Thanks to Idea Factory International for the review code
Title: Dark Rose Valkyrie
System: Playstation 4
Release Date: 06/06/2017
In a world under the threat of an outbreak of monsters known as Chimera, you take control of the leader of a new squad in the Valkyrie Force, as you and your team set out to stop the chaos from growing out of hand and investigate the mystery behind a missing person who seems to be in charge of the virus…
Visually, this game honestly doesn’t look as impressive as you think a PS4 game would be. It’s not bad by any means, but the overall quality of some of the 3D environments make me think that this might have been planned for a Vita release at some point before being scrapped. Still, this is made up for by expressive character models during dialogue scenes, where the characters are not the usual static images with an occasional mouth movement, but rather animated, full-body models that show a lot more emotion than your average dialogue scene from other games of this type. The battle scenes also look a lot better than the out-of-battle stuff, with some really cool monster designs and flashy animations for moves, complemented by a serviceable, if forgettable soundtrack that fits the mood.
By far the biggest element to take note of here is the Voice Acting, which is a mixed bag in some aspects. Overall, I found the English Cast to do a good enough job at their lines, and they even managed to get Veronica Taylor of Pokemon fame to do a fantastic performance as Commander Miyako. Like with Superdimension Neptune the voice acting is equally enjoyable in Japanese, so in terms of performance, both casts are worth listening to if you have a preference for one language or the other.
Unfortunately, the Japanese version gets a slight edge over the English cast not for the acting or cast, (as I personally feel the English VA is superior in that regard) but rather because while you explore the world map or a dungeon your character will let out an exhaustive huff very frequently, and in both versions this really gets irritating after a very short period of time, but the English version of this is worse because it’s more forced and very hard to ignore, while the Japanese voice actor at least tried to make it more subtle. It’s a very minor nitpick, but when playing the game for long periods of time I can easily see this driving players insane if they don’t want to mute the voice acting completely.
Dark Rose Valkyrie seems to share some things in common with other Idea Factory RPGs, in that it still uses a quest system to get extra items and build relationships with your party members, distance is key in determining what attacks to use, and the turn order in battle is determined by the speed of the your character and whatever action you assigned to them. Hot off the heels of the stellar SuperDimension Neptune, it feels like a big step back, not because of the lack of collectibles to find in each dungeon, (the game still has items scattered about the dungeon that can help the party) but rather because the whole game feels like a lesser version of SuperDimension, despite not even being in the same franchise.
The first problem comes from the World Map, which is a gigantic, open-ended mess that doesn’t offer much incentive to explore. You can still run into enemies here like you would in a dungeon, which makes it good for gaining experience and materials, but in terms of actually finding the next objective it becomes a bit of a pain, and the only good thing about this map is that you can just jump directly to any place you’ve previously visited, which makes back-tracking less of an issue.
The second issue comes from the performance of this game, as it just feels like it isn’t totally running right at some times. It’s very tough to explain, but think of the issues with the framerate I had with SuperDimension Neptune, but even worse at points. Battles tend to play out perfectly fine, but exploring some dungeons just feels like an up and down path of boredom, since it can be easy to get lost or be unsure of what your objective was in some instances. It’s one thing to be tasked with extermination missions that are easy to locate and lead to fun battles, but anything related to item hunting can be a bit of a drag.
On a minor note, I had this really freaky issue a few months ago where in the first dungeon of the game I was trying to explore every nook and cranny, obtaining all the items like I normally would in RPGs such as this, only to encounter an enemy right next to a crystal that refused to open at the current point in the game. One killed enemy later, and I’m suddenly behind the crystal, pinned between the sealed crystal and a tree, completely unable to escape the situation. Not wanting to lose my progress, I wiggled the control stick like a mad man for a good ten minutes before an enemy finally made it close enough that I was able to trigger an encounter and be warped into explorable space again. It was a very strange bug, and needless to say, it gave me a bit of a scare.
When it comes to the battle system, most of the same trends in RPG battle systems apply, with your characters being able to charge for a turn and unleash a stronger attack, along with being able to perform skills of many different kinds, which can be improved with new skills every time you level up a specific stat. (every level up allows you to freely distribute the points to stats at your own will, but the higher level stats will cost more points to upgrade than low level ones) This is one of two areas of the game that manages to be very engaging, next to the story, and that’s solely because of the fact that the game lets you speed these battles up to a ridiculous amount if you choose to. An auto battle function is also available, which makes taking out weaker enemies incredibly easy once you up the speed and switch to auto, significantly reducing the pain of one of the most monotonous portions of any RPG. Of course, boss battles, stronger enemies, or playing on the higher difficulties will make auto battle meaningless, but still having an option to speed up the battles is a huge plus, and made combat a lot of fun for me, even if everything else didn’t feel as fun as Superdimension Neptune.
In conclusion, Dark Rose Valkyrie is a decent RPG, but nothing more than that. It has stellar voice acting and a fun combat system, but the way parts of the game are executed make the game feel confusing at times, especially for those who take a break from the action and return to it a month or so later like I did. Thus, it’s hard to follow the narrative, plus when you add the occasional bug here and there the game can make you lose interest real quickly. Still, for those who’re willing to stick with the fun combat system and for fans of the talented voice cast that helped out with this game, Dark Rose Valkyrie is at least worth a look, although Idea Factory has made plenty of better alternatives in recent years. The game does have enough content to be worth the $60 price tag, but with a lot of cheaper and better alternatives for RPGs, this is really only a game worth checking out if you just want something long and new to play. I give Dark Rose Valkyrie a 6 out of 10.