Developed by Compile Heart Published by Idea Factory International Reviewed on PlayStation 4
Compile Heart and Idea Factory, makers of the Hyperdimension Neptunia and Fairy Fencer games, came out with a new series one year ago called Dark Rose Valkyrie for the PlayStation 4. The game is best described as a cross between a role playing game and a visual novel. With its history of solid RPG games, as well as story and art designs from the people who worked on the Tales of series, there was high hopes for this game. But just how well does it fare now that we finally have it in the west?
Dark Rose Valkyrie is about the newly appointed leader of the Special Force Valkyrie, Asahi, and his team who are ordered to stop a race of Beasts called The Chimera. The Chimera spreads a virus that causes any who comes into contact with it and slowly become monsters. However, when it’s revealed that a military force possibly has control of the virus, Special Force Valkyrie is tasked to go up against the organization and bring in their leaders to learn as much as they can from them in order to eradicate the virus.
The RPG plays with a unique mix of turn based action and active time battle. The higher the speed stat the characters have, the faster it reaches the ready point to attack. The player chooses attack levels from 1 to 3, which are your basic attack combos that you can change up depending on what weapons each character has equipped. As you play through the game, you unlock stronger versions of combo attacks that you can switch out or use as “gap filters” to extend your combos for more damage. There is a massive amount of customization in the game for the attacks which is great but is also one of the game’s downfalls. You start the game with eight payable characters each with a initial focused specialization. The problem is that the more combination attacks you do, you won’t be specialized exclusively to that one type. For example, Luna specializes in Sniper-type attacks and initially only has two parts out of all of her 15 potential slots for sniper attacks. In the end, you can get more, but then if you run into an enemy who’s tough against sniper attacks, it renders her character useless and you’re forced to switch out. While it is a staple in RPGs, the game does throw it all at you right away. It takes a while for the game to really kick off, and if you rush through, you’ll hit a point where you can’t progress without some serious grinding.
Graphically, the game isn’t really impressive. There are parts that looks great and others where it looks incredibly unpolished. There are three main states that the game runs in. There’s the Battle screens mentioned before as the characters and monsters appear in adequate detail. The second is the overworld and dungeon screens where you explore. Whether you’re actually exploring the world or crawling in the dungeon, the game takes a considerable nosedive in quality. Monsters constantly get the drop on you due to the delayed animation when you try to attack them with a preemptive strike. If the attack misses, the player automatically goes into the fight at an disadvantage. On top of that, the range of your sword to strike enemies doesn’t match its model. This means you could miss constantly, which yet again puts the player at a disadvantage. The day/night cycle in the game makes this worse since more powerful monsters appear at night. The only way an enemy interaction is at a neutral state is when you face the same direction. The worst part about controlling your character is that every 3 steps you hear them breathing and panting nonstop. Every 60 seconds he’ll say one of his lines before going back to panting and repeating the loop but with a different voice line. Hearing this over and over as you try to explore or even just grind for levels grows incredibly tiresome very quickly.
Where the game shines the best is its third state when you are sitting in the main base. It’s treated as a menu screen which takes you place to place by scrolling through the options. From here, if they’re available, you can interact with your squad mates and get to know them better. From here and through most of the main story, is told in a visual novel medium. The character portraits actually look incredibly detailed and even show movement that doesn’t look stilted or stretched about. It’s also where the last mechanic of the game comes in, investigations. The game has you solve a problem by figuring out the solution based on which of your subordinates’ statements hold the truth and which ones contradicts the others. It’s a little tough to figure out at first, but as you get to do it you realize it’s a little more than just a copy paste from an Ace Attorney game. This is the best part of the game because not only you must deduce a conclusion from what was said, but you only get a limited amount of questions you can ask. It is very easy to come to the wrong answer if you choose to focus heavily on the wrong character from the get go.
Dark Rose Valkyrie has a lot of good ideas and mechanics, but the fact that it throws them all at you at once, the weak story, and issues with controlling your character makes it a pretty hard sell. If you don’t mind taking the time going through the story, don’t mind the weak audio, and can work around its cumbersome controls, there is a decent puzzle game you might enjoy. Otherwise, think twice before considering this game.