The Vita has been no stranger to strange and niche Japanese releases, but Tamsoft’s latest entry in the form of Drive Girls easily takes the cake as one of the most “different” ones to come out as of late. Let’s say you were a fan of Japanese-developed action combat games — what would you say if I said you combined anime girls and cars into that? That’s essentially what this game does, and that combination works to some degree but not quite that well in others.
The general narrative of Drive Girls is that it’s set in a city called Sun Island, where people have the ability to turn into cars at will. The story begins with a new student being introduced who is recruited to help find and defeat the invading “Bugs” threatening the city. Of course, they aren’t alone as four other girls also assist in this effort to create a five-girl team. While there’s some minor character building in a very basic sense, honestly the narrative is bare-bones at best and is inherently forgettable. Each girl is essentially a one-sided rendition of the common-day stereotypical Japanese anime trope, although at least the dialog is fully voiced (in Japanese only, however). It was also a bit weird to see in the game’s first hour or so a decent amount of missing words or punctuation errors — some more obvious that others.
Missions in Drive Girls are carried out by selecting them from a menu along with the character the player wishes to control in battle, with most missions being a “get from point A to B” structure and defeating enemies along the way. The battle mechanics are a sore point for anyone who’s played previous Tamsoft releases, as it’s far below the standards one would expect from them. Enemies are essentially all the same with only their size varying between them, and the combo system is much, much more basic than something like the Senran Kagura entries. You can dodge attacks, but there’s so much of a lag induced by doing so that it’s borderline useless in the thick of battle. As far as the girls are concerned, they each excel in different weapon types but each are generally skilled the same so it’s more of a personal preference than anything else.
You technically can transform into your “car” mode during these sections, although due to the limited space to move around I wouldn’t suggest doing so. Where this transformation mechanic becomes warranted is in missions where you actually race like in a racing game, but the game ends up reusing assets a lot and things end up feeling stale. Additionally, the game’s “boost” mechanic by pressing the Vita’s circle button oddly will transform you back into a human if you press it down for too long during these races which makes no sense at all.
And of course as one would expect from this type of game, there’s a fully-fledged customization system for the girls. I did like that they at least meshed stat leveling via decals/stickers to fit with the car theme which was unique, but the stereotypical clothing destruction mechanic is overplayed by this point and really doesn’t fit in well with the whole car theme.
Drive Girls is a functional Vita action brawler title, but it only meets that bare minimum at best. It’s a poor imitation of better entries it’s aiming to compete against in this subset of the genre that do aspects such as the narrative or gameplay leagues above. If you’ve played all of the others and still need more this will suffice, but for newcomers I’d wholeheartedly recommend another franchise.Drive Girls was reviewed using a Vita Digital Copy provided by Aksys Games. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Stat leveling ties into the car/human transformation gimmick via decals and stickers, which was a nice touch.|
|Dialog is fully voiced, albeit in Japanese only.|
|Battle mechanics are very simplistic.|
|Transforming back into a human during a race because you held down a boost too long makes no sense at all.|
|Characters are one-sided walking tropes, essentially.|
|Seeing the clothing destruction mechanic in play once again causes a sigh, and really doesn't fit in with the whole human-car transformation gimmick.|