Whisper of a Rose - Staff Review  

Roses Should Try To Be Prettier
by Roy "Rosestorm" Burnet

20-40 Hours
+ The story is the one shining aspect
+ Soundtrack is good for a low budget title
+ Fairly decent graphics for an RPGMaker Game
- Massive framerate issues
- Battle system is uninspired
- Bugs, bugs, and bugs galore
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    One has to give to Whisper of a Rose credit on one point: it's nothing if not ambitious. RosePortal Games’ first casual role-playing game is a deep, sprawling fantasy experience set in multiple worlds filled with visually diverse environments. Unfortunately, it also suffers from frequent game crashes and game freezing glitches, stale dialogue, and questionable interface and game design decisions. Whisper of a Rose is an RPG fantasy adventure from RosePortal Games that will keep the player busy for a long time. There is still appeal to those who value story and atmosphere over gameplay in Japanese-esque RPGs.

   Set thirteen years in the future, the story picks up with Melrose, a teen girl abused by her parents at home and by her peers at school. Pining for a better life—preferably one that resembles her dreams, in which she is a noble warrior princess in a fairytale world. Just when it seems her life is at its worst, she hears about a prototype machine that lets people live inside their dreams. She purloins it from the local museum and suddenly finds herself exploring her dreams—only they end up more like nightmares. It turns out the dream world she inhabits is being stoked by her fears, not her desires, and now she has to fight to escape.

   The dream world is under siege by strange creatures called the Phobius, who are made to devour and always hungry, and to make things worse Melrose can't seem to escape a nightmarish clown that draws closer to her every time she sleeps. All she has to go on is the name of a distant place called Rosaria where the Fairy Godmother is said to reside, and if she ever wants to make it home then that's where she'll have to go. She may find new allies along the way.

   Whisper of a Rose can be played with either the mouse or the keyboard to move around the map, speak to people, and open chests etc. The battle system is turn-based and it opts for the ever-increasingly used system of viewing enemies on the map before they are encountered, allowing the player to run if so desired. During battle, Melrose gains the ability to summon various creatures to aid her, and the party members the players will acquire each have their own unique abilities as well. Throughout the game the player will earn points that can be spent on a rather large skill tree to unlock new spells, skills, and upgrades. Once the skill tree is unlocked after she meets the first party member, the player will be able to pick and choose what new abilities Melrose will learn, as well as how they will be improved. The player can increase the damage they deal, or lower the casting time or magic consumption. Melrose will also eventually gain the ability to craft a lot of unique weapons, armor, and other items to help her along the way.

Caption He steals your thoughts. Mwuahaha

   The design of Whisper of a Rose has some rather strange aspects. On the one hand, the hand-drawn artwork and character sprites are a little simplistic. On the other, the visuals are entirely made from scratch, which is pretty impressive. The game was in development for three years, and RosePortal Games clearly used that time to turn out a product that looks and feels distinct. This team turned out a game that's over forty hours long and consists primarily of wholly original content which is impressive for an RPGMaker game. Whisper of a Rose is kind of an odd duck at first glance; one part story about coming of age and the power of friendship, and one part "Sailor Moon/Magical Girl Anime". There are some genuinely unsettling moments when Melrose's dream world turns nightmarish, and then the player will visit places like Candy Mountain or Valentown that look like the sort of places you always dared hoped existed when you were a kid. The storybook presentation is fun to look at, but it definitely takes some of the edge off the attempted seriousness of the story. One minute Melrose is having nightmares about being chained in a shadow realm while the clown from the abyss crawls towards her, and the next she's making friends with living gingerbread men.

   Still, Whisper of a Rose winds up feeling like it might be better enjoyed by younger gamers than RPG veterans looking for a serious challenge. The writing doesn't always seem up to the task of conveying the emotion in tense or dramatic scenes, and occasionally is a little awkward or oddly transcribed ("Hihihi" instead of "heeheehee", or "yea" for "yeah"). Melrose starts off awkward, shy, and more than a little childish. Initially she doesn't seem to know how to interact with people and tends to lash out when she's frustrated or upset. Unsurprising, perhaps, given the abusive household she comes from, but players are likely to end up more than a little relieved to see her grow up and mature over the course of the game. Her relationship with the character Hellena is rewarding to watch as she realises that self-pity isn't going to get her anywhere, and sometimes you have to put other people before yourself.

Caption Oh it sparkles

   There should be no debate over the music, though. The score is extremely well done and easily of professional quality. All too often casual RPGs suffer from obnoxious and repetitious synth guitars and simple techno, as if the developers were desperate for some way to instil an artificial sense of urgency by means of sound. By contrast, this soundtrack is filled with subtly complex arrangements and memorable melodies. It’s piano and strings are still noticeably synthesized, but in an embracing way that fans of old-school role-playing games will likely appreciate. On a purely technical level, just about any pc should be able to run it. Though it suffers from some major technical issues such as sporadic game freezes and crashes. It also suffers from a crash near the end boss that can prevent the ending from being reached, and a severe framerate issue is present that shouldn't be there in a 2D game such as this.

   Whisper of a Rose is flawed in plenty of ways, but none of its issues are deal breakers. Moreover, it absolutely nails much of what it gets right. The scope and diversity of its world will make many other RPG makers envious, and there is surprising depth and complexity in its design. It won’t win any RPG-of-the-year awards, but those who give it a chance will likely find it quite memorable. If Rose Portal Games learns from its mistakes, it could have a very bright future as a casual/retro RPG studio.

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