Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is an anime girl fighting game from the same folks behind the Senran Kagura fighting game series, Marvelous Inc., and it borrows heavily from its top-heavy flagship franchise. In a way, the game almost feels like Senran‘s bosom buddy. Unfortunately, Valkyrie Drive is the less interesting of the two and winds up being rather a bust.
An arena-type brawler set on Bhikkhuni Island, Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni features a cast of rather buxomy anime girls who are infected with something known as the VR virus have been sent to so that they can become cured. The virus lets those affected to either literally become weapons called “extars” or weild said weapons as “liberators”. Oh, and the only way to cure the VR virus is through combat. Does it seem a bit silly? It should, because it is. Throw into that many of the tired modern anime school tropes and you have a video game that’s as ludicrous as it is dull. Really, the paper-thin plot proves as little more than a vehicle to allow for crude and lewd attempts at humor as well as T&A fan service that can only be described as eye rolling.
While much of the early game is centered around storyboard sequences that set the stage for what’s to come, the meat of the gameplay part of Valkyrie Drive is in the arena combat. The game uses a fairly simplistic combo system where combinations of two-button attacks lead to a small variety of attack sequences. Mixing things up a bit are some enemy knockback/launching techniques as well as some high-speed dash mechanics. Most battles, however, end up feeling the same even with a bit of a variety in enemy types over the course of the game’s various arenas. And, just like in the Senran Kagura games, if enough damage or a large enough attack lands, some of the opponent’s (or the player character’s) clothing gets ripped off, thus shamelessly exposing the character’s undies and freely letting their bosoms jiggle. Not that they needed any help in that department to begin with.
Boasting seven characters that each have their own unique move sets, one would think that this lack of variety in combat would be remedied by simply changing characters from time to time. Unfortunately, that isn’t quite the case. Combat mechanics are simply too basic, meaning that players are just doing the same things to yield slightly different results. In the end, button mashing seems to be the way to go because it doesn’t seem to matter very much no matter what character is being played or played against.
There is a little bit of credit that can be granted here, however. As players deal damage, they fill up the “Drive Bar”. Once full and activated, the player character’s partner transforms into a weapon that lets players deal more damage with their attacks. Combos are altered a bit, too. It’s not a total changeover that will get the player’s attention too much, but it is enough to consider it combat v1.5 compared to the default gameplay.
Each of the arena-like levels allow for a limited amount of free exploration (at the expense of taking more time to complete the level, of course). There are items that can be found to unlock lingerie (more on that in a moment) as well as secret areas and those that can be access after being inspected by what’s known as a chestguard. Literally, they grope the player character and inspects their chest… that is, their XP level. Via their chest. Moving on…
Outside of the arenas, players have access to interactions with the other female characters. This includes romance amongst the all-female cast (sisters included). There are also unlockable items that can be purchased with in-game funds. This includes videos, images, music tracks, and also aesthetic items with which to outfit the game’s characters. Those who’ve played the Senran Kagura games will find this a very familiar experience as items such as a bell collar, cat ears, and a variety of lingerie. It’s partially an in-game collectible hound’s paradise and partly a horn-dog’s guilty pleasure.
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni originally came out in Oct. of 2016 for PlayStation Vita, making this recent PC release a port. Often these PC ports see polished visuals and enhancements to gameplay and controls. In this case, however, that doesn’t quite seem to ring true. Levels feel empty and lack any sort of good definition. The characters (in all their jiggliness) are well presented, though, and look quite crisp even if the breast physics are a bit (okay, QUITE a bit) beyond what they probably need to be even for this game. All of the game’s voice work is in Japanese, but it’s accompanied with English subtitles that don’t seem to suffer from any apparent translation or localization problems. In truth, the voiceover work is rather well done.
Even with credit given where credit is due, Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni just doesn’t stack up. The end product is a strikingly average and ho-hum 3D brawler. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. It’s just basic and bland with a story that falls way short. Sure, it can be a guilty pleasure sort of game that one might play when nobody’s home or with the door closed, but overly-jiggly breasts, lewd jokes, and teenage protagonists that come off as possibly incestuous only go so far. And for many, that may be too far.