[Did I mention I freelance for Fanbyte sometimes? At any rate, this is a piece I’m particularly proud of, and an update of when I wrote about Rule of Rose on this blog waaaaaay back in 2015. If nothing else, I’d say it’s surely a sign of how much I’ve grown as a writer.]
Once upon a time, there was a horror game about a little girl. It sent its studio to an early grave. When it went too soon to market, they called it hideous. Others called it wicked, and the few who had seen it became fewer and fewer. Those who did called it a monster; and then, no one called it anything at all. What a poor, unlucky little game.
Rule of Rose, released in America in 2006 and quickly forgotten, is a strange artifact of the PS2 era. Jennifer, the protagonist, is a young woman in 1930s England working through the traumatic memoriesof her childhood at an orphanage. The lens of trauma turns already unpleasant times into monstrous and surreal ones that have less to do with objective reality than with how powerfully they affected Jennifer all those years ago. Popularly compared to Lord of the Flies, since its premise centers around children recreating a brutal hierarchical system in the near-absence of adults, its true interest is more in a James Sunderland-esque journey to uncover its protagonist’s deepest fears.
“Obscene Cruelty and Brutality”
The game is best known for its dumpster fire of a release: banned in Australia and many parts of Europe, its poor sales in the United States eventually led to it being the rarest PS2 game of all time. Those who did play it lambasted its irritating camera and outright broken combat, and while the game was released digitally on PS3 in Japan, that courtesy did not extend to the US.
Many an article has retreaded the details of the game’s controversy, mostly centered around a non-indicatively lurid trailer that caused the game to be accused of containing child pornography. This wasn’t true, but the damage was well and truly done before anyone actually laid hands on the thing to prove it. Nowadays, the game is largely trotted out as an oddity of gaming history and loudly eulogized by a few weirdos.
I am one of these weirdos. There is a near-infinite amount of room in my heart for ambitious messes: Dragon Age II is my favorite Bioware game, and I am one of six known fans of Samurai Flamenco. My heart swells for Clock Tower. I voluntarily watched Tusk multiple times. I adore media that brims with talent but went down in flames, that inevitably makes you follow up a list of complaints with “and yet.”