|Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni
|October 11, 2016
Over time, I’ve slowly become a fan of Kenichiro Takaki’s Senran Kagura series of action brawlers, although I came in a bit late to the party by playing Shinovi Versus first. What Shinovi Versus did exceptionally well was that it was not simply a fun action brawler featuring young shinobi girls with large breasts. It was truly a fine story that demanded you take it seriously. After spending time with the three schools as well as Homura’s Crimson Squad, I grew to like and appreciate all the characters involved, who each had a sense of individuality and likability, even the so-called “bad” shinobi. It was paced well, too. You didn’t spend too long mulling over text that overstayed its welcome in the dialogue portions. You just got a bit of background over what was happening, and then got straight to the action. I wish I could say the same for Valkyrie Drive.
Valkyrie Drive’s biggest problem is that it spends far too much time on exposition, and I’m not talking about nudity here. It tries to be two things at once, both a visual novel and an action game, and it just does not work. Between stages, you can expect to spend 20, maybe 30 minutes on dialogue, and I think that’s enough to make most people zone out if fast paced, high adrenaline combat is what you paid the price of admission for. I can’t say the story is something I found myself personally vested in, either. The basic plot premise is that these two sisters, Rinka and Ranka, come to the island of Bhikkhuni to get treatment for their V-Virus infection (I know, I thought of Resident Evil too) by learning to harness their power of Valkyrie Drive (changing into weapons), so that they don’t get out of control or get sold on the black market as human weapons of mass destruction.
Along the way you meet other girls, like Mana, who puts on a demure act but is secretly quite nasty; Momo, who at first wants to kill everyone but eventually learns to make friends; Viola, who is… the alpha girl of the roster; Manpuku, who just cannot stop eating, and Koharu, who is probably the most well-adjusted of the lot. You spend quite a lot of time talking to these girls, weighing each others’ abilities and finding reasons to fight them over, and over, and over… It wouldn’t be so bad if the roster was larger, but it won’t take you long to get a sense of deja vu. If the story and writing were better, maybe I would have cared and found myself emotionally attached to the plot, but it just did not grab me at all.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Valkyrie Drive. The actual gameplay is quite good. There’s a depth of combat here that resembles that of Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, or even Metal Gear Rising. When you’re fighting the trash mobs, you can knock them into the air or away from you, and follow up by charging into them and continuing your assault with “Phantom” attacks. There’s strong incentive to get good at this. By doing these “Phantom” combos, you increase your attack power little by little with each successful completion, capping at 250% in your normal state. You’re also able to dodge and counter with a Revenge attack, which also increases your power a little. It’s a bit more advanced than Senran’s combat, and basically what I wanted, but didn’t get from Uppers.
You’ll notice many similarities with Senran Kagura’s features as well. Transformations that increase your power immensely? Check. Clothes ripping and naked finishers? Check. A lingerie lottery? Yep, that’s here too. There’s a vast amount of secrets and content to find, from outfits, accessories, underwear, hidden challenges and other unlockables. Some of this is found by playing around in the dressing room, where you can tear off clothes and play around with the models to raise their bust level. The real draw of the dressing room is playing a mini game that involves you touching hearts while trying not to be distracted by your chosen girl in just her bra and panties. By raising the girls’ bust levels, you get more stuff, and you also satisfy the requirements for “checks” in hidden areas in the stages that will get you even more secret items.
The character models and environments look pretty good on the PS Vita. One could say though, that the characters themselves look a bit too samey — they lack some of the individuality that Senran’s girls had. I liked Viola’s design the best, although I have to question how safe it is to keep a loaded pistol in between your cleavage. Manpuku’s design really reminded me of Hibari in a maid outfit, and she has some of the same innocent charm she did. As for the framerate, with this being a Vita game, it tends to drag really badly, which is also a drag on my enjoyment when playing the game. I could imagine this would be solved if a PC or PS4 version existed of this game, but I think this is a bit more than the Vita can take. The musical motif has a traditional Japanese flair to it, which is enjoyable and pleasant to listen to, but none of the tracks really stood out for me.
Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni has two story routes, and completing the default one will probably take you around 25-30 hours (It took 25 for me). Getting the other one will require you to get SS rank in specific stages. There’s also multiplayer, although it doesn’t seem to be very active right now, and when I attempted it, the performance was pretty bad. It was difficult to confirm hits on my opponent, too. It needs work. In short, Valkyrie Drive is satisfying for the amount of content you get at $39.99, however it is not without issues. Thankfully, once you’ve read the lengthy story (or skipped it), you don’t have to go through it again, and there are many, many secrets to discover which will keep you going back. I think of it as a lesser Senran Kagura, a pale imitation of what made those games great, with improved combat and much less characters to play with. Yet, as far as girl-on-girl fighting fantasy games go, Valkyrie Drive is probably the epitome of perverted pleasure.
Review copy was purchased by the author