A Rose in the Twilight says so much without saying a word

There are games that rely heavily on exposition. Nihon Falcom’s The Legend of Heroes line touts its massive amounts of text. Then, there are others that show how little you really need to know to appreciate what’s happening in a game. A Rose in the Twilight is such a game. You go in knowing the bare minimum and are given very little information as you proceed throughout the adventure. Yet, despite this lack of information, it does a wonderful job of making itself understood.

Young Rose’s story is told in bits and pieces. You’ll come across tutorial scrolls and sections in which she’ll briefly reflect on her life and situation. None of these offer concrete details on herself and her situation. Rather, their brief asides on her rather sad and unfortunate life. We come across journals that describe her state of affairs and explain how to use her abilities. These don’t get into her past. Instead, we grasp how low her self esteem is and the devastating effect this thorny curse has had on her life.

As interesting and enlightening as the journal entries are early on, it’s the story told by absorbing bloodstains that matters most. Here is how we get glimpses of the castle’s true history, as well as more information on the fallout of the thorny curse. We see segments of Rose’s life as a young girl, as well as going over the experience of others who lived in the castle. We’re forced to find and witness these scenes to unlock blood seals and aid Rose on her way. In this way, we’re held captive, but not overwhelmed by the story. We encounter these events at our own leisurely pace and gradually learn the truth.

They are shadowy affairs, with a red backgrounds and solid black figures representing important players. Through these, we’re able to understand some of the things going on in A Rose in the Twilight, though no text is ever offered. Rose appears to be very distinct throughout, as she has a telltale bob and happens to be the only one with facial expressions. Other people become more familiar to us as we see their distinctive outlines. There are obvious members of the royal family, clergy and army. That there are so few major players allow us to better recognize the ones who matter and come to understand how their actions impact one another.

Finding all of these also provides us answers. We get resolutions we wouldn’t normally see when completing A Rose in the Twilight for pursuing every avenue, collecting every bloodstain and seeing every ending. Continuing to play past an ending offers hints at untold truths. It even offers an opportunity to collect more substantial texts with greater insights into the history of this curse, kingdom and characters. The information and lack of information work together to help us better understand what could and should be.

Everything comes together in this wonderful way. The initial journal entries that allow us an insight into Rose’s feelings and experiences as she suffers from the curse provide a foundation for what we should be feeling. The theatrical red and black cinematics do a wonderful job of providing the idea of information, if not the exact details we may crave. It gives hints as to things we should know. Then, finally at the end, we get these extra answers that provide more context.

A Rose in the Twilight is a subtle sort of game. It has these answers and ideas for us. There’s a very defined story, but it’s hidden away. We only get to comprehend everything that’s happening when we pull it all together. By paying attention and the blood toll needed to proceed, we get an idea of what Rose and the people around her may have experienced all these years and feel compassion and satisfaction for our part in helping that sorrow come to an end.

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