Dark Rose Valkyrie Review - A Rose With Thorns

Dark Rose Valkyrie is a testament to the adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover” because what appears to be a rose is actually filled with thorns. With stunning character designs and artwork, it’s easy to fall in love with the game stylistically, but its repetitive gameplay and late twists make the game difficult to love.

Dark Rose Valkyrie appears promising with the likes of Kosuke Fujishima, the Tales of series character designer and creator of Ah! My Goddess, and Takumi Miyajima, Tales of Symphonia and Tales of the Abyss’ script writer, at the helm, but unfortunately that promise is never fulfilled.

Unlike some of Compile Heart’s other titles, Dark Rose Valkyrie is less about fan service—though there’s still some for those that enjoy it—and more about a darker, grittier narrative. Similar to the Persona franchise, Dark Rose Valkyrie is a visual novel and RPG hybrid. The story takes place in an alternate 1929 Japan after a meteorite called Black Garnet collides with Earth, causing the Chimera virus to infect humans and animals alike. The Chimera virus turns the infected into dangerous monsters, leading to the death of 3% of the world’s population.

The player takes on the role of a new captain, Asahi Shiramine, of the Special Force Valkyrie who are dedicated to preventing the spread of the Chimera virus by destroying Chimera-infected creatures. While the concept is interesting, at times the narrative drags like a bad filler arc. The repetitive battle system also makes it difficult to maintain interest.

Most of the game relies on finding two special Chimeras who then send an army of bosses to mask their escape. This pattern is interesting at first, but it gets frustrating, especially as it continues to interrupt the main quest line. On top of this, to progress the player must complete a subset of missions before and after each main quest. This would be less troubling if these missions added something to the story; unfortunately, they seldom do and thus feel like needless padding to the game.

Similarly, one of the game’s main twists feels superficial. Spoiler alert: amongst Asahi’s team is an infected traitor who is leaking information to the enemy. The player must seek out the traitor through a series of interviews. These interviews affect the ending of the overall game, but because the questions are so limited, the interviews involve much deductive reasoning and thus fail to engage.

As for the gameplay, it’s repetitive and time-consuming. Dark Rose Valkyrie is a turn-based RPG, and there are ultimately two methods for destroying enemies: regular melee attacks or the faster Arts. Arts range from physical elements like bullets and swords to more RPG-style elements like fire and ice. Unlike melee attacks, Arts require a certain number of Ability Points to be used.

While Arts feel like they should be prioritized, they are difficult to use without quickly running out of AP points because of the high cost of skills versus the characters’ small AP banks. It isn’t until too late into the game, once a player has enough money and enough AP restoration potions, that battles become less tedious.

Unlike games such as Hakuoki and Code Realize, Dark Rose Valkyrie’s characters aren’t well characterized. Most of the female cast can be summarized as archetypes. That said, there is at least a variety of archetypes to see. From the small and quiet type to serious and stoic, there’s a lot of tropes covered and they’re all stunning in design.

The one area of the game that really shines is the character models. Similar to other works published by Idea Factory, Dark Rose Valkyrie has stunning CGI screens. The sprites are detailed and animated to show breathing, blinking, and speech. While not all of the mouth animations match up to the dub, the voice acting is good enough that it’s forgivable. The English cast consists of well known and talented voice actors like Erik Scott Kimerer who plays Asahi, and Cherami Leigh who plays Kana Hazuki. Each character’s voice suits their design and characterization.

Dark Rose Valkyrie is ultimately a tale of greatness that could've been if only the delivery was different. The story is an interesting one, especially for Compile Heart, but the repetitive gameplay and padding made it difficult for that rose to blossom. Instead, the player must weed through 50 hours of thorns to get to the heart of things. The early hours are fun and the character designs are beautiful, but as the hours drag on, the game repeats itself and it gets harder to enjoy.

Score

Good Bad
Character Design Battle System
Complex Story Repetitive and Tedious Missions
Character Progression System Pacing
Voice Acting Character Depth

- 6/10 -