By Ashley Ring / July 12th, 2017
|Title||Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni|
|Developer||Meteorise, Honey∞Parade Games|
|Release Date||June 20, 2017|
When Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni first released in Japan last year, I was very interested in the game. It looked like a fun hack and slash game from the same minds that brought us Senran Kagura. I was so excited, I went ahead and imported the original Vita release from Japan, and proceeded to have a blast with it. Fast forward to the English release on Vita, where I found myself unable to enjoy it due to how small the English text was. Now that there is a Steam release, I feel like it’s time to give Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni another look, especially since the small text issue I had is no longer an issue. Does the Steam port exceed the original Vita release, or is it just a broken mess?
Thankfully, the Steam port of Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is a solid port. The original release on the Vita had some framerate issues, but more importantly the game would crash randomly during gameplay. During my 37 hour playthrough, I never experienced any kind of progress halting bugs or crashes, thankfully. The Steam port also runs at a solid 60 frames per second, which made the very flashy animations in the later half of the game look and feel so much more satisfying. The only issue I ran into was that sometimes the textures would have this weird flickering effect that would make black boxes appear and disappear on top of textures. It’s nothing major, and it didn’t happen that often. All in all, I found the Steam port to be the definitive version that ran very smoothly on my PC with a GTX 770 inside.
The story takes place on Bhikkhuni island, where girls with a mysterious virus known as the V-Virus are sent for research and treatment of the virus. The virus enhances their physical and mental capabilities, making them much stronger than the average human. It also gives the infected the ability to change their body into a weapon to be wielded by another infected. The story itself is not all that interesting, and unfortunately takes itself way too seriously with long and drawn out cutscenes.
The characters are thankfully alright and have some decent development throughout the journey. There are a total of seven main characters and all of them have their own personalities and motivations. Each character is nothing you haven’t seen before, but they were done well enough to keep my interest. I personally found Momo to be the best character in the story. She comes off as extremely cold and self-centered at first, but eventually starts to warm up and become more of who she really wants to be. I found her growth to be very relatable, and just overall well done.
The other characters aren’t bad either. Rinka is cute and optimistic, and her younger sister Ranka is very protective of her. One of my favorite characters besides Momo has to be Manpukumaru because she just loves to do nothing but eat good food, which becomes a cute ongoing gag throughout the story. All of the main cast was pretty likeable, and probably were the best part of the overall dull story for me. Their interactions together are cute, and full of fan service, so if that’s not something you’re into, you might not enjoy their interactions together.
Much like Senran Kagura, there is plenty of costume breaking, dressing room fun, and plenty of outfits and accessories to equip on each girl. In addition to all of that, there is also a mini game called heartcatch, which is a very basic rhythm mini game that has you clicking hearts that appear all over a character’s body. It’s not the most engaging mini game, but it has its perks. It’s cute, and allows you to quickly level up your character’s ranking, which will unlock new accessories and costumes, as well as allow you to access collectables in the later levels that require a high rank. If you don’t like fanservice, I can’t see you enjoying Valkyrie Drive overall, but if you’re like me and do enjoy shameless fanservice, there’s a lot to enjoy here.
While it may be heavy on the fanservice, Valkyrie Drive also has some very solid hack and slash gameplay. Valkyrie Drive offers your standard combos, as well as holding down a button for a strong charge attack, and a third attack option that launches your enemies in the air. Upon launching your enemies in the air you can hold down the jump button to dash towards the enemy in the air and attack them while vulnerable. It’s these airborne attacks that make Valkyrie Drive really fun. When attacking in the air, depending on which of the three attack buttons you press, you can do several different types of “Phantom” attacks, which are just flashier versions of what you can already do on the ground. However, it just feels so satisfying to constantly juggle an enemy in the air, getting them stuck in a loop to where they just can’t do anything else. It may sound easily exploitable, and it is, at least on regular enemies. Boss characters will quickly break that loop, so battles won’t always be easily won.
In addition to the Phantom Attacks, you can also activate Drive mode, where the two characters in that mission will put on an erotic display to combine their powers to become much more powerful. Drive mode is really where Valkyrie Drive shines in its gameplay. Giving significant attack boosts, larger (and cooler) looking weapons, much longer and way flashier attack combos and even extremely powerful special attacks that completely obliterate almost anything in front of you. These moves are very powerful, especially later on when you level up your characters enough to get their final drive, you even defeat some bosses in 2 to 3 special attacks.
The boss fights in Valkyrie Drive are fairly standard for anyone that has played Senran Kagura before. At the end of each mission you’ll fight one of the 7 main characters in a one on fight. The fights themselves generally aren’t hard, though they do get slightly more challenging towards the end of the game. There are four non-playable boss characters that are pretty fun to fight. They’re much larger than the playable characters, and you have to break their armor off until you expose their weak points on each body part. These fights are a lot fun, and the game does a nice freeze frame effect every time you destroy one of the bosses weak points. These boss encounters generally aren’t hard, except for one of them that can be fairly challenging at the end of the game.
As far as sound and music goes, Valkyrie Drive is mixed for me. I don’t remember most of the music, aside from character themes that play after activating drive mode. One song that stood above the rest though, was Koharu’s theme “Prove”. This song really put me in the mood to fight enemies every time I got to play as Koharu. The voice acting is in Japanese with English subtitles, and it all sounds and reads fine as far as I can tell. This originally was an issue for me, due to the tiny English text on the original release, but thankfully, in the Steam release the text is giant and very easy to read.
Visually, Valkyrie Drive has a lot to offer. The character models are very detailed and animate decently, though there was a lot of weird hair physics during cutscenes that looked a bit silly. Level design itself is pretty uninteresting and lacking detail, but gets the job done for this kind of game. The real star of the show besides the character models are the effects that happen every time you swing your weapon. The more you power up your characters throughout the game, the flashier their attacks become. The strongest attacks having a really cool looking and bright mixes of colors for their attack aura. By the end of the game, I was loving watching all the cool attack effects, as they just look so pretty and make the combat feel even better.
All in all, Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni is a solid Steam port, with very minor setbacks. I can happily say that this is the definitive version of the game in my eyes, and can see myself coming back to the game for some fun. It’s more than worth its asking price of $29.99, though I do recommend getting the complete version that comes with the DLC character’s and accessories for only 10 dollars more. While the story may not be very interesting, it did grow on me by the end of the 35-40 hour journey. With competent and solid combat, it’s really not difficult for me to recommend Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni to those that like these kinds of games.
Review copy provided by Publisher
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