For those who have played the Senran Kagura series, you’ve probably already heard of Marvelous’s other sister series Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkuhni-, derived from the same creator. It kept that series’s signature action brawler gameplay intact along with its sense of titillation, but due to it being a Vita-only game many gamers didn’t get a chance to play it. So now with the publisher bringing it to the PC, how does the previously handheld-only game fair on a much larger screen?
For those who aren’t aware of the game at all, the basic premise is that you’re introduced to two sisters, Rinka & Ranka, who are being taken to an isolated island in an attempt to control a mysterious illness they have been inflicted with. And of course there’s other people on said island inflicted with said virus, which are predictably all women. And you guessed it — the only way to control it is for them to fight each other. It's predictable, but it’s expected for an action game nonetheless.
The issue is that, unlike Senran Kagura, Valkyrie Drive isn’t insightful into the girls’ backstories or their inner strife, so they often feel like hollow cutouts of the cliches each of them resemble. Yes, Senran Kagura's women all had larger-than-realistic breast sizes just like this game, but they didn’t feel like fan service on display at all times.
This is extenuated by the fact that the titillation factor (outside of the breast sizes and the obvious bounce effect that brings) is that replacing Senran Kagura’s transformation sequences is a new mode entirely. See, while you technically have a partner in battle, you only actually control one just like in Senran Kagura. Due to the virus’s effect, when you enter “drive mode” you can utilize the “V-Virus” effect of the virus to essentially turn the partner’s body into a living weapon. Because the story falls flat, this addition essentially becomes fan service turned up to eleven.
It’s disappointing, because the actual gameplay itself has some differences from Senran Kagura in how it feels and plays that I really enjoyed. Like that game, you have your traditional light and heavy attacks. But the difference comes where it feels a lot more like a quasi-fighting game in a way, as you can string up ground-to-air and back again combos if you’re good enough.
Where as in Senran Kagura, I often had to stop and restart my combos to do so, as you had to commit to either a full-on ground or air combo once you made a switch. I encountered some minor camera issues, but honestly it’s nothing worse than any recent Senran Kagura title so it’s not a complaint against this game.
Outside of the gameplay, it's essentially a copy of the modes you’d expect from any recent Senran Kagura game. There’s the dressing room, a “massage” mini-game (which honestly doesn’t work that well as it was really meant for the Vita’s touch screen and isn't meant for PC controls), survival, challenge and an online mode for up to four players.
Graphically it’s clear this was originally a Vita release. While the characters and visuals overall benefit greatly from the improvements the PC platform brings (along with that sweet 60fps if you have the setup for it), the environments are a bit barren overall.
While the gameplay improves well over Senran Kagura, in many ways the excess focus on titillation and fan service is a detriment to the game overall. If you’re expecting this to eclipse its sister series, you’ll be sorely disappointed, but if you want something slightly different but at the same time familiar, this will be right up your alley.Valkyrie Drive -BHIKKHUNI- was reviewed using a digital code provided by Marvelous. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Good modifications in gameplay to the Senran Kagura formula.|
|The graphical upgrades in the PC release are welcomed.|
|If you have the specs for it, playing in 60fps is awesome.|
|Story is forgettable.|
|Characters often feel like hollow cutouts of the cliches each of them resemble.|
|Environments are a bit barren overall.|