My 10 Most Influential Games: Rule of Rose

Rule of Rose Featured


Rule of Rose Image

I found myself fascinated with Rule of Rose before it even released on PS2. It was certainly no secret that games often launched in Japan prior to North America, but never before had I felt the need to play a title as soon as it hit Japan in early 2016. Yet, here I was, with a Japanese copy of Rule of Rose about a month after its Japanese launch. Fortunately for me, the game was not heavy on written text and cutscenes were actually in English to begin with.

What was it that initially drew me to pick up Rule of Rose? It most likely had to do with the Japanese trailers that made their way out prior to launch. It’s pretty similar to the footage shown in Atlus USA’s trailer, as shown below. The key things that hooked me were that it was a horror game with style, it featured an almost exclusively female cast, and seemed to be pushing the envelope.

I wasn’t the only person who thought this. Sony Computer Entertainment America passed on publishing Rule of Rose in North America and Europe (despite doing so in Japan) because it wasn’t “tame” enough – by that, they were worried by the erotic elements. In the end, this resulted in the game being barred from release in the UK and some other regions. Fortunately, Atlus USA had our back in the US.

In either case, I was already beating the game long before it hit North America. With little requirement to understand Japanese, I was free to jump in and fall immediately in love with the atmosphere. Set in a European home for orphans in the 1930s, Rule of Rose featured a seriously unique setting for a horror game. The cast also stood out amongst the more macho horror titles of the era – many following a post-Resident Evil 4 template. 19 year old Jennifer served as a protagonist who found herself terrorized by a group of children.

Rule of Rose Image

To be fair, the gameplay wasn’t quite there. Seeking out hidden items by using Jennifer’s dog Brown was neat at first, but grew tiresome. Another annoyance was Brown’s penchant for getting harmed during boss battles because he didn’t have particularly intelligent AI. Jennifer herself didn’t perform much better. In many ways, Rule of Rose follows in the Clock Tower school of design where protagonists are utterly weak as a means to enhance terror.

As a hardcore horror fan at this point, I was already well acquainted with bad controls so it hardly caused an issue. I was more than happy to soak up the storyline and creepy home and totally ignore problematic gameplay. Oh, and those gorgeous cutscenes! Few PS2 games ever achieved that level of perfection. I loved how Rule of Rose focused on how scary children are capable of being. Sure, that’s a common thread in horror books and movies, but not something usually covered by games. It was willing to show young girls as a source of terror and also as an intriguing contradiction to society’s expectations for them.

I pre-ordered Rule of Rose’s US edition and promptly played it again. Since then, the game has become incredibly pricey (for PS2 games, anyway) and that’s a shame. Many more people deserve a chance to try it for themselves. No game before or since has been brave enough to take on the topics presented in Rule of Rose – and I admire developer Punchline tremendously for creating it.

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