Anyway, let’s get on with the review, eh? Rule of Rose was actually published by Sony in Japan...But supposedly, they thought that publishing it elsewhere may lead to what happened in Europe. Atlus, never to shy away from controversy, then picked up the publishing rights for North America and brought her stateside. It’s a survival horror-style of game with an emphasis on avoiding fights rather than trying to kill every enemy you find. You take the role of a young woman named Jennifer as she is seemingly led to a strange house and quickly finds herself in a world that is run by brutal, morbid children who have created a hierarchy-type society, in which Jennifer is at the very bottom.
As you progress through the story, you slowly uncover the mystery of why you’ve been summoned to this place. It’s done in such a way that there are a lot of questions left unanswered until the very end, which helps allow you to be surprised when you reach the end and discover why exactly Jennifer is there and who that little boy is in relation to her. The story as a whole is EXTREMELY well done and was the whole reason that I wanted to keep playing the game. I was very curious to see how everything played out and often wondering what the next morbid moment in the game would be...In my opinion, it’s one of the best stories that I’ve seen within a video game. It’s a very macabre tale, but it’s told extremely well and doesn’t contain an ending that you’ll see a mile away...Well, aside from the final boss fight since they kind of hint at that through the game.
Speaking of fighting, that’s where the game take a nose-dive. The fighting mechanics in Rule of Rose are absolutely awful. Granted, one could argue that it makes the game more realistic since Jennifer obviously isn’t someone trained in combat...But, quite frankly, it doesn’t make for a fun game. The biggest problem I had with the combat was the lack of a lock-on system. With no lock-on system to be found, it’s not an uncommon occurrence for you jab a fork (or whatever weapon you’re carrying) towards an enemy, but have the weapon hit nothing but the air on the side of your target. This, of course leaves you open for an attack. When you’re left open for enough attacks, it leaves you open for death...And that’s just not fun. The only efficient way to kill enemies (that I’ve found, anyway) is to run around, attack once, then run around some more. Yes, if you swing your weapon enough, you kind of build up a combo that culminates with a heavy hit...But nine times out of ten, you’ll be attacked before you can even finish the swing for your second blow. So, the general rule is to run and attack...And honestly, it gets old fast. However, while there are times where you’re forced to fight, whether it be against a boss like a puking mermaid that lowers from the ceiling or if you’re locked in a room and not allowed out until you manage to kill a wimpy imp, the game generally encourages you to run away.
The non-fighting aspects of the game, while not bad, aren’t really anything special. They’re just average. They’re mostly tasks that require you to ‘do this’ and ‘get that’ with a few puzzles tossed in to prevent things from getting too awful repetitive. It’s not bad, but it’s not going to wow you. The mechanic of having your dog friend, Brown, find items is done pretty well, though. You can explore and find hidden items by having Brown search for particular things, or you can just stick with the story and have Brown look for the items needed to advance on in the game. It’s pretty neat having a dog sniff out clues for you...But after a while, it does feel a little boring. Afterall, you’re just following him from place to place. Yeah, sometimes he’ll lead you to a locked door and you’ll have to find a different way around, but for the most part it’s a little too simple...Have Brown search for the item, follow Brown, receive item.
There is a bit of replayability here, though, for those who can deal with the poor fighting and average gameplay. There are several items to find as you play, from movie reels that let you play specific cutscenes from the game when you find a working film projector to hidden costumes and weapons...There is a lot to discover in Rule of Rose if you’re someone who likes to uncover hidden stuff, which can really boost up the replayability level quite a bit. The game also encourages people to play again if they get the good ending by giving them a key to open the four-leaf clover door, a door that you’re unable to open on your first playthrough. The game takes roughly six to seven hours to beat when you’re not collecting anything or searching for items, you could probably toss another four or five hours on if you’re planning on collecting everything and seeing everything that the game has to offer, plus add another six or seven hours on top of that since you’ll have to play through at least twice to see everything.
Graphically, Rule of Rose is pretty impressive. I’m a pretty big fan of the little things in the game, like how light shines through windows and how filthy certain areas of the game look...It all comes together and creates a morbidly beautiful scene for the game. The animations are also quite good. The character models all have personality to them. You can see emotion in their body movements and facial expressions, which really helps you get lost in the story easier rather than just seeing two people standing still with their mouths moving. The audio is equally impressive. The soundtrack fits the game perfectly...And again, like the graphics, the audio is beautiful, but also somewhat morbid. The voice-overs are all done well, too. Overall, Rule of Rose is great in the cosmetics area.
All in all, Rule of Rose is a passable game. What it lacks in gameplay, it makes up for in story, graphics, audio, and replayability. Yes, the combat is terrible. Yes, the gameplay itself can sometimes feel tedious. However, the story will be enough for most folks to look past all of that. Could the game be better? Definitely. But even with its flaws, it’s still decent enough for you to be willing to play through until the end. If the developers had put as much time into the gameplay as they did everything else, however, I can’t help but think that this game would have been one of the must-buy titles for the system rather than have the small cult following that it has right now.