Rule of Rose
|Rule of Rose|
North American cover art
Set in 1930 England, the plot revolves around a nineteen-year-old girl named Jennifer, who becomes trapped in a world ruled by young girls who have established a class hierarchy called the Red Crayon Aristocrats. The game has been compared to survival horror games Silent Hill and Haunting Ground, due to the psychological horror used throughout and because the main character is accompanied by a canine companion.
Rule of Rose garnered mixed reviews from many publications upon its release; reaction to the story and horror elements was almost universally positive, while the gameplay was panned. The game was also the subject of a moderate amount of controversy due to its use of violence and implied sexuality amongst some of its underage, female characters.
The player explores the game environments looking for restorative items, furthering the plot by accomplishing tasks and experiencing cut-scenes while sporadically encountering enemies and bosses. Early in the game, the player encounters and rescues Brown, Jennifer's pet Labrador Retriever. Brown accompanies Jennifer throughout the game and will respond to the player's commands. Brown can be ordered to track items by scent, be commanded to 'stay' and be called to Jennifer's side. Brown cannot attack enemies, but will 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 collapse, however, causing him to stop distracting enemies or tracking an item.
Brown's ability to locate items is an integral part of the game, used in every chapter of Rule of Rose to progress further. 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. Players select an item from the inventory for Brown to locate, which is then connected to the 'find' command until changed or removed. Every item selected this way can be used to find at least one type of item. When tracking items this way, Brown will lead the player through the game environments, scratching at doors in his way, signaling the player to open the door.
Most health restoring foods and all tradeable 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. Restorative items include snack foods, candy, and chocolate. The different types of restorative items heal varying amounts of health. Bones and other items 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, rare items and weapons.
Combat is almost exclusively melee, with a variety of improvised weapons available, such as kitchen knives and pipes. Jennifer is a timid character: her melee attacks are neither powerful nor long-ranged. Evasion of enemies is often used instead of fighting. With the exception of a handful of bosses, all enemies in the game are imps—skinny, doll-like creatures the size of small children. Different animal-headed imps appear throughout the game, alongside regular imps.
The protagonist and playable character of Rule of Rose is Jennifer, a nineteen-year-old who lost her memories in the airship crash which killed her parents. Assisting her is Brown, a dog that she rescues on the airship. He helps her locate items and distracts the monsters that she encounters.
Lead by the mysterious Princess of the Red Rose, the members of Red Crayon Aristocrats serve as the antagonists of the game. The highest-ranking and eldest of the children, Diana displays cruelty towards the other members of the Aristocracy. Despite this, she conflictingly wants to and fears becoming an adult. Second in rank to Diana is the distant Eleanor, who constantly carries an empty bird cage with her and yearns to escape the orphanage. Below her in rank is the intelligent Meg, who recites the rules and protocols of the Aristocracy, as well as invents the devices used to punish members of the hierarchy. She adores Diana despite her cruelty towards her. The lowest ranking of the children before Jennifer arrives is Amanda, who struggles from low self-esteem and is driven neurotic by the Aristocracy's demands. Her initial relief at not having the lowest rank upon Jennifer's arrival becomes hatred for Jennifer. The only child to show Jennifer kindness is the sickly Wendy. Other children in the orphanage include Olivia, "The Tearful Princess"; a young girl who constantly cries to get attention; Susan, "The Impetuous Princess"; Nicholas, "The Sloppy Prince"; Xavier, "The Gluttonous Prince" who is often seen with Nicholas; and Thomas, who obsesses over trains.
The Rose Garden Orphanage is run by Mr. Hoffman, the Headmaster, who is often seen with Clara, "The Frightened Princess", a quiet sixteen-year-old girl who assists him. Martha Carol serves as the housekeeper and cook at the orphanage, earning her the nickname "The Queen of Cleaning" while the children call her a witch behind her back. Another adult in the game is Gregory M. Wilson, a mysterious man who seems to live near the orphanage.
Players control Jennifer, a young woman who is led to an abandoned mansion by a small boy. She follows the boy into the mansion's attic, and is led to a grave in the courtyard of the mansion. She digs up a coffin with a bloody sack inside it. Four children sneak up on her and pour water on her, before shoving her into it. She passes out, and awakes in an abandoned airship ruled by a cruel group of children known as the Red Crayon Aristocrats. Under the threat of death, Jennifer must appease the Aristocrats by finding an offering for them each month. While doing so, she must piece together clues and recall forgotten memories which will ultimately allow her to escape. Each chapter of the game is introduced with a storybook that loosely describes the characters and the theme that it's based upon, each with a specific time in which it took place.
Jennifer finds and grows close to Brown, a dog who comforts her while she endures the torment inflicted on her by the other children. The sickly Wendy grows jealous, especially as her friend spends more time with the dog. As the game continues, it is revealed after Jennifer was orphaned, she was cared for by Gregory Wilson, an unstable farmer who renamed her Joshua after his dead son. Wendy discovered Jennifer, initially mistaking her for a boy, and eventually convinced her to leave; she helped her escape, but not before taking the gun Gregory owned. The two renewed their promise of "everlasting, true love" and Jennifer's stuffed bear is exchanged for Wendy's brooch. Wendy then took her to the orphanage.
Later in the game, the setting changes from the airship to the orphanage after Jennifer retrieves the stolen teddy bear and is made a member of the Aristocrat club. Frustrated, Wendy forces her to choose between her own life or Brown's and frightened, Jennifer allows Brown to be killed. Afterwards, she slaps Wendy and casts aside her brooch, hating the Aristocrats and herself for being too cowardly to oppose them. After this, Jennifer replaces her as the leader and the tale of the Stray Dog is cast aside as Wendy's lie. Angered by Jennifer's love for Brown, Wendy brings Gregory, whom she trained like a dog to obey her, to the orphanage and the orphans are slaughtered by him. Wendy then commands him to attack Jennifer before leaving.
Halfway through the fight, Brown inexplicably returns to aid her. After Jennifer manages to subdue Gregory, she walks outside and discovers that the boy is actually Wendy in disguise. She confesses that she was wrong, and gives Jennifer the gun that they had stolen from Gregory before he snatches her into the house. After a short battle, Jennifer gives a remorseful Gregory the gun, which he uses to kill himself.
Reflecting on her previously forgotten memories, Jennifer reveals that after it was discovered she was the lone survivor of not only the orphanage massacre but the airship crash that was thought to have no survivors, the murders were pushed into an obscure corner of the newspaper. She makes peace with her past and vows to remember her friends.
The company Punchline, which had previously developed the video game Chulip, developed Rule of Rose for the PlayStation 2. A group of twenty-five developers, Punchline began the project after being asked by Sony Computer Entertainment to develop a horror video game; not wanting to create a game similar to the survival-horror series Resident Evil, Punchline decided on the goal of developing a "new type of horror game, one which wasn’t the usual zombie, ghost and slasher type," with an emphasis on psychological horror rather than "surprise- and shock-based horror." This decision led them to the concept of "a game surrounding childhood and children," but from both view points to show how children and adults can find the other one terrifying, with a primary focus on the adult's perspective. Though Western critics have noted similarities with William Golding's 1954 allegorical novel The Lord of the Flies, the developers did not draw inspiration from it, instead focusing on the "mysterious and misunderstood" nature of girls. The story formed through trial and error as the developers figured out how to create a sense of fear, ultimately adding the children's secret society, the Red Crayon Aristocrats. They also included Brown as a way to balance Jennifer's "helpless and unhappy" personality and make the game more enjoyable. Because of budget and time problems, the combat system was left a little rough.
Rule of Rose's graphics are heavily stylized, incorporating a series of visual filters similar to those used in the Silent Hill series. The developers researched the behavior of children, monitoring a group of European and American children, and photographed references for "the game’s textures and models"; for the motion capture, the team had Japanese children act. At the request of the developers, the group of children also expressed through drawings or written words what caused them to be happy or afraid. The company Shirogumi worked on the computer-generated imagery present in Rule of Rose's cutscenes.
Punchline included several themes in Rule of Rose, with the primary one being "intimate relationships between all people". 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 helpless to prevent their adult player-character from being bullied by the children. Another is how attachment "to one thing can bring out the worst in people."
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 string instruments and vocals provided by Kaori Kondo, Hiroshi's wife. According to the game's developers, the music was intended to bring a human element to the atmosphere in the game. 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.
At E3 2006 Atlus announced that it would be releasing Rule of Rose in the United States, following Sony's decision to pass on a U.S. release. This was on the grounds of the game's erotic undertones involving a cast of female minors. The developers disagreed with this, saying that the sexual themes are only a small part of the game.
Rule of Rose raised controversies in Poland, where the Ministry of Education raised questions concerning its appropriateness for minors (the game was rated 16+) because of the themes of child violence and sexuality. The Ministry informed the official prosecutor's office of possible crime.
European Union justice minister Franco Frattini attacked the game as containing "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 Viviane Reding, commissioner for the information society and media, who criticised 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 wrote, reminding 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 November 2006, three French deputies introduced a bill asking for the game to be banned for sale, arguing that the goal of the game was to "rape, beat up and kill a little girl", and that if nothing was done, video-game could become an "uncontrollable factor of decadent violence in our society.".
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 publisher has chosen to cancel the release of the game in the UK following complaints by Frattini and other EU officials, and "largely misleading" commentary from the UK press. It will be released in the rest of Europe. Review copies of the title had already shipped to UK journalists when this was announced. The UK body which had granted the title its 16+ PEGI rating (the Video Standards Council) 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.
Review aggregator Metacritic gave Rule of Rose a weighted average of 59/100, indicating "mixed or average reviews." The reviewer for video game magazine Play wrote: "I think everyone should experience this game, especially horror fans, but in order to do so, you're going to have to suffer through times of sheer agony--just like poor, unlucky Jennifer." According to the Official PlayStation Magazine, the game "[b]lends the stuff of nightmares with stylish sound and graphics. Sadly, the developer should have spent longer on the gameplay." 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".
Critical response to the title has been average. Generally, the game has been praised for its deep thought-provoking storyline and symbolism (as well as its soundtrack), but has received almost total criticism regarding gameplay.
It is generally agreed that the title 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. GamesRadar described Jennifer as "a cringing, passive non-entity" and stated: "There's no denying that Rule of Rose is extremely pretty, atmospheric and disturbing.... but as an adventure game, Rule of Rose just sort of wilts." IGN listed Rule of Rose as one of the worst horror games created after 2000. 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".
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- Jennifer: When I came here, this suitcase was the only luggage I had… I lost everything in the accident. My mother, my father, all my possessions, and even my memories. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Jennifer: Diana yearned to become a beautiful lady, like a mermaid, but as she grew older, she realized that she was straying further and further from her ideal self. Poor Diana… She was trapped by her own ideals. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Jennifer: One time, Diana was absorbed in deep thought here. She was the prettiest, the most mature of the Aristocrats. She wanted so much to be an adult… and yet she was also afraid of growing up too fast. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Jennifer: The red bird in the cage… The doll Eleanor treasured. ‘If only we could fly like birds and go wherever we wished,’ she whispered softly. Yet, no matter how much Eleanor wished, she’ll never be able to just fly away from this orphanage. Poor Eleanor… She was burdened by her own frozen heart. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Jennifer: It’s a stuffed goat… The white goat Mary. The black goat Sally. When Meg found her letter to Diana torn apart, she was deeply wounded and cried in Diana’s arms, even though she was the one that ripped it up… And, when Meg’s notebook was found all scattered about, Diana made fun of her, saying, ‘Mary and Sally must’ve ate it.’ Poor Meg… She was bound by the shackles of foolish devotion. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Amanda's diary dated March 20: Things are going wonderfully! Today they called me out to the backyard. As long as that girl is here, I won’t ever be last. What a relief! Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Amanda's diary dated 27 July: I HATE HER I HATE HER I HATE HER I HATE HER I HATE HER I HATE HER Oh, my! I’ve got to sew the rags… Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Jennifer: Olivia, the one who cried all the time, stopped crying completely when all the adults were gone. With no teacher to give her attention and no cleaning lady to scold her, there was no point in crying anymore. …Poor Olivia. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Jennifer: Thomas was always playing with his trains…They were his only friends. There were no final stops on his railroad, for that would be devastating to him. It’s rumored that this obsession had something to do with his birth, but Thomas never spoke about it with anyone. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Wendy as Joshua: Now, I'm going to give you your first order. Every month, you need to find a gift and bring it to the Aristocrat Club. If you don't, I'll kill you. Is there anything about this that you don't understand? Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Jennifer's letter to Wendy dated 13 August: How are you, Wendy? You haven’t said anything to me since I showed you the surprise…Do you like my cute little puppy Brown? Let’s take care of him together. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Wendy's letter to Jennifer dated 10 September: Is Brown that important to you? It’s just a dog. A filthy animal. Please stop sharing your wonderful smile with that thing… Please smile only at me. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Wendy's letter to Jennifer dated 28 November: You still have that filthy dog? I’ll never forgive you. Have you forgotten your oath, the rule of rose? Good-bye, Jennifer. You will regret choosing that dog over me. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Jennifer's letter to Wendy dated 16 November: Dear Wendy, my visitor in the window, Thank you so much for writing to me. The man calls me Joshua, but my name is Jennifer. I’ve been in this room ever since he saved me. He’s a nice person… but he won’t let me leave. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Wendy: Let's run away before the man comes back. Before we go, we should find that dangerous thing and take it with us. It's for his own good. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- "The Little Princess" storybook: The girl obeyed the Rule of Rose, but the Countess refused to like her. The girl obeyed the Rule of Rose, but the Baroness punished her still. The girl obeyed the Rule of Rose, but the Duchess taunted her anew. And yet the girl and her friend were still faithful to the Rule of Rose. The Princess of the Red Rose found this all very dull. And so, she issued a Rule of Rose for the final time. The girl was to sacrifice her very special friend. And when she did, she became a Princess. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Jennifer: I'll never forgive you; not ever! And as for the rest of you, how could you believe all those lies?! Aristocrats?! You're just the opposite!! I hate you! And I hate you! And you!! And I hate myself the very most, for playing YOUR stupid games and not having the strength to stand up to you! It's all just hideous! Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Diana: Greetings. Princess... Please forgive all that I've done. / Meg: Greetings, Princess Jennifer. Thank you very much for coming to our new Aristocrat Club. / Eleanor: Greetings, Princess Jennifer. From now on, you'll be our new Princess. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Wendy: Because you wouldn't love me... Because you were so stubborn...I brought you here. Because you fell in love with Brown... Because you didn’t realize it was me... I brought Stray Dog here...But, I... I...Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Martha's Letter dated 24 November: Officer Doolittle, My name is Martha Carol, and I work at the Rose Garden Orphanage. In the past month, I have sent six letters to your attention, but have yet to receive a response. Have my letters reached you? I ask that you please investigate this matter at once for the safety of our children. Yesterday, I saw them together again… Mr. Wilson and Wendy, a child at our orphanage. I am very concerned for her safety. The two of them have been acting quite strangely. Oh, it’s terribly odd. By strangely, I mean… Mr. Wilson walking on all fours and nodding… and Wendy appears to be scolding him… I don’t know how to explain it except that it resembles dog training gone wrong. Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- (Wendy dressed as Joshua releases Gregory's leash and points to Jennifer.) Wendy: Go... / (Gregory crawls inside the orphanage) Gregory: Once upon a time there was a precious little girl... (Wendy closes the door.) Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
- Jennifer: The Rose Garden Orphanage… That day, I was escorted from the scene by Officer Doolittle. At first, it was reported that there were no survivors… Then, word got out that, miraculously, I had escaped the tragedy… When rumor spread that I was also the sole survivor of a horrific airship accident in which the passengers were all presumed to be dead, the media went into a frenzy. and so, the tragic murder of the residents of a rural orphanage was instantly bumped from the front cover of the daily newspaper to an obscure corner… I’m sorry everyone. You don’t deserve to be forgotten…But I’ll remember you. Thank you all for the precious memories.Punchline. Rule of Rose (in English). (Atlus). PlayStation 2. (2006-09-12)
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