Note: Review copy provided by PQube
When Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni’s English localization was announced I told myself “Yes. This is the game I will eventually get a Playstation TV for”. In hindsight the Vita/TV has many other great exclusives. In any case I was hyped for this game as it looked to be similar to Senran Kagura (It was made by the same studio, Marvelous! Games) but with more yuri. I also really liked the anime Valkyrie Drive Mermaid. Question is whether it was worth getting hyped for. Let us find out as we take a look at Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni.
Note: This is a review of the PS Vita/TV version. The Steam version is the same game but with better graphical quality capable of running it at 60 FPS (Frames per second) if the player’s PC/laptop can handle it. Consider this a review of the game as a whole and not a comparison between versions.
Note 2: I will be bringing up the Senran Kagura series throughout the review because this game plays very similarly. It is by the same people after all.
Developer: Meteorise, HONEY∞PARADE GAMES
Genres: Action, Supernatural, Beat-Em Up, Ecchi, Yuri
Platforms: PS Vita/TV, PC (Steam)
Length: 30-40+ Hours
A mysterious illness suddenly broke out in girls in their teens and twenties, enhancing them mentally and granting them the ability to change their bodies into highly lethal weapons. The cause of the illness was a virus, currently classified into two types: the “A-Virus” and “V-Virus”.
The world government enacted a law to care for patients infected with the Virus. Five secret artificial islands were established to quarantine the infected patients. One such quarantine island: Bhikkhuni, the island famous for successfully controlling the “V-Virus”. Girls who enroll in Bhikkhuni’s school can overcome the virus. And thus, it is a school with many hopeful applicants.
Among them is a pair of sisters infected with the “V-Virus”. The elder Rinka Kagurazaka, whose innocent grace hides power within. The younger Ranka Kagurazaka, whose outgoing energy belies her frailty.
They are still unaware that there is only one way to control the virus.
And that is… for infected patients to battle each other.
To battle amongst themselves.
Let us quickly go over the animation first. It looks good for anime CG. The levels range from the simple, from a Japanese island town, school grounds to the more distinct such as the industrial district. They are solid settings for the massive beat downs of lady drones, big robots and other Valkyries. The soundtrack is also solid. The sub-menu and stage tunes are decent whereas the character and big boss themes are pretty cool. I also have a soft spot for the main menu theme. The designs of the playable characters are distinct but compared to Senran Kagura designs took a little bit before I really dug most of them. The ones I dug right away were Viola’s, Momo’s and Manpukumaru’s. There are also pretty good (as expected) 2D anime CGs along with a nice animated OP. Lastly let us not forget the great detail that goes into animating the girls’ sexiness.
Now we go to the story. Two things players need to be able to do in order to enjoy the plot:
!: Be cool with or cope with a story starring well-endowed cute and sexy girls fighting each other and getting their clothes torn, aka an ECCHIMANIA anime/series as I like to call it.
2: Be patient with the main plot.
The second one is something fans of ECCHIMANIA style shows like Ikkitousen, Koihime Musou and KEIJO!!!!!!!! and to some extent Queen’s Blade (That show is more serious) should be familiar with. What I mean is Bhikkhuni takes a little bit for its main plot to get into high gear. Early on it takes its time introducing the leading ladies from the twins to the ace student. Each one gets their time in the spotlight showing their fun and serious sides based on their personalities. Let us go over each of them:
Rinka and Ranka: The poster girls of the game and lead duo. Rinka is the older twin with a very kind heart, willing to help any friend in need to the point of Ranka suspecting her being quite naive. However, she is no fool and can sense when someone is worthy of her trust. Ranka, of course, is the younger twin. She is a hothead who is quick to react or upset. She cares deeply for Rinka and is very protective of her. Despite her temper she will take the time to think things through when given the time and assistance to do so.
Momo: Amnesiac who can only remember being born on a battlefield and having been in many fierce battles before coming to the island. Whenever she tries to remember something she gets a massive headache. She starts off with major trust issues and only wants to fight but over time lightens up. My favorite character.
Mana: Initially polite and willing to work together with everyone. However, she soon starts feeling pushed around or not taken seriously, leading to her showing her true colors, being blunt and unapologetic in her personal quest, which becomes clearer in due time. My least favorite character.
Manpukumaru: The biggest of the main seven in both size and measurements. For a while it appears she has a one-track mind of only thinking about anything and everything edible, even the other girls on a few occasions. She is also easily influenced by the promise of a yummy reward. However, she reveals herself to be very perceptive, intelligent and even a shrewd businesswoman who has very clever ways of getting what she wants without coming off as villainous, unlike Mana.
Viola: An alpha female with a “mightier than thou” view of herself. She looks down on those she deems weaker than her but will respect those who manage to impress her. She also has a hidden side. My second favorite character.
Koharu: The ace/honor student/prodigy of the seven. She excels at everything combat and studies related and is also approachable despite her impressive reputation. However, as it becomes clear in the main story and extra scenes she is a regular human girl like her peers.
As I said above the story takes its time introducing the characters’ personalities, interactions and personal struggles both big and small as they train together to help find a cure for the virus through their combat data. As the story progresses however, it becomes that there is much, much more going on than someone not experienced with ECCHIMANIA shows would expect. It is over twenty chapters (Known as Drives) long after all with each having two to three stages. Patience is a virtue. That or go into the story because players like seeing sexy girls beating each other up and being all “lovey-dovey” from time to time. Either way works. There are two endings. The other requires getting SS ranks in certain stages. Should the player not get the True End on their first go the stages where a SS rank is required will be marked on the second playthrough, unlocking the True End.
Next up is the gameplay. In my Fate/Extella review I described the main Senran Kagura titles as being “Musou-ish” and that is partially true. To be more specific they are 3D beat-em ups through and through. Veterans of SK games described Valkyrie Drive’s gameplay as “Senran Kagura Lite” which is an accurate description. To newcomers allow me to explain. The game is a 3D beat-em up where players take their chosen Valkyrie (or one assigned to them in Story Mode stages), go around mostly linear hallways, with exploration available in some stages, picking up items and entering small arenas to beat up waves of enemies in order to progress until reaching the boss area, winning and then clearing the stage. Despite being “SK Lite” Valkyrie Drive’s gameplay maintains many similar features that make those games fun to play for people who enjoy the 3D variation of the genre. Contrary to casual mainstream opinions beat-em ups are more than just “button mashers”. Players will not get very far just mashing buttons, especially on the Hard Difficulty. For this there are several available techniques where Valkyries can dash on the ground and air, perform Phantom moves like instant dodges, parries and the like as they fight back with counter attacks, ground and air combos and pull off special moves of varying power. While the game runs at 30 FPS on the PS Vita/TV it still plays very well and it is quite fun going around beating up baddies as sexy badass lesbians with varying fighting styles. Each character may have the same combo layout but they all fight differently from wielding swords, power gloves a bow and arrow and a “gun ‘n blade” to name a few examples.
Each Valkyrie has two meters to level up: One being the Liberator (aka the fighter) and the other being the Extar (aka the weapon). Liberator is the Valkyrie’s combat status while the Extar is their capability as a weapon for the Liberator, providing them extra stat boosts or Drive transformations depending on the level. The difference in which Valkyries get paired up is only in the stats as Liberators have an assigned weapon and it will not change regardless of who is the Extar. For example, Ranka as a Liberator will always use power gloves regardless of whether she is paired up with Rinka or Viola.
As mentioned above there are over twenty chapters in the Story Mode and seven playable characters. I bring this up for a simple reason: While there are big bosses players will encounter as they progress, most of the time the bosses at the end of each stage is one of the playable characters. In SK games this is less an issue due to the cast consisting of around ten to twenty+ characters. Basically expect to fight the same variation of bosses on multiple occasions. For example, expect to fight Mana or Ranka several times. The same goes for the enemies but this is common for any beat-em up where there comes a point the variety of enemies stop and the only differences between them are either color or palette swaps and a new move or two. For example, an advanced armored soldier gets a flamethrower.
Besides the Story Mode there is also Challenge, Survival and Online. Challenge has players taking on certain tasks like performing Three Phantom Dashes without touching the floor, Survival has players face a select number of waves that increase per stage and Online is player vs player.
Playing through all these modes (including the Dressing Room) unlocks items such as costumes, lingerie and music tracks that will either be available to use right away or have to be purchased at the shop using the in-game currency.
As we continue the review we can get to the yuri goodness right away. First up is the smallest example of yuri, the Dressing Room where players can change the girls’ attire, freely bask in the ladies’ sexiness and…of course, pat their heads or grope them if you so desire. The reason this counts as a small yuri feature is because the one doing the groping is self-insert so…say the one playing the game is another woman. There you go. Besides brief personal amusement the Dressing Room also has other features besides costume changes…that once again involves groping. See the level meter? That is referring to a…”Rack Rank”. Every twenty levels the Rack Rank levels up all the way to Valkyrie Platinum at Level 120. How is this done? By repeatedly fondling the girls. Why do this? To unlock a sexy heart catching massage mini-game for each girl, along with its “Lovey-Dovey mode equivalent, and get character costumes. For example, want to dress Momo up as Ranka but with Manpukumaru’s hairstyle? Level up their Rack Ranks enough to unlock these costumes and accessories for purchase at the shop. Personally this was more of a button mashing (or rather touch screen mashing for Vita owners) chore. I imagine there is another less hectic way of doing it besides the heart catch/lovey-dovey mini-game but I did it the hard way. Oh and to get lovey-dovey mode either get a perfect score in the heart catch mini-game or look up a cheat code.
The next bit of yuri goodness comes from the Drive transformations. This involves the Liberator…comforting the Extar in many ways. Remember when I discussed the two meters each Valkyrie levels up? Well this is what happens when the Extar transforms. The Liberator’s weapon becomes stronger and each Drive after the first one is more sensual up to a smooch. Do not expect anything as intense as shown in the anime though.
Next yuri source is the Dining Room. The yellow hearts above the girls are there to fill up their “Romance Meters” by using the touch screen or the touch pad on the PS TV using a PS4 controller to click on the hearts that regenerate every 6-10 minutes or so. What this does, besides add more achievements/trophies, is unlock text only scenes (No CGs for the cutscenes sadly. Some of these would have greatly benefited from having one, especially ones featuring Viola and her love interest.) for all the girls depending on who the player is controlling. However, not all the scenes are romantic per se. It depends on which girls show really strong feelings for each other in Story Mode.
Speaking of the Story the yuri ships go beyond subtext to pretty much canon. I will leave it up to the interested to find out which girls are destined to wed shall we say. Rinka X Ranka however, is the most obvious since Ranka is a siscon and Rinka kind of reciprocates her feelings though is not keen on showing body language between the two in public whereas Ranka does not care about people knowing how much she loves her sister and that she belongs to her.
Overall Valkyrie Drive is an enjoyable 3D beat-em up. While its combat is not as deep as its older sister series Senran Kagura the little sister shows that it too packs a wallop in both story and its solid cast of lesbian heroines. Besides the moderately lengthy Story the other modes also have plenty to do along with the abundance of costumes and lingerie to collect. Senran Kagura fans can find something nice to enjoy in this game. With casual players it depends entirely on how they feel about games centered around ecchi and beat-em ups.