Rule of Rose was a horror game developed by Punchline and published by Atlus for the PlayStation 2. It featured a soundtrack by Yutaka Minobe (Skies of Arcadia, Little King's Story) written in a classical style. Minobe rejected contemporary elements in favour of authentic music mainly written for piano, violin, and cello. The result largely paid off given the composer wrote for the instruments in a technically competent and emotionally affecting way. Sadly the score did not receive a full soundtrack release, though Atlus published a six track pre-order bonus with the American release of the game.
"Bullying" is a striking string trio opener to the album. The resonant quality of the performance immediately stands out and is refreshing after so many poorly synthesized string-based horror game soundtracks in the past. The first minute of the theme presents a melancholy but beautiful melody on the violin and really captures the feeling of the female protagonist. From 1:21, the piece becomes much more horrifying as an ascending sequence develops and the strings begin to play in tremolo. Although the string quartet writing is definitely derivative, it is professional and emotional enough for it to be effective. This is still an impressive composition overall.
The subsequent tracks use strings and piano to emotional effect. "The Attic" is especially effective since the gentle descending piano lines create a sense of nostalgia and fragility against the dense string backing. The way the piano and strings eventually interconvert their melodic and harmonic roles is also beautiful. "Backbiting" meanwhile uses the ensemble to give a sense of transient motion but there are pleasant nuances throughout. "Ambient Music for Strings", on the other hand, certainly creates a sense of panic with its blend of pizzicato and arco strings, though is a select taste out of context. Some parts are technically marvelous whereas others sound even more desperate than intended.
The main theme presented in "Bullying" makes two appearances at the end of the soundtrack. "Piano Etude I" offers a emotional solo piano reprise of the theme, though it's a little too short to satisfy. "A Love Suicide" is a vocal interpretation of the theme. The introduction retains the haunting classical focus of the album, although the peculiar quality of the vocals will be select taste. From 1:19, the theme evolves into a lounge jazz theme that takes listeners back to the 1930s. The continued piano and strings focus is cleverly done, although the theme sounds quite a bit like a rip-off of Metal Gear's "Can't Say Good Bye to Yesterday". The lyrics are also dubious although the instrumental interludes are very enjoyable.
What is offered on Rule of Rose - Songs from the Original Soundtrack is appealing. The piano and strings use brings a lot of emotion to the soundtrack while the writing often proves creative and refined. The main theme is also strong with renditions for strings, piano, and vocals, although "A Love Suicide" will split opinions. It's just tragic that only these tracks were offered giving a playtime of just an eerie 13:13. What is offered seems too unsubstantial to hunt down the album, though hopefully some will enjoy hearing the music in the game nonetheless.