Released in Japan under the name Black Rose Valkyrie last summer, Compile Heart’s latest JRPG is another solid entry in their lineup of games. Known as Dark Rose Valkyrie here in the west, fans of Compile Heart already have a basic idea of what to expect before even starting the game. Featuring character designer Kosuke Fujishima and scenario writer Takumi Miyajima, both from the Tales of series, I had high hopes that this game would be the best outing for the developers to date. While that isn’t the case, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with the Anti-Chimera Interception Division (ACID) crew. Read on for our full Dark Rose Valkyrie review.

Title: Dark Rose Valkyrie

Publisher: Idea Factory International

Developer: Compile Heart

Available On: PlayStation 4

Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Review Game Supplied by Publisher

Dark Rose Valkyrie is set in an alternate history version of Japan in 1929, as humanity is dealing with the aftermath of a fallen meteorite named the “Black Garnet.” This meteorite is the cause for a disease known as Chimera, which is affecting humans and turning them into dangerous monsters. When the game begins, you are put into the role of Asahi Shiramine, who has just been assigned to Captain of ACID despite being a rookie. In fact, the game plays off of that, as Asahi constantly mentions that he has the “ultimate beginner’s luck,” based solely off the fact that he survived an ambush of Chimera by himself. Since he is the Captain, he has been placed in command of five attractive women that have been hand picked for Valkyrie Force based on their abilities on the battlefield, and because the Chimera disease doesn’t affect women as much as it does men.

Mixing elements of Japanese roleplaying games with a visual novel style in the way of Phoenix Wright or Danganronpa, there is a lot to enjoy here. For a majority of the game, you’ll be accepting missions from the Command Center, exploring the world and dungeons, and partaking in battles with various enemies and Chimera. The rest of the game is spent relationship building with your teammates and crew inside of the Valkyrie Force Headquarters. Anytime you see a red exclamation mark, that means it’s a main story scene and should be saved to the very end. A green exclamation mark is for the side stories and extra scenes that will go away if you advance the main story, so it’s best to view everything that is green first before proceeding on with the red and continuing the story.

In terms of the visual novel mechanics, there is a unique thing within Dark Rose Valkyrie where two of your teammates will eventually turn on you. Who it ends up being is completely random with each game, but the times in which they do appear to be set. I’m not sure on the specifics on how the game determines who the traitor will be, but it appears it may be based off of your relationship with each character, the answers you provide to the characters during all of the individual scenes, the answers you select at the beginning of the game, and how well you do during the interview phases. You are free to select the character you want to interview, and the person you want to ask them about. You can also have Kana, the cook in HQ who also specializes in investigations, interview people as well. Once all the questions have been asked, you are tasked with comparing notes and inconsistencies, and using that to eventually find out who the traitor is. It’s a really cool concept that I wish would have been implemented even more throughout the game.

As I mentioned earlier, anyone that has played a Hyperdimension Neptunia game, Fairy Fencer F, or Omega Quintet is going to feel right at home with Dark Rose Valkyrie. Exploration seems to be a consistent mechanic across all of these titles, and it is done in the very same way. You enter a world map or dungeon, and then it is up to you to uncover the sections of the map and fully explore to your hearts content. The game’s version of treasure chests, little blue orbs, can be found throughout each area and will reward you with various items for uncovering them. I have a weird obsessive compulsive thing that requires me to physically explore every inch of the map and reveal the “fog of war”, but thankfully, this is as fun as ever thanks to the battle system.

In what can only be described as beautiful chaos, Compile Heart has taken their traditional Tactical Wait Battle System to the next level. Much like their previous games, you have a set amount of characters on screen, in this case 4, that take turns attacking enemies when it is their time to act. Combos can be applied to one of three buttons, with each button acting as a different set of combos that you can customize in the menu. Aside from those, Arts are your magic abilities, defensive abilities, and support abilities. Charge allows you to attack the enemy, and stagger them a bit, delaying their attack ever so slightly. And then there is the Overdrive mechanic, which is an ultra-powerful form of each character that is best saved for harder boss battles and whenever you find yourself in a tough spot and need that extra bit of damage.

A fast-forward mechanic has been introduced, which causes the speed of battle to get quite insane if done correctly. Once you get comfortable with the battle system and learn the ins and outs, which takes a few hours, you can go into the menu screen and set the game to skip certain animations to speed up the battles so they don’t seem to drag on forever. You’ll be able to watch the character portraits on the left hand side of the screen speed up until it is their turn, and the actual player characters and enemies are flying around all over the place. It was fairly humorous, and I ended up leaving this on for a majority of the game to make the battles go quicker. One thing I really enjoy doing is grinding out extra levels and being more powerful than necessary before major boss battles, so this little trick really helped in that regard and made it even quicker than usual.

The level of customization with your weapons, known as Tactical Combat Systems (TCS), is impressive. You are free to add any additional parts or sections on to your weapons once your have the marks and can afford to do so. This opens up an even greater number of attacks that can be assigned in the Combo section, and how much damage each character’s weapons will do. Playing around with and finding the right combination of parts and combo attacks will truly make some of the tougher battles go a lot smoother.

Speaking of which, the difficulty in Dark Rose Valkyrie is hit or miss. There are three levels to choose from that can be adjusted at any time… Easy, Hard, and Very Hard. The absence of a Normal setting is mind boggling. I started out on Hard, and while this is a setting that veterans to the genre are going to want to play at, I did think it was a little too brutal at times, especially during some of the boss rush moments of the game. Luckily, the difficulty can be adjusted on the fly in the menu screens outside of battle, so if you’re struggling, I highly suggest lower the difficulty and leveling up a bit before putting it back on Hard.

The only area I have a complaint with is the graphics themselves in the world and in the dungeons. Compile Heart has been using the same engine for a majority of their games for years now. Dark Rose Valkyrie doesn’t look all that different from some of the Hyperdimension Neptunia games that were released on the PlayStation 3. I’m really hoping that they improve on their engine a bit with a future title, and make things look even better on PlayStation 4. The character models and art style are gorgeous as always.. it’s just a shame that these things stand out against a backdrop and setting that feels outdated.

In all, Dark Rose Valkyrie is a great addition to the JRPG fans’ library on PlayStation 4. While this game certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, it is going to appeal to the diehards who are itching for more Compile Heart games, those looking for a deep system with their next roleplaying game, or anyone looking for a unique mechanic with the traitor and interview system. Playing through Dark Rose Valkyrie has made me extremely excited for Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online when it releases in the west this winter.