Dark Rose Valkyrie is an RPG from Compile Heart. Unlike most of their other titles, this one has a more serious tone. While the game has a fantasy military feel, it is technically sci-fi.
*Review key provided by Idea Factory International.
In the world of Dark Rose Valkyrie, a meteor carrying a virus crashed into the planet. This virus enhances the strength and intelligence of its hosts, but also robs them of reason. This game tells the tale of Valkyrie Force, a special elite military unit that fights carriers of the virus.
Since men are more susceptible to contracting the virus, the military has more female than male soldiers. While this sounds like an excuse for a harem setup, nearly half of Valkyrie Force is male. Every member of the unit has optional bonding events with the protagonist. The responses the player gives during these scenes fill affection meters and determine the ending. Still, while the guys are included in all of this, the girls have more scenes and the endings revolve around them.
While most of those infected with the virus turn into monsters known as “Chimera,” a few manage to maintain human form. These serve as the primary antagonists of the story. It seems their goal is to convert all of humanity into beings like them, and that includes Valkyrie Force. They say it is evolution and make many attempts to persuade the team in addition to engaging in biological warfare.
Dark Rose Valkyrie is one of Compile Heart’s more serious titles, but there are still some gags here and there. Naturally, these mostly appear during the optional side events. This helps keep things entertaining while allowing the cast to show sides of their personality that would not be appropriate for operations. The jokes themselves are hardly the best around, but a lighthearted atmosphere makes it easier for players to develop affection for the cast. In turn, this affection helps make the more tragic elements of the story hit harder.
As the game’s traitor system is one of this title’s prominently advertised features, it is probably obvious that not everyone remains loyal. This is made complicated by the weapons that the team uses having side effects that mimic Chimerization. As the leader, it is up to the protagonist to periodically check to see if his subordinates are infected. However, the investigations do not begin until nearly halfway through the game. It seems clear that the developers wanted to create an actual story rather than just an excuse to include this gimmick. Still, the plot mostly contains elements and twists that frequently appear in similar stories. This is not an awful tale, but it does not feel especially unique either.
I did not notice too many typos in the game. Even when they did pop up, the intent was almost always clear. The exceptions would be when a quest’s text sent me to one location, but the target was in another. I also feel like mentioning that there was a rather unfortunate mistake made with the word “assess,” and this appears more than once in the game.
While the soldiers of Dark Rose Valkyrie typically wear military uniforms, a small selection of alternate outfits and accessories are available. Ironically, these costumes make the characters look more uniform than their defaults. All outfits are destructible, though surprisingly durable considering everything is made of cloth.
The sprites that appear during conversations look like 2D images, but they seem fidget in three dimensions. It is not uncommon to see someone turn their head slightly, hiding details on one side while revealing more on the other. Most of these movements are relatively subtle and no one ever looks to be over animated. There are some jarring transitions when a character changes poses, but it all still looks fantastic overall.
Event images have a paper-like texture to them. The colours are still bright and the scenes they depict are usually fairly generic, so I would hardly say they manage to stand out in comparison to other games. Still, it is a nice aesthetic. There are a few fanservice scenes with the full cast and each comes with one of these images.
During my time with the game, I encountered a few frame rate drops. Each of these were rather brief and they only occurred when nothing important was going on. The game also crashed once and occasionally froze for a moment when skipping skill animations. Aside from these minor issues, the game ran just fine.
Many songs in Dark Rose Valkyrie feature rather complex melodies. The track list also seems to be relatively large, giving players plenty of variety. None of the songs really stuck with me, but quite a few sounded rather good in the moment. None of them were particularly annoying either, so I would say the music was fairly enjoyable overall.
Whether using the Japanese or English voice tracks, the dialogue sounds natural. Each performer speaks at a rate and level of energy that is appropriate for each line. The default setting of the auto-forward also keeps things flowing at the rate of a normal conversation. As each character has multiple personalities with their own style of speaking, the quality of the voice acting is especially impressive. However, it seems that English voice acting is only available for most main story scenes and regular gameplay. Since the side events appear at set intervals and typically show up in groups, switching to Japanese for these hardly felt inconvenient.
While out and about, characters will loudly exhale quite often. Obviously, this can quickly get annoying. There is an option to mute specific characters which can help with this. Still, using this feature solely for this purpose seems like quite a hassle.
At first glance, the combat in Dark Rose Valkyrie seems like fairly basic turn based stuff. Still, the game does have a few gimmicks that give it a somewhat unique feel. When an enemy’s guard gauge breaks, extra attacks appear at the end of regular combos. Enemies also have better drop rates when they die with a broken guard. This gives combat a larger emphasis on breaking the gauge. However, the gauge refills each time the enemy reaches the top of the turn order meter. Naturally, the game has some tricks to help manage this.
Battles sort of take place in real time. Characters can pass each other on the turn order meter and normal attacks take time to finish. While these attacks take place, both the attacker and the defender stop moving up the meter. Since stronger attacks require more time to charge up, players can choose to stall with quick attacks or wait and unleash their full fury. Skills, on the other hand, occur instantly and allow the attacker to keep moving along the looping turn order meter.
When a character’s turn comes up, time freezes. This gives the player all the time they need to pick their strategy, but it can also be an inconvenience. Aside from skills with the “pierce” attribute, characters need a line of sight to target enemies. An enemy can get in the way and prevent someone from targeting others even if they will be gone by the time the attack would have come up. Area of effect healing takes time to use and it can be difficult to figure out where characters will be once it activates.
Of course, Dark Rose Valkyrie also features clothing destruction. As characters take damage, their clothing durability drops. Early on, this seems to exist purely for aesthetic reasons. However, outfits reduce damage by a percentage that drops as they lose durability. As enemies gradually deal higher values of damage, the effect becomes more pronounced. Eventually, regular maintenance becomes essential. Each outfit has its own gauge, so having multiple means being able to keep on tanking without returning to base. However, this is a rather expensive option.
On the field, enemies move fairly quickly. Once one spots you, running away is rarely a viable option. If you are not near an obstacle that it can stop it, a fight is typically inevitable. Hitting an enemy with a strike gives the player an advantage. However, these attacks are slow, so a charging enemy has to be quite a distance away for this to work. The range is also rather lacking, making it easy to whiff. If an enemy comes into contact with the player from behind, while an attack is getting ready, or after an attack misses, they get the advantage in battle. Different enemies behave differently while roaming the field. Some are impossible to sneak up on while others never give chase and some remain stationary until they spot the player. When desperate to avoid enemies, players can use an item to avoid all fights temporarily.
There is a time management aspect to the game, but it might as well be absent. Completing missions early grants extra rewards. Time advances even while standing on the main field, though it stops when the party enters a dungeon. When they leave a dungeon, time advances relative to the number of battles fought. Still, it is easy to finish multiple missions in a single day and the bonus tends to remain available for months.
For the first half of Dark Rose Valkyrie, the combat seems fairly easy. However, around halfway through, the difficulty spikes quite a bit. After a set of particularly nasty back-to-back boss fights, I decided to drop the difficulty to easy. At that setting, I was able to get through most of the game without too much hassle, though the final boss still gave me trouble.
The interview system appears very few times throughout the game. When using this system, players can only make a limited number of inquiries. Getting a character’s basic statement does not use any of these up, but you still need at least one available. Since the goal is usually to catch a liar, it can be fairly important to hear what everyone has to say. There are many conversations in the game, so if you reload, you are likely to find a new discussion.
Another way the game hinders reloading for interview success is by hiding the results until the end of the next chapter. Between chapters, players must complete a set of generic quests. Even on easy, encounters with basic enemies can take quite a bit of time, and these quests ensure players will have a lot of them. Not only did this sufficiently discourage me from save scumming, it made me want to stop playing altogether. I only reached one ending for the game, and I have no intention of returning for the others any time soon.
At first, I enjoyed my time with Dark Rose Valkyrie. While the story does not feel original, it is clear that effort went into it and it is entertaining. The combat is not the most fun in the genre, but the real time elements kept battles engaging for most of the game. However, the relatively harmless enemies are a bit too sturdy and numerous and by the later chapters I had more than enough of it. Still, I had fun with it for a while and others may not mind its flaws as much as I did. This is not a title I would recommend, but it may still be worth a look.