Rule of Rose

I finished Rule of Rose last night, and I have some very mixed reactions. (One plot spoiler to follow)

First off, despite what the various ads and previews would have you believe, RoR is not nearly as controversial as it sounds. Yes, it involves a society of young girls (the Aristocrat Club) and their mis-treatment of the main character Jennifer. There is no sexual content however, and the other torments she suffers would barely register on a Silent Hill or Resident Evil scale. A dead rat is about as gruesome as anything every gets.

The story itself is very cryptic and ultimately remains that way to the end. There are very few characters, all of whom remain drastically under-developed throughout the story. The girls remain two-dimensional: the brainy one, the fat one, the pretty one, the quiet one, the sick one, etc. The other two or three grown-ups are hardly worth mentioning, aside from the fact that they are the main bad guys.

Ultimately, RoR is a story about a girl and her faithful dog Brown. Jennifer loses her family and is sent to a school/orphanage. All alone, she first finds a friend in Wendy. Not long after, Jennifer finds Brown and they too become fast friends. Wendy does not take this well.

As for the gameplay, it's really nothing new to the survival horror genre. Jennifer is clumsy and hard to control, running in a wide circle whenever she simply needs to about-face. The camera is fixed but you are able to swing it around behind you most of the time. The map provided is almost useless as it has no labeling of rooms in any way. Jennifer is a horrible fighter, and this isn't helped by the awful combat system. It's as basic as you can get. All you can do is swing you weapon and hope you connect. Even if you manage to hit the model of the bad guy, you might still miss. Apparently you have to hit a single pixel embedded in the center of the enemy. Simply hitting its arm, leg or head will not do. This very often puts Jennifer in harm's way, as the enemies don't have to play by the same rules and can often slam Jennifer to the ground simply by walking past her. This leads to some of the worst boss battles I've ever played, the first boss in particular. You have a weak weapon and very few health items at the time. He only has to hit you three times to finish you off, but you have to hit him about 20 or 30. His reach is also twice that of Jennifer's, so you have to run right up to him, swing once, hope you hit him (about a 20/80 chance for and against) then turn (in a wide circle) and run (slowly) away before he can swing or lunge in return. It's some of the worst combat and the most one sided battle I've ever experienced. I only beat him because I managed to catch him in a corner behind Brown.

The main focus of the game is to find various objects that the Aristocrat Club is looking for. All of these end up being animals. Again, don't be fooled, this is a game about a girl and a dog. This isn't some twisted journey into a Lord of the Flies-esque fight for survival. It's a series of fetch quests, literally. Brown's main function is to sniff an item and then fetch something else that smells like it. Sometimes it's just another of the same item, sometimes it's something else. This then leads to the search for the next item and so on. It also leads to some funny shots of some very large objects suddenly appearing under Brown's nose. There are no puzzles to solve, to riddles to answer and for the most part, no battles to fight. When the baddies start to shamble around, it's often easier to simply run past them. Fighting gains you nothing, no items or greater heath or skills. There are a few smaller fights that you must undertake, but these are much simpler than the aforementioned boss battles.

The music throughout the game is excellent. It's all performed by a small string section and ranges in mood from light and almost happy to frantic and disjointed. In general it provides a calm and slightly fussy atmosphere very well suited for the subject matter of children who think that have superior standing and who are trying to be sophisticated, when really they are just a bunch of brats going through the motions.

Possibly the best features of the game are the menu and story-book designs. They all feature shaky, child-like hand-drawn lines that end up being much more wicked and spooky than most of the highly polished CG sequences. That is also a rather apt description of the entire game. At its core, RoR is a wicked children's fable brought to a clumsy, aimless sort of life. That, in turn, is an apt description of the main plot. The children have a broken understanding of the grown-up world, and when they try to mimic it, they are doomed to failure.

Despite all of the negativity above, I enjoyed RoR very much. Then again, I always like games that break away from the traditional definition of what a video game "should" be. RoR, much like Siren or Kuon, is more about the small world it creates than trying to be the biggest and flashiest new thing. It's a clunky independent movie compared to something like a Resident Evil blockbuster (I'm talking about the games, not the actual movies...) They have their flaws, but games like RoR always manage to find a much deeper and far less simple path to follow.

The main question Rule of Rose seems to ask is, what does it mean to protect someone? To have total control over them? To want to keep them for yourself? To own them? You won't find the answers in the splash of zombie brains or a blast of machine-gun fire. You'll find them at the end of a leash.

7 comments:

heckxyes said...

You had me laughing with this journal entry. I hate the puking mermaid boss. GROSS.

I'm at the part where the pig imps show up when you're trying to get the power back on. I have been cussing at Jennifer so much because it's hard to get past the pigs when they swing their arms out and start running. GRR!!

J said...

I just decided not to finish the game and see the story through a walkthrough on youtube because it offered little reward for such a hard and boring gameplay... But I wanted to see the story because It was really intriguing and the videos are pretty well made (despite the characters don't talk and all that SHIT)... And the story resulted as boring as the game itself! If there is a story, because I must admit that, yes, is very cryptic, and the characters are underunderdeveloped....
So...
We have Jennifer playing a lot of horrifiyng games, being tortured by the aristocrat club, pursued by freaks and humanids and animals and rapists in a Zeppelin and beeing buried and walking through time and space, following strange tales... and all of this because SHE LEFT WENDY FOR A DOG?
Please I need light on this.... share some of your knowledge with me so I can consider the hours invested in this game a little worth TT_TT

Liliane said...

como fa├žo para passar da faze do senhor hofman por favor me diga ?

Melissa said...

The mermaid boss was definately the most difficult, there was limited space and expecially at the end, she just ended up puking enough to cover half the room!

I played this game because all the reviews I said mentioned how, yeah the game sucks, but the story is so amazing. I didn't find the story as cryptically crazy as everyone else seemed to think it was. The creepiest part of the game for me was finding the newspaper in the smoking room, saying how there was a multiple homicide, and all the kids from the orphanage are dead. I figured maybe Jennifer killed them, or something, that's why she's older than them and they all hate her. I never once thought the story was lame enough that the kids were actually sweethearts, and Jennifer just remembered them that way because that's how she felt! Sure, it's sad she buried her dog 'cause she was so weak and all, but, for Heaven's sake! The patience required to get through that game was difinately NOT worth the reward.
Long live Silent Hill... <3

Anonymous said...

Ok, perhaps what i read was wrong, but there was much more to the rule of rose story than is described here. For example, the whole idea of jennifer experiencing the game play is because she is reliving her past as a 19 year old. The blimp explains how everybody died, including her parents yet she was the sole survivor. As an orphan jennifer is actually taken in by a man (sorry cant remember his name off the top of my head) and the man had lost a son so treated jennifer like a boy. Wendy actually helps her to run away from this man (and the man is actually one of the bosses, as far as i understand anyway). Of course the story then goes that jennifer befriends Brown and Wendy gets jealous and following on, the aristocrat club play pranks and torment jennifer. However I also read there was more to the story with the orphanage burning down and jennifer is once again the sole survivor or something? I could be wrong here, as my partner is still playing the game and i have only been watching as well as reading about it.
I agree the combat looks very poor however it also makes some sense as the protagonist is actually a girl who has never had fighting experience in her life and i guess you can't expect her to be able to kill creatures that are bigger and stronger than her with a single blow. But that said, the movement of the character does look tricky and they could've done this bit better.
it's a very interesting storyline when you really look into it and the meaning behind characters and objects. Not as good as silent hill though!!

J.J. said...

i think RoR was an super game.the good ending was sorta stupid but it had depth if you undre stood the game. the music was amazind and the game remained a mystery till the end. but i will admit that jenifer was a horrible fighter and did do stupid things. but over all i liked the game.

Anonymous said...

Rule of Rose had a bigger meaning to it than "Girl falls in love with girl, girl leaves girl for dog, lonely girl wants revenge." The whole morals of the story was to say that sometimes jealousy can literally kill, and love can make you do crazy things. The question at the end seems to ask how far can selfish love can drive you? Yes, Wendy did save Jennifer from Gregory (a.k.a, "Stray Dog") after her parents died in the whole blimb incident. Gregory was basically a mad man who's son (Joshua) died from sickness. He kidnapped little kids and pretended they were Joshua, and when they started trying to escape or cried out for home, he killed them and found another to take their place. When Wendy saved Jennifer, she makes Jennifer promise to be there with her forever and ever. Wendy then takes Jennifer to the orphanage, and tells all the other girls that Jennifer was bad and said all these negative things about Jennifer, just so Wendy could have her all to herself. And for the most part, she did. That is, until Jennifer met Brown. It pretty much went downhill from there. Jennifer tried to share Brown, but as her love for Brown grew, Wendy became more jealous and angry at Jennifer for pulling away from her because of a "filthy dog" as she put it. You can see how her love and devotion for Jennifer changes over time and turns into hate and depression in the letters that Wendy writes to Jennifer. Wendy wanted to basically be Jennifer's everything. Her reason to smile, to live. And since Brown was taking her place, Wendy decided to take advantage of her position as high rank in the club and make the next target Brown. So of course, the girls of the club capture him and kill him. And when Jennifer finds out, she hates Wendy for it. So she jumps on her and slaps Wendy and tells all the girls off, telling them what they were doing wasn't sophisticated and whatnot. The girls of the club, realizing the errors of their ways, turned their backs on Wendy and made Jennifer their new "queen". Wendy, now very furious, brings "Stray Dog" to the orphanage, and there he kills off all the girls. The story then goes on when you fight the last boss, which is Gregory, but later you realize how to make it easier on yourself and let him kill himself. The children's books that you read at the beginning of each chapter are actually stories that take on common fairytales and also tell the story of each little girl in the Red Crayon Aristocrat Club, so you get some hidden background knowledge about each girl and learn a bit of their past and personality. You basically learn that you can't join any club without paying a price, innocence is lost when betrayal is present, the world is nothing without rules and regulations, and most importantly, even the most beautiful batches of roses have their thorns.