards animal suffering, traumatic childhood memories, bullying and peer pressure, mental disorders and psychology, rankism and societal inequality, the permanence of death, alcoholism and smoking, gun violence, suicide, and implied cannibalism.
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. 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 Jennifer from being bullied by children. Another theme is how attachment to one thing can bring out the worst in people, and how girls and children can be cruel and not always so "innocent".
- 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.
During a bus ride, Jennifer 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 orphaned children who call themselves the Red Crayon Aristocrat Club. The demented residents of Rose Garden kidnap Jennifer and take her into an impossibly large zeppelin filled with monstrous creatures called Imps, on a meandering course for a distant land. With the help of a canine companion named Brown, Jennifer must find valuable gifts for the Aristocracy in order to survive, or suffer death 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. The player must "connect the dots" and infer the story through dialogue, memos, notes, visual cues, etc.
Rule of Rose plays like a typical survival horror game. Jennifer explores the environments and searches for items, furthering the plot by accomplishing tasks, as well as encountering random enemy battles and a few bosses. Jennifer's health is displayed as a red line in the inventory screen, and after every chapter, her health bar will automatically replenish. If the player becomes lost during the game and doesn't know what to do next, they can ask a Bucket Knight.
Early in the game, Jennifer encounters Brown, who accompanies her 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 attack without retaliation. He can be injured to the point of collapsing, causing him to stop distracting enemies or tracking an item.
Combat is almost exclusively melee 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 large groups 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 Jennifer a longer-range and no real need to get close to the boss unless needed.
Brown's ability to locate items is an important part of the game. The same system allows Jennifer to find health restoratives and other items which, while not essential to complete the game, can help Jennifer and unlock hidden items. Restorative items, such as candy and scones, 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 Gift Box to obtain food, unlockable items and weapons. After every chapter, the player must drop unneeded items in the inventory to make space for more as there are only 12 slots.
Finding items is very much like a treasure hunt: the player selects an item from the inventory for Brown to locate another, which is then connected to the 'find' command until changed or removed. Brown will lead Jennifer through the environments, scratching at doors in his way for Jennifer 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.
- 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 is A Love Suicide, performed by The Hiroshi Murayama Trio with Hiroshi Murayama on piano and vocals by Murayama's wife, Kaori Kondo.
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 fairy tales. 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 constraints, the combat system was left a little rough, including collision and hit detection.
Reaction to Rule of Rose was lukewarm, with mixed reviews. The game has also obtained a Metacritic score of 59/100 and a GameRankings average ratio of 61%. Despite the average reception that the game received, it has become rather infamous in the survival horror genre. Many fans of Rule of Rose revere it as overlooked and underrated, and consider it as one of the most depressing and beautifully dark video games ever created.
On the positive side, it is generally agreed that the game has an interesting, deep, and emotional story about abuse, bullying and trauma. The CGI cutscenes, atmosphere and music were praised.
However, the gameplay was widely lambasted as clumsy, archaic, and unrewarding. Reviewers were generally divided upon how much the gameplay detracts from one's ability to enjoy the story itself.
It has been suggested that Rule of Rose might have been better if it was an animated CGI movie series, instead of a video game.
The loading times between rooms were criticized. The game contains hundreds of rooms, and loading times can be 5-15 seconds on a PlayStation 2. When the game is played via emulator, the loading times are reduced to around 2-5 seconds.
Jennifer's slow walking speed was annoying for some players.
Controversy and banning
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 March 7, 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 game's publisher for Europe, 505 Games, chose to cancel the release of the game in the United Kingdom in response to the complaints by Frattini and other European officials, and "largely misleading" commentary from the press. It was released in the rest of Europe. Review copies of the title had already shipped to United Kingdom journalists when this was announced. The Video Standards Council, the United Kingdom 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.
Future, HD remaster and emulation
Due to the lukewarm reception and enormous controversy that the game received, along with the questionable state of the game's developing company Punchline, chances for a sequel are slim.
Fans have requested an HD remaster of the game, possibly with improved controls and graphics. This is ultimately up to Sony and Atlus, and potentially Sega since Sega acquired Atlus.
Physical copies of Rule of Rose tend to be expensive. Rule of Rose is not on the PlayStation Store, or any digital distribution sites, leaving many to resort to emulation on PC.
The closest thing to an HD edition of the game is the PCSX2 emulator, along with a widescreen patch for it. FMV cutscenes in PCSX2 do not work in hardware mode as it will result in a black screen, but the system can be switched to software mode whenever a cutscene appears with the F9 keyboard button. It is recommend to decrease the Noir Filter for a clearer picture, or use a code to disable it entirely which is included in the widescreen archive.
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
- Virgo — Unused music
- Gregory behind the Gingerbread House cutscene — An unused cutscene without audio found in the game's files, apparently in the Japanese version. 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. The cutscene could be a discarded plot-twist on the narrative as Gregory could be burying Joshua's body.
- Brown's Game Over cutscene — An unused cutscene showing that a game over could be achieved through Brown dying.
- J's Diary
- Unused audio
- Video of unused weapons and items
- Rule of Rose has many similarities with another PlayStation 2 exclusive game, Haunting Ground. Both protagonists are English female blonde orphans (Fiona, Jennifer) in their late teens and also have a demure personality. The protagonists rescue a dog (Hewie, Brown) that will help them during the rest of the game, which assists them by finding hidden objects, barking at enemies and also attacking the enemies.
- The game contains some 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 and surreal 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". Jo Wyatt, Jennifer's voice actor, also voiced Alice for an audiobook.