Compile Heart brings us yet another JRPG to drool over called Dark Rose Valkyrie. It’s written and designed by the key staff behind the Tales games such as Takumi Miyajima and Kosuke Fujishima. The story follows a somewhat dystopian earth where a virus that transforms humans and animals into beings called Chimera exists. It’s up to a team dubbed Valkyrie Force to exterminate these threats in turn-based combat and solve the mystery behind a mysterious group attempting to thwart them. Will this game be similar to the Neptunia titles and their goofiness or transcend with a more serious and mature experience?
Variety of personalities with unique designs – Asahi and his crew are a strong ensemble that interact with one another in their own ways. Although Asahi appears as the typical anime hero in terms of looks and a strong and caring disposition for his friends he also stumbles and bumbles his way across relationships. It’s endearing watching him build his bonds with fellow members such as Luna, Naoyuki or Ai and learning of their personal interests and ambitions. Conversations between them will seem typical to JRPG and anime aficionados but there are some tropes included that aren’t explored often enough. While the uniforms destroy any uniqueness between the characters, their style of weapons called TCS or Valkyries set them apart (along with their hairstyles). If their personalities didn’t make them stand so far apart from one another, it would be hard to tell who’s who anymore.
Great voice actors for both languages – The voicing for both the Japanese and English dialogue throughout the game is superbly done. Each characters’ respective voice actors portrayed their personalities well and put a lot of effort into being convincing. This may help to attract any player who prefers either language when playing JRPGs and lure them into forgetting how repetitive the many slaying missions can be. You may get attached to one character more than the other according to your taste but it will be hard for any player not to like at least someone and how they sound.
Visual novel artwork looks great – The player is treated to many cut-scenes of conversations between players and, occasionally, a particular scene in a moment of the story. It very much feels like a blend between visual novel games and JRPG turn-based titles as, between fights, the player is given choices in dialogue with another character which usually leads to a right or wrong answer. The artwork alone more than makes up for some of the game’s faults when it comes to difficulty spikes and padded gameplay. Rich color and solid lining on the character’s make them look great since there’s more static movement for them to make them feel like they’re talking, executing mannerisms and also breathing. This adds to the immersive nature of the story along with the fantastic voice acting mentioned earlier.
World exploration feels clunky and basic – While the player maneuvers throughout each level, they may feel like it’s boring as there’s only one speed and monsters spread across the map are usually easy to circumvent. There’s no other form of game-play when it comes to this, and not much to unlock down the road that makes it feel bland. They included forms of fast travel in the levels for checkpoints but it doesn’t make up for the lack of a “sprint” option. Even though, most of the time, monsters are easy to navigate around they can still spot you from ridiculously wide areas of sight and try to catch you. There are some beasts, later on, that are faster than Asahi which may frustrate your more that there’s no “burst sprint” just to get out of situations such as these.
Convoluted combat mechanics – The combat makes it feel as though Compile Heart put more effort into this than any kind of world exploration. There’s so much to digest and the tutorial doesn’t do the best at explaining it. Not only that, but all the mechanics don’t even come into play until halfway into the story; more options are presented when the concept of transformations come into play as the team members release the full potential of their Valkyries — their weapons — but the difficulty spike makes this seem like it doesn’t matter at all. For the start of the adventure and on Easy mode, it can feel like it all makes sense and you’ll be combining a lot of the confusing concepts later down the road but you’ll just end up using Ignition and Valkyrie modes when facing harder opponents and bosses.
Padded experience with not much replay value – This is not to say that the story is boring but there’s not much in the way of choices to warrant a second play-through. You delve into the mystery of the Chimera faction — who has a member that’s sister to one of your team — and figure out that there is a traitor among you. Based on the choices you make and deductive reasoning while exploring relationships between characters, you figure out who has betrayed you later which changes according interactions. Though you could start a new story and try to explore more of another relationship, it doesn’t change much of the overall story to warrant replay value. Not to mention that there is a significant amount of padding included with the random “kill this creature” and “collect this material” missions placed before and after major missions. They feel clunky and unnecessary.
Trophies are super grindey – Trophy hunters out there will be disappointed by Dark Rose Valkyrie’s extremely grindey nature when it comes to the requirements for the Silver and Gold trophies. Bringing up a character’s stats to 999 and defeating bosses without losing any members of the team are extremely difficult and will push hardcore gamers’ nerves to the brink of insanity. This is only for those who are highly invested into the game and its mechanics as well as anyone looking for a “pat on the back” from the JRPG community. There are worse trophy requirements out there but this is definitely up there with them!
Although I have difficulty with JRPG titles like Dark Rose Valkyrie that contain turn-based combat, it was still pretty enjoyable thanks to the characters. The story has interesting concepts but kept getting stretched out by the Chimera leaders padding gameplay by throwing more monsters and cryptic messages at you for the first half of the game. However, it’s easy to enjoy the banter between the comrades in Valkyrie Force along with appreciating their artwork and voice acting to make anime aficionados get behind it (and maybe even regular gamers, too). The game will feel really long with its extraordinarily padded extra missions between the main ones to try to get you to grind more time. It may just be for serious JRPG fans out there as it’ll start to feel bland to anyone who’s not into convoluted and complex combat mechanics for turn-based titles.
- Graphics - 75%75%
- Gameplay - 65%65%
- Controls - 70%70%
- Audio - 85%85%
- Achievements/Trophies - 35%35%
- Value for Money - 50%50%
Consider Picking Up
Dark Rose Valkyrie was developed by Compile Heart and published by Idea Factory International. It was released for PlayStation 4 on June 6th, 2017 in North America and June 9th in Europe. The initial Japanese release was on July 21st, 2016. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.
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