Rumors Can Ruin a Game: Rule Of Rose

It’s infrequent now that controversy surrounding a game’s material can completely derail or affect how it is released. The only other game I can recall is Manhunt 2. They changed the execution scenes from brutal and in-your-face to this weird, overly censored filter that made these actions not hit as hard. The only other one that I noticed at the time and still baffles me to this day is Rule of Rose

I won’t be here talking about Manhunt 2. I’m here writing this because I want to talk about Rule Of Rose. A game that, even when it was released in North America in 2006, was immediately rare and impossible to find. The urge to play it has come and gone, but I decided it was finally time late last year. So I’m going to sit down and play this game that was so controversial that Sony decided not to localize it. So contentious that European countries were calling for it to be banned due to its erotic themes and obscene brutality. 

Let me tell you, the rumors of its intense violence and sexual assault toward children are nonsense. So when I rolled credits and wondered what the hell happened, I started down a rabbit hole.

Rule of Rose was developed by Punchline studios. After being asked by SCE ( Sony Computer Entertainment) to develop a horror game, Punchline wanted to carve a name for themselves and not create something similar to Resident Evil. So they went about making a “new type of horror game” that strayed away from Zombies and ghosts.

The team wanted to focus on the physiological horror instead of the jump scare, shock, and awe horror that was becoming ever-present. The original draft for Rule of Rose is interesting, centered on a boy kidnapped by a big man. As the boy attempts to escape, he would encounter ghosts of the big man’s past victims. Unfortunately, this concept was turned down by SCE for dealing with difficult topics like imprisonment, children, and kidnapping. At this point, the studio started to examine the fear between girls.

This led the team to find their stride and led to the idea of a story surrounding children. This was born the Red Crayon Aristocrats. This also brought on the creation of “Brown,” Jennifer’s animal companion, throughout her journey. They were created according to interviews at the time to counterbalance Jennifer’s helplessness and how unhappy she is. That being said, for animal lovers, there is some nasty animal stuff in the game, just as a heads-up. But the combat was left as is due to time constants and budgetary issues. Which is exceptionally rough.

Weirdly enough, the studio studied movement and behaviors in children. Also, at the request of the developers, they had the children draw certain things that make them happy and afraid. Watching how the children’s characters act and move is incredible. 

After its release in Japan, SCE decided not to localize it for western audiences due to it not being in sync with the company, saying they would if the game were a bit tamer. This would drive rumors of violence towards children and general morality. Eventually, being picked up by British media, they alleged that the game contained children being buried alive, erotic intent towards children, and sadomasochism. This would lead the European Union to call for changes to the rating system and for the game being called to be banned in Europe. This would cause the UK release to be canceled. 

During all this fever, The Video Standards Council, which had given Rule Of Rose a Pegi 16 rating, would come out and say, “I have no idea where the suggestion of in-game sadomasochism has come from, nor children being buried underground. These are things that have been completely made up. We’re not worried about our integrity being called into question. There isn’t any underage eroticism. And the most violent scene does indeed see one of the young girls scare Jennifer with a rat on a stick. But the rat’s actually quite placid towards her and even licks her face.” 

Rule of Rose didn’t deserve this being piled up on it. While it is not an amazing game, it’s definitely one people should experience. And because of all this controversy, it’s made it an impossible find. If you have the means play it. Be ready for some horrible combat and general lackluster breadcrumbing to your goal. But it’s got a decent story and tries something new with its children-based horror.

In 2021, Onion games, which has members of Punchline, expressed interest in remaking Rule of Rose. They also went on to say the chance of it happening is less than one percent, but if it were to happen, it would be once they released their remaster of Moon, a great RPG which released in December 2021.

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