With Tales character designer Kosuke Fujishima and series veteran writer Takumi Miyajima, Dark Rose Valkyrie is clear in its aims and intended appeal. It wants to be a comfortable JRPG for existing fans of the genre, a game about relationships that, while unremarkable, are constantly building.
Of course, those games work because they’re backed by systems and expertise the development team’s been refining for decades.
Dark Rose Valkyrie is set in a world plagued by a virus that conveniently justifies both your use of outlandishly large weaponry and your command of a group that mostly consists of young girls. It’s a mash-up of some ideas that have been circulating for a while, and it won’t surprise you when — gasp! — a traitor is in your midst and you have to interrogate people.
It wants to be Tales and Sakura Wars and Danganronpa and God Eater, but it doesn’t have the focus or resources to do any one of them correctly.
Because, you see, Dark Rose Valkyrie doesn’t just want to be a Tales game. It wants to be Tales and Sakura Wars and Danganronpa and God Eater, but it doesn’t have the focus or resources to do any one of them correctly. It’s a Compile Heart game, a hastily-developed release with little care and a lot of reliance upon whimsy and fanservice. (Oh, right. I forgot to mention: it’s also trying to be like Senran Kagura sometimes.)
It’s a shame, too, because there are some interesting elements here. Fujishima’s characters are charmingly rendered, even if Compile Heart’s requisite Live2D animation does them no favors. They’re both in the Tales wheelhouse and out of it, with an urban bent that makes them distinct from that franchise’s fantasy worlds. Miyajima’s writing gives them interesting enough things to say from moment to moment, though unrestrained use of broad tropes can be grating and, frankly, the game does a poor job even by Japanese standards of competently addressing societal issues.
The traitor part even works, to a degree! Like the (very good) Lost Dimension, it’s randomized, and that means you have to be prepared for anyone to turn on you in a way that feels right. That said, it’s just another system slapped atop a game that wasn’t built for it, a problem we’ve seen a lot as it becomes a popular add-on feature.
So let’s talk about the base gameplay. You’re given quests and sent out to complete them through active turn-based battles. Generally, this works fairly well: attack targets get delayed and larger attacks take longer to execute, giving you the base tactics about what to use when. Sadly, this just isn’t built on effectively. There are certainly more than enough ways to expand your repertoire; you’re constantly leveling up, choosing skill points, upgrading equipment and swapping in different soldiers to your active party.
In execution, though, it’s unfortunately more of a power creep than an expansion of viable moves, as there aren’t a lot of battle tricks or area attacks to use when ideal situations arise. You get a little bit of this late in the campaign, but it doesn’t justify the slog to get there. Oh, and that slog! Lots of JRPGs have side quests, but Valkyrie mandates that you fetch things and kill random enemies between major missions, seemingly an intentional bid to pad out a game that really didn’t need to be this many dozens of hours long.
Dark Rose Valkyrie loses sight of a singular goal and delivers a veritable smorgasbord of mediocrity.
The environments are, sadly, what we’ve come to expect from Compile Heart, lifeless rectangular corridors with abstract items and save points that do absolutely nothing to hold together Dark Rose Valkyrie‘s ambitious apocalyptic world. The team had time to build out an entire clothes-ripping system (and jacked up repair costs, by the way, so it’s hard not to run around virtually unclothed), but believable locations? Nah. That may be the biggest departure from the charm of Tales: those worlds feel cohesive and built with care, even in the bland overworld.
Dark Rose Valkyrie isn’t Compile Heart’s first attempt to appeal to a specific existing fan base, but unlike Fairy Fencer F, it loses sight of a singular goal and delivers a veritable smorgasbord of mediocrity. There are some promising ideas here, and that isn’t always the case with the company’s releases. They’re just not presented in a way you want.