Being in the military is hard work! It’s nonstop training, tough jobs, long stretches of boredom…and in the end, it’s pretty thankless on top of that. Wouldn’t it be great if it were more like, say, high school? Anime high school, even? You know, slice-of-life anime high school with lots of dramatic moments and romance, only you don’t call it high school and instead it’s a military squad? Yeah, I haven’t really thought about that either, but clearly someone at Idea Factory certainly has, because we’ve got Dark Rose Valkyrie built on pretty much that exact premise.
It’s not World War III that leads to the apocalypse, it’s the arrival of the Chimera Virus, a pathogen that mutates those afflicted into horrible monsters. Humanity has been put on the defensive thanks to the virus, and now there’s not a lot of society left to defend. What’s left of mankind relies on the military to keep them safe; in particular, our hero Asahi and his Valkyrie Squad are taking the fight to the Chimera using their newly developed multi-purpose TCS weapons. Oh, and Valkyrie Squad is made almost entirely of girls…because women are less susceptible to the Chimera Virus, y’see, and…uh…you can kind of get where this is going, huh?
Yeah, you probably can. It’s a JRPG from Idea Factory. That means lots of cute character development, awkward moments where someone trips and falls into someone else’s arms, things like that. It means there’s level grinding. It means that the framerate’s a little rough. It means that the combat system doesn’t feature much in the way of innovation, but it largely nails the fundamentals and it’s a good time if you know what you’re getting into. This seems to have been the case since they took off with the popularity of the Neptunia series, but Idea Factory does their best work in familiar territory.
With its turn-based combat, item-collecting field sections and focus on squee-inducing character interaction, Dark Rose Valkyrie is very familiar territory. I wasn’t even surprised that the characters have different undergarments they could equip, or that their clothes would explode after taking enough damage.
That’s not to say it’s all well-trodden, of course. Sometimes Valkyrie goes in some unusual directions, like how one of your party members ends up being a traitor and you have to ferret them out. It’s a nice idea and builds quite a bit of tension when you’re interviewing characters and trying to figure out whodunnit; you only have a limited number of chances to gather information, so making the most of your time is key. Since the identity of the traitor varies on each playthrough, you’ve got a reason to go through the game again after you’re done, though it’s fairly lengthy at around 40-50 hours so you may or may not want to go that far.
Valkyrie’s presentation is par for the course when it comes to Idea Factory releases, unsurprisingly; there are some interesting character designs that are held back a bit by the game’s strangely choked framerate. I’m not really sure why this doesn’t run at 60FPS nonstop, but, well, it doesn’t; drops are fairly frequent. Otherwise, though, the game looks and sounds decent, with my only other complaint being Asahi’s hilarious tendency to gasp like an asthmatic grandmother when you’re running around in the field. His pathetic panting was enough to make me turn his voice off altogether; sure, that meant he didn’t speak during cutscenes, but I felt like it was worth it.
Really, the bottom line with Dark Rose Valkyrie is that it’s Idea Factory doing what Idea Factory does, which means painting safely between the lines. If you’re a diehard fan of the sort of shoujo-ish anime JRPGs that IF’s known to put out, you’ll probably have a good time here. If that’s not quite your jam, I’m pretty certain nothing here is going to change your mind.