Dark Rose Valkyrie Review A Rose With a Few Thorns
Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
ESRB Rating: T
Thank You Idea Factory International for a Review Copy of this game.
Dark Rose Valkyrie is the latest JRPG brought to us by Compile Heart and is a collab project from developers known for working on Tales of Symphonia. This game is also one of the few JRPGs put out by Compile Heart that is a brand new IP separate from the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, and even tries some new ideas in terms of storytelling and gameplay. So how does this game fare?
Dark Rose Valkyrie’s story takes place in an alternate history during the first World War, where instead of combating the Axis threat, you must fight against something known as the Chimera. You take on the role as the commander of the special Valkyrie task group, whose main goal is to combat more advanced Chimera. Through here you have to develop bonds with your new squad members as a rookie commander, and get to the bottom of the cause of the Chimera menace.
Storywise, Dark Rose Valkyrie honestly feels like it’s a good visual novel. While the idea of a rookie commander taking control of a big task force is cliche, I think it is well executed here. The writing of each of your squad members is done well, and as you play through the game, you get a better sense of becoming one unit. Each character is very well written, each one with their own back stories as to how they got to where they are at this current point fighting the Chimera. The alternative World War backdrop of this game is also very well done as well. The game does a very good job of setting the tone it wants to do and keeps it up through out the game. It gives you a good feeling of wanting to know what happens next.
Gameplay-wise, Dark Rose Valkyrie takes a dramatic shift away from games like Hyperdimension Neptunia and Fairy Fencer. Instead of picking which dungeons you want to go to via a map, you instead can move around an overworld and go to the different directed dungeons. While this is an interesting concept, it can be a bit easy to get lost in it sometimes.
The combat in this game is also very interesting. Instead of your normal Compile Heart game where you string combos together while attacking, this time you are on an on rails type of combat. On the left side of the screen, there is a meter with four different levels. Each action you do has a certain level, once your icon crosses that level you will then perform your attack. The same rule applies for enemies as well. Also, the more powerful an attack, the longer you’ll have to wait on the meter before it activates, so this can be where some risk versus reward gameplay can come in. The game also includes a various amount of systems for its combat. You have certain moves that are tied to many different factors, such as your current status level, the weapon you’re wielding, or even which enemy is in view. At times these factors could be a bit overwhelming when trying to make the best play style for you; it also felt at times that if I wasn’t using everything, that I was not playing the game the way it was meant to be played. That said, once you get a hand on all the systems it flows pretty well but I feel like a lot of the fat could have been trimmed to make it more streamlined. Overall this combat style is done pretty well, there are varied tactics you can use, and the combat itself has many layers.
A big layer to the combat in this game is the return of the break system from older Neptunia games. All enemies in this game have a green meter under their health that symbolizes their guard. Once you break said guard all of your attacks will do more damage, and you can also perform special combos with your party members in the reserves, and perform special sync attacks with them. This is a good way to get a lot of damage off, however, an enemy’s guard replenishes after one cycle on the combat meter. Which means thateven if you get close to a break, by the time it’s the enemies turn again the guard will be back up to full. I found this to be extremely annoying when fighting boss monsters as it seemed like no matter how much damage I outputted, it never seemed enough to cause it to break. I feel like the combat in this game would have benefited a lot more if it opted out of the guard combat. As it made a lot of fights go on for much longer than they should have.
This game also uses a day and night system. During the day, the Chimera are not as strong, and it’s easy to fight them. However during the evening segments is when the Chimera are at their strongest, and even the weaker ones will have no problem tearing through you if you aren’t too careful. This also means that the game works on a bit of a timer as well. When you get missions from central command you are told how many days you have until the mission expires, and it will also inform you of what missions need to happen during the day or during the night. I honestly found the day night mechanic pretty cool and would cause a mix up in gameplay while I’m grinding for levels, as the cycle can change when you are out and about. On the other hand, it would also become a pain when I am trying my best to retreat but I keep getting ambushed by the stronger ones. I guess that is the nature of it all.
Staying on the topic of your unit, your job is to prove yourself to be a competent commander to them. To do so, you will want to spend a lot of time with your unit. Between missions, you have the chance to talk to a member of your unit to help build morale. I really did look forward to these parts the most because they would really develop the characters you are working with. The conversations you would have with your teammates would also revolve around the plot as well, meaning it was always good to check on them to get an idea of what was happening in the story from their perspective. It’s here where a lot of the game’s narrative is built and helps quite a lot when going through the usual story beats.
I think the biggest issues I have with this game would have to be the visuals. While the character designs and dungeon designs are all really good, the overworld will cause the little issues to suddenly seem much larger. The animations on a lot of the characters and enemies look incredibly stiff to the point where it’s jarring. There’s also an issue with hit detection in the overworld when trying to get the first strike on an enemy. Sometimes when you clearly hit an enemy before it even gets near you, it’ll somehow count as a first strike against you. This has led to countless retreats of being overwhelmed at night by more powerful enemies.
What you have with Dark Rose Valkyrie feels like two different things. On one hand, the story is very well done and comes across as almost like a visual novel, mixed with a JRPG that misses the mark and a lot of potential. That said, Dark Rose Valkyrie is definitely a good game if you are looking for something to beef up your JRPG collection with.