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PS2 Video Game Review: Rule of Rose (ルールオブローズ)

Controversial, dark and eerie… Atlus’s “Rule of Rose” is a dark video game that has a grim but interesting storyline but as far as gameplay, has a bit of control issues at times.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Rule of Rose (ルールオブローズ)

PLATFORM: Sony PS2

COMPANY: Shirogumi Inc./Atlus Games

There are few games that I’ve seen where players have been so passionate about a storyline (which is left to a players interpretation) and people are very hardcore to the point that they will go to the extremes on their own theories and yes, unfortunately you will find the occasional flame wars and that game is from Atlus titled “Rule of Rose”, a PlayStation 2 game released in 2006.

The game has received attention because of its mature rating and rumors ran rampant that the UK had banned the game fueling video game collectors to hunt down this game and in most cases for Atlus games, possibly very limited print runs.

For me, I have to admit that I knew nothing of this game. Being an Atlus fan, or more or less a “Shin Megami Tensei” fan, I decided to pick up many of the games published by Atlus.

A game that caught my eye was “Rule of Rose” from Japanese company PUNCHLINE and CG house SHIROGUMI INC. PUNCHLINE is known for making the kissing PS2 very Japanese game Chulip but what caught my attention was the survival horror title put on the game and that it was so unlike “Silent Hill”, “Fatal Frame”, “Siren” and “Biohazard”. So, that in itself was good enough for me to make the purchase…. if I could find it.

Fortunately, found a place (out of a dozen places that I checked) that had two used copies…but one was so severely scratched up that I was luck the other was not bad.

WHAT IS THIS GAME ABOUT?:

The game takes place in the 1930’s in England and focuses on a girl named Jennifer whose parents were killed in an accident and had to live in a creepy orphanage with pardon my language, really f’ed up children who seem to hate her.

All she has is a friend, a dog named Brown who helps her as she uncovers clues about the orphanage and the orphans who have their own secret society/club.

The game is like stepping into a time paradox whisked into playing in a orphanage or a zeppelin but once you advance through the game, you realize that there are some cruel things that have gone on in that orphanage or within the vicinity near that orphanage.

GAMEPLAY:

The game has you controlling the character of Jennifer, finding items with the use of your dog Brown. Jennifer can attack with weapons, while the primary uses of the buttons outside of attacking is to give commands to your dog to find, stay or to come back.

Because Jennifer is a weak person, controlling her is not easy. She’s always scared and even swinging a weapon, she can’t look and sometimes its very clumsy.

But you come to accept that this fits Jennifer’s character. You’re dealing with a terrified girl not Lara Croft.

Camera angles sometimes get janky at times but fortunately you can switch the camera with the L1 button.

WHY IS THIS GAME SO CONTROVERSIAL?:

Before I answer this, I know there is another Japanese game in the US out that involves a girl in a janky, haunted area with a dog called “Haunting Ground” but this is totally different.

By saying that, I’m going to talk about a few things that are spoilers, so you may not want to read further.

The game is about a girl named Jennifer but what you are playing is Jennifer, possibly seeing things through her eyes as she was younger and possibly the trauma she has faced as a child.

Now why is this game so controversial? After all, controversy is “hot coffee” in GTA: San Andreas or the violence in “Manhunt 2” and similar situations but for “Rule of Rose”, the things that you will see if you did a search on “Rule of Rose” is that this game was controversial because the game possibly dealt with lesbian relationships, abuse, cruelty to animals, child kidnappings, murder, abortion and child molestation.

Topics you pretty much thought you would not see in a video game. In fact, these situations are not shown in the most part but certain things can be implied that these things possibly and I stress “possibly” could have happened. Each of these topics are up to debate and if you read online, these debates are what fuels the interest of this game.

It’s probably one of the reasons why Sony, who published the game in Japan, did not want to publish it in the US. Atlus, who has a record for taking on things not so politically correct, released the game in the US.

I really don’t think you will find a game that is dark in this manner and because the creators of this series want you to make your interpretation of seeing the world through the eyes of a child. The character Jennifer has some twisted and imaginary of things that may or may not have taken place with what may have happened in reality. Thus depending on your perspective, the game could mean different things to different people.

After playing this game, I read many of the theories and there are some people who really did some in-depth investigative work on the years and dates shown through letters and newspaper clippings in the game and really made their case on what may have transpired.

IS THIS GAME A TRUE HORROR GAME?:

In a sense of killer imps, pigs, goats and rats trying to kill you and having to wack an axe, steel pipe or knife on them and see blood everywhere, yeah I guess that can be seen as horror. But will it scare you? Probably not.

But if there is anything I found disturbing aside from the topics discussed above, it’s the character of the young girl, Amanda.

Her smile alone is utterly twisted.

REPLAY VALUE:

The game takes about 8-10 hours to play and once you beat the game, you can try to access a variety of clothes including dressing Jennifer in a gothic lolita outfit (definitely targeting the j-rock visual kei or rococo fans out there) sans the J-rock music of course.

My oh my… I enjoyed this game because of its thought provoking storyline. It makes you wonder why there was no marketing on this game and how it flew under the radar, possibly because of the dark undertones or traumatic nature of the character may be too real for some.

There was an HK film that I once watched that shows the different kinds of love outside of passionate and intimate love. The creators wanted to show that within the cruel world of these young orphans, there is beauty.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this is quite evident in “Rule of Rose”. There is a character in “Rule of Rose” who tries to show her love but once you ponder what she does to make her love known, you being to realize how disturbing her love is. Possessive and cruel love.

After beating the game, I was left with… “Oh my… Did this things happen? No way!” and online you will find those who say…”oh, hell yeah that happened” to those who feel “I don’t think that happened”. Hours after beating the game, I’m still surprised by it all (btw, there are two endings to this game).

As for the gameplay, at first I found playing Jennifer and such a scared character, I was put off by what I felt was janky controls but as the game continued, I realized… the controls work, especially for the character of Jennifer. This girl has gone through too much shit in her young life and you are mean to see what this girl has been through and how she felt.

If there was one thing I didn’t like, I found “Rule of Rose” a game that featured quite a bit of backtracking. I hate backtracking but fortunately, if you use Brown correctly, that shouldn’t be a problem. Fortunately, you can find areas where you can save and there are more than enough ways to rebuild health for your character and for the dog after being injured.

All in all, I will say right now that this game is not for everyone. I actually thought I was going to play something close to “Silent Hill 1” or something similar to survival horror games that I’ve played but in the end, you get a little bit of what those other games offer but something incredibly different is when the enemy are not zombies (although they are on here) but the enemies are the people who are meant to take care of kids and the children themselves.

I felt that the way the storyline was made to leave it to the player’s interpretation is its major strength because its evident, people have an opinion of the situations that happen in this game.

Definitely check this game out if you are up to it and most of all, if you can find it.

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