Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is a third person action game developed by Meteorise and published by Marvelous Inc. through PQube. It is part of the Valkyrie Drive media franchise created by Marvelous Inc, (Senran Kagura series), which includes this game, an anime and an iOS game exclusive to Japan. This game is exclusive to the PS Vita system. The game is PlayStation TV Compatible.
The overall plot of the Valkyrie Drive series is this: Sometime in the near future, a virus starts to infect teenage girls and young women. The virus is called the Armed Virus and can affect a girl in two ways: Some gain the ability to turn in weapons and some gain the ability to wield those weapons, if the girls are compatible enough. The ones that turn into weapons are called Extars and the one who can wield them are Liberators. Some Extars don’t turn into weapons: some turn into a vehicle or some just grown giant (as seen in the anime.) Some even have both the abilities of an Extar and a Liberator. The governments of the world have decided to remove these girls and put them on artificial islands where they can learn to control their powers or be cured from the virus.
Extars have one thing in common, though. In order to transform, they must be compatible with their Liberator in order to initiate the transformation. To initiate the transformation, the Liberator has to bring their Extar to a state of “euphoria.” If you’ve read my review of Gal *Gun: Double Peace, you know that’s code for giving them an orgasm. Yes, an orgasm. The higher compatibility between the girls, the easier the transformation and the more powerful the Extar gets. In the anime, it is shown that some girls effortlessly shift between human and Extar form if they have the right partner. It even showed that an Extar could involuntarily turn into a weapon if the sight of an attractive Liberator turns them on. But that is enough of the back story.
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is set on the artificial island of Bhikkhuni (hence the title). It mainly follows two sisters, Rinka and Ranka, who have been sent there in order to be cured from their virus. Everyone on that island have a variation of the Armed Virus called the V Virus, which makes them both Extar and Liberator. Here they are put though various combat exercises in order to refine their powers as they are told the way to cure the virus is to master it. The sisters encounter others on the island like the mysterious Momo, the ambitious Mana, arrogant Viola, always hungry Manpukumaru and the serious Koharu. They all progress under the watchful eyes of the Four Pillar Gods, massive mechanical Valkyries that serve as teachers and opponents. Of course the girls pair up and strengthen the bond with their partners through touching groping and kissing. Yes, even the sisters because, Japan.
The game play is similar to what was in the Senran Kagura games for the Vita. You go through the map, fighting off hordes of mostly female enemies, with the occasional robot dog, scorpion or some other mechanical contraption. You attack with the square button for light and triangle for heavy attacks. Circle launches the enemy into the air and X is jump for light presses or a dash towards locked on enemies if you hold it. You can explore the maps to find hidden items and areas (guarded by a robot keeper that recognizes the girls by touching their breasts), and to collect pieces of lingerie tokens, which unlocks underwear if you collect all the pieces in the level. Like Senran Kagura, there is clothing damage that stays through the end level cut scenes. Usually at the end, you face off against another pairs of girls. After each level, you are given a score, a ranking and experience points to split between the Liberator and the Exter.
While leveling up the Liberator improves their speed, endurance and power, leveling the Exter improves the weapon’s power and unlocks the Valkyrie Drive. You build up you drive meter as you fight and defeat enemies, with combos yielding more power. Once the meter is full, you can initiate the Drive. There are four levels of the driver. First Drive is when the Exter turns into a weapon. Unlike the anime where the girl has to orgasm to turn into a weapon, in the game the girls just touch hands and one turns into the weapon. In fact, at the lower level, you don’t even start off in First Drive (even though you have a weapon), but you do as you get the Exter higher in the levels. You can activate the Drive 3 more times if you unlock the abilities for your Exter. Each stage of Drive is accompanied by a scene depicting you two characters: Second Drive has the Liberator touch the other girl’s breast; Third Drive the Liberator hugs the Exter from behind and nuzzles her neck; and Final Drive, the girls kiss (yes, even the sisters). In Second and Third Drive, the Exter loses a piece of clothing until by the final Drive, they are in their underwear. In the Final Drive, the underwear goes, replace by shining light to cover them up (like in Senran Kagura Estival Versus) and the girls launches into the air in ecstasy. You can also use the meter to do special attacks by holding L and pressing square.
The game has other modes as well. There is a hub you can go to change costumes, buy outfits and items at the store (including Lingerie) or look at unlocked art and scenes. You can also talk to the other girls here. Occasionally there will be hearts that you can collect for each girl which improves their affection level. Occasionally this will unlock a text and voice scene where the girls interact with each other. These could be about the girls challenging each other while training, day dreaming about an opponent’s boobs or directly asking Viola if the carpet matches the drapes, if you get what I’m saying. If you max out the affection level, you unlock a picture of the girls together. It doesn’t have much to do with the story, but is just fan service I guess.
Like Senran Kagura, you can customize the look of the girls. You can either buy items from the shop, unlock items buy playing the main game, or by buying DLC. Each girl only have one outfit, but you can swap them for a different colour version of the main one for any that you have unlock or bought. You can also add accessories like Senran Kagura and adjust their position on their bodies to create unique looks. There is even a DLC pack that includes many of the items available for Senran Kagura. If you’ve played Estival Versus and checked out the Miss Shinobi Contest, you know the things that can be done. As in Senran Kagura, you can interact with the girls in the dressing room in what is called communication mode. You can press the Square and X buttons to cause battle damage to their outfits or you can play the touching mini-game as you build up levels by touching various areas of her body, with the girl all the while calling you a pervert (as if you didn’t feel that way already.) There are 7 ranks broken down into various levels, from “Girl”, the lowest, to Valkyrie, the highest. Reaching level 20 (Lady) unlocks the heart catch mini-game, in which you tap on screen hearts as they fill up and before they disappear as the girl you’ve been…tapping is shown in the background in her underwear, quipping lines like “Oooh,” Ahhh,” and “That was the best massage ever!” Doing this unlocks various pictures, lingerie and outfits for that character. Other modes in the game include a survival mode and a challenge mode.
As mentioned, there is tons of DLC out for this game, including the swimsuit DLC included in Japanese special editions. There is also DLC with adds Liberator Mirei and her Exter Mamori from the anime. Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid. These two characters can only be used together, much like in the anime. They do not show up in the main story mode, but can be used to replay beaten levels
Graphically, the game is on par with Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, meaning they are fine, but not as smooth as the later Senran Kagura game. The areas in game are fairly large and the load time between areas is not that long. The game does look good on a larger TV through a PlayStation TV and most of the touch controls can be done through the face buttons.
Now content-wise, this game is a little more risqué than the Senran Kagura games. By risqué, I mean that the lesbian or yuri (as it is called in Japan) elements of the girls touching and kissing. While the Senran Kagura series has girls touching girls and there is some blatantly obvious attraction between some of the girls, it is not central to the plot. In Valkyrie Drive it is right there in the middle of all of it. But the game is not as explicit as the anime series. Watch an episode and you’ll be surprised that his was on a cable network (ATX, an anime cable channel) and not some OVA sold behind a counter. It is like an anime Game of Thrones, but with less violence, even less plot and much more lesbians. The game handles the transformation mechanics differently than the anime, but it have some risky elements with the two sisters being partners and all. Whether that’s so hot or super creepy is up to the player. Either way, XSeed (Marvelous Inc’s western arm) decided not to port this game so PQube had to step in. They also aged up the girls, having the virus affect young women (meaning over 18) to appeal to Western sensitivity. None of the girls look too jail-baity, unlike in Senran Kagura. Besides that, there are no other instances of censorship.
Another difference is that no matter who your Exter is, you still use the same weapon. In the game, each Exter changes into a certain weapon. Ranka turns into Rinka’s sword and Rinka becomes Ranka’s hell gauntlets. But if you have Ranka as Mana’s Exter, she is her bow. I understand it is to make the game less complicated, but I would have been nice if who you choose as your partner determined what weapon you get. It could even be a challenging game mechanic to force you to use a weapon you are not used to. But it was all about the girl on girl action, right?
All in all, Valkyrie Drive is a good game that could have been better. It relies on the whole “weaponized lesbians” angle to pull in players but the story can be weak in places and the battles slightly repetitive. Not having who you choose as your Exter change your weapon is a loss for me, as I was hoping that was the case when I got it. I’m sure it was just to simplify the programming, but it was a wasted opportunity. I wonder if developer Meteorize just borrowed the SK engine to make the game since it looks so similar. Maybe if Tamsoft was involved, we would have gotten Estival Versus level graphics and unique weapons forms for each Exter, no matter who the Liberator is.
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is out now. Physical copies can be bought online through Video Games Plus or Rice Digital. Rice Digital had the deluxe edition with an art book, which may or may not be still available. The game can also be bought through PSN.