Platforms: PS Vita, PC (reviewed)
Developer: Meteorise , HONEY∞PARADE GAMES
Publisher: Marvelous (PC) / PQube (PS Vita)
Release: 20th June 2017 (PC) / 20th September 2016 (PS Vita)
Senran Kagura may be one of the weirdest franchises I´ve seen in the past years, resembling the gameification of cheap Ecchi animes, yet being actual good games due to their great combat and silly story. Now, the creators of this booby masterpiece started a new series with Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni- and finally ported it from the PS Vita to the PC. Can a new name bring some fresh air into the series? Well, not really but it does have some interesting ideas tied into it worth checking out!
Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni- takes place in a world suffering from the so-called VR virus (There are others as well but the game doesn´t really care about them), infecting young women. Those infected are able to transform into weapons or wield others themselves, naturally not the best situation for a girl. As a consequence these suffering poor, busty women are sent to different islands, in order to get rid of the virus, one of them is called Bhikkhuni. We´re taking over the role of a newly arrived girl group, finding out, that the only way of freeing themselves is to fight against each other. So, the cloth breaking begins …
In theory a story revolving only around a handful girls, in contrast to the dozens Senran Kagura has to offer, allows for a much deeper characterization. Sadly, the chance of creating a tense character driven story was blown away by the usual depth of Senran Kagura. Every character just feels like a single character trait, from the energetic sisters to the tsundere ninja (I guess) we can find everything here. For a game with dozens of girls, that´s totally acceptable but not if you´re only presented a few, story carrying ones.
Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni-tries to tell a more mature story about characters struggeling between cure and friendship while suffering from a quite severe disease, in a Senran Kagura fashion … It doesn´t work. The amount of info, dialogue and stupid characters bombarding me during the long campaign tried so hard to be taken seriously, that I ended up being bored with it. Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni- simply lacks the bite and tools to properly tell and develop its plot.
Luckily, this also applies on the combat, being mostly untouched, working as good as in Senran Kagura Estival Versus. Even tho it only occupies three buttons, the combat system can offer not only great looking but also great feeling combos. Fighting against dozens of enemies on ground, slicing, slashing, firing and cutting your way through them or taking the fight into the air. By allowing you to throw enemies in the air, following them and hitting them higher and higher, combined with the already cool looking ground combat, it can successfully convey this amazing feeling for power, diversity and possibilities. Overall, it was the right choice to copy these mechanics again, since they still work amazing and enable some neat drop-in drop-out action, that also has quite some depth to it.
Additionally Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni- actually tries to improve the combat in some minor aspects. Additions like the Combo bar now having more impact on the character like significant damage boosts and an overall even smoother feeling combat, tho it´s hard to pinpoint why exactly, I had a lot of fun during my time. Also, let´s not forget the name giving Drive mode, completely replacing Senran Kagura´s transformations with some (necessary) big boobed yuri action. In contrast to transformations, Drive let´s a girl equip another girl, chosen as partner before missions, as a weapon after fondling their boobs or kissing each other, depending on the Drive status.
Naturally, the wardrobe is present as well, featuring some of the most diverse underwear I´ve ever seen and all kinds of clothes for every single playable character. Once we dressed our girls in all kinds of accessories, perverted underwear and much more, we can spend a whole lot of time performing different “actions” on them, I´m talking about boob fondling, ass spanking etc. of course. However, they don´t only serve as a pointless activity, giving us access to a wide range of mini games, letting them moan by pressing on different hearts, as well as improving our Drive mode. While it can be ignored, a lot of bonus content is locked behind it and don´t forget: Girls love cloths. The wardrobe was a huge part of Senran Kagura, so it´s only normal to have it here.
Last but not least, I should praise Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni-´s graphics for a bit, honestly, for a Vita port it looks fantastic. Textures, effects and models in particular look really good, even surpassing previous games in my opinion, gaining more and more brilliance the higher the resolution. Estival Versus looked pretty damn good already, yet Valkyrie Drive can freshen up things through a new artstyle, letting the graphical framework shine again. PC-wise, I might have liked to have a bigger variety of options, instead of only a resolution slider, along some texture filtering and shadows but overall, it runs pretty great, never crashing nor suffering from weird frame drops.
Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni- tried quite a lot new things story-wise aiming for a serious character driven story, enhanced by the typical Senran Kagura “humour”, mixed with an extended version of our beloved combat system. Sadly only 50% of that worked, while it could bring its combat to a new height once again, the story was left behind, clustered in bad characters, uninvolving, boring story-telling and a seemingly unclear vision.
If you can endure its story, which shouldn´t be a problem after Senran Kagura, or are able to laugh about some silly boob jokes, combined with girls having quite some giant ones, you´re in for one hell of a great action game. Honestly, I´m a man preferring gameplay over story, especially when it´s skippable, letting me really like Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni-.
[A Review Code was provided by Marvelous]