Dark Rose Valkyrie Review
Release Date: June 6th, 2017
Developer: Compile Heart
Platform: PlayStation 4
The year is 1929 and a good portion of humanity has been wiped out thanks to a rapidly spreading Chimera virus brought down by a meteor impact. Japan is forced to close off their nation to keep the virus from spreading, but many lives have already been lost in the process. A special military unit known as ACID, the Anti-Chimera Interception Division, is formed to combat this deadly virus and the effects and horrors it has on people, turning them into corrupt creatures with inhuman power. It's a great premise that has a sci-fi horror-ish spin on it but delivered in a more lighthearted, fun fashion, but the story is heavily undermined by the poor quality of the overall game and lack of polish delivered in almost all directions.
Dark Rose Valkyrie puts you in the shoes of Asahi Shiramine, who was newly chosen to lead a new team within ACID known as Special Force Valkyrie, meant to be dedicated to the eradication of the Chimera and protection of civilians and Japan. The story has you team up with other members to create the SFV, and from here on you'll be tasked with missions in which you'll go through dungeons and various areas to take care of the deadly virus. While the story continues from here and you'll go through a good portion of the game finding out who in your team is a traitor among you, the lack of emphasis the story has on anything from anything after a few hours in the game has one not caring about what comes next, especially when long and uneventful dialogue is met with an odd UI, repetitive dungeons, and Compile Heart's signature never-ending, unintuitive, and redundant tutorials. While I tend to like a lot of Idea Factory's published and developed games, as well as Compile Heart's titles, Compile Heart has a tendency to fall flat after a few hours, and while it could be considered an art style to some, there is a lack of quality that Dark Rose Valkyrie has that lingers throughout the gameplay. Any type of animation outside of the visual novel elements when you're actually controlling the character all feel stiff and that of a handheld title, and while that would be OK if this game - much like a lot of other Idea Factory published titles - was on Vita or had a Vita counterpart, it doesn’t, not even in Japan, and is actually a PS4 exclusive, built from the ground up for it. Dark Rose Valkyrie has uninspired enemies, dungeons, a lack of textures, flat colors, stiff controls and animations, one has to wonder what the budget for the game was. It's a shame because, as previously mentioned, the game has a great story that you want to follow, but just have no incentive to keep going with.
There's a lack of user-friendliness I found myself noticing and getting increasingly frustrated over, as well as other tidbits that had me wondering where it became OK to greenlight odd choices. Menus aside, while traversing dungeons, and surprisingly even standing still, Asahi has a grunt that's looped every few steps. It is the same grunt over and over… every… few… steps. I was in absolute shock that one voice clip was used rather than multiple, and it would have been one thing to trigger it every 45 seconds or so, but every couple of steps can drive a person mad. I found myself standing still to look through the options menu to see if there was possibly a voice option for the overworld to be turned off, but the only way to turn them off is to cut voices completely, leaving everyone mute during cutscenes and the like. After leaving options and being back in the overworld, though standing still, Asahi also had another grunt that would loop over and over every few seconds just by standing still. There is no escaping it.
When traversing dungeons, you'll find items scattered, and some items won't be able to be obtained unless you meet certain requirements or progress enough in the story to give players an incentive to come back and find new things or access new areas they couldn't previously. While other games have done this before, for Dark Rose Valkyrie, due to the lack of inspiration dungeons have and the annoyance of going through them, with repetitive enemies and predictable moves, players won't have much incentive to come back and get them unless they're playing on the absolute hardest difficulty, which, for some reason, goes from Easy to Hard to Very Hard. There is no Normal difficulty you can choose before starting your game. It's possible that Hard may be the equivalent to Normal, but right out of the gate this is extremely confusing. On top of that, before selecting that, once you boot up the game, Dark Rose Valkyrie will ask a set of questions that the player must answer about how they like to strategize during battle, but oddly enough it doesn't seem to have any effect on the game whatsoever, so I'm not sure what the purpose of this was besides maybe adding a layer of mystery to it. Battles at the very least are entertaining enough that grinding isn't too bad and should please those that like to do so in RPGs, but with how boring they can get after a while it's hard to keep pushing through it when you just want to get a dungeon over with and continue the storyline. Dungeons are big, so you'll be using crystals scattered throughout to teleport between sections of them, but there are specific ones you need to activate in order to do so. While you can also save your progress at these crystals, there are separate orbs also found in dungeons that are specifically for saving, so if you were to save and exit the dungeon or turn off your game and then continue where you left off from, you'd have to start at the beginning of the dungeon and teleport to the closest location you were at. This is a bit of a nuisance and adds frustration for constant backtracking, almost as if the game is punishing you for taking breaks and not having 6+ hour play sessions each go.
There's a lot to like about Dark Rose Valkyrie, and many of Idea Factory's published titles alongside Compile Hearts developed titles have a certain charm about them that you can't find anywhere else, which is a big reason I find myself coming back to buy and play their games whenever there's a new title out, but unfortunately some of them tend to be on the mediocre side of things, and Dark Rose Valkyrie, despite it's great premise and promising moments, is one of those situations where you're not getting much bang for your buck. Dark Rose Valkyrie is a title that feels, looks, and runs as if it's on a PSTV rather than a PlayStation 4, and whether this is because of a low budget, a lack of time, or whatever the sort - who knows. However, because of it feeling this way, it's a shame a title like this isn't on Vita, much like other Idea Factory and Compile Heart games are, because I feel it'd benefit much more from it and find a more suitable home with its playstyle, genre, and user base. The setting is great, the characters are fun, and the weapons are flashy as well as the moves associated with them, but the visuals outside of the 2D art just aren't particularly appealing, and the game has a lot of points of chugging that make the overall production quality of the title just feel poor. For those that are bereft of anime-inspired dungeon crawlers and RPGs and want something to kill time with, Dark Rose Valkyrie may be a good recommendation for that, but ultimately this is a game that's better left to a sale or a bargain price when you're in a "eh, why not" mood and want to pick up and delve into something a little different but not too over the top in its presentation.
- Music both in and out of battle is really great and help both relax and get you pumped
- Likeable characters that come with matching personalities and a great sense of humor
- Battle animations are flashy and the overly-gigantic weapons make for an awesome show
- English VO is made available for those that prefer to play their games that way, but the option for Japanese is there as well!
- Remote Play is very enjoyable
- An RPG like this would have been much better suited for Vita; The power of the PlayStation 4 is not utilized even remotely here.
- Periodic drops in frame rate and lack of proper optimization takes you out of the experience
- Compile Heart's patented never-ending and horrendous tutorial layouts still linger — those that have played the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, Fairy Fencer F, Monster Monpiece, Record of Agarest War, or anything of the like will know exactly what to expect from this.
- Repetitive, annoying, and recycled audio when walking through dungeons, as well as staying idle for no discernable reason.
Many thanks to Idea Factory for sending us a review copy!