Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkuni (PS Vita) Review
In the vein of Senran Kagura, Valkyrie Drive is about women fighting each other and possibly ripping each other's clothes. Unlike its sister series, the girls team up in pairs, where one becomes the weapon of the other, which can power up several levels.
Combat is hack and slash, but not as deep as I would like or am accustomed to. The square button is your basic attack, while triangle is a signature attack. You can hit it at very limited points in the normal combo for a few alternate attacks, but there's no reason to. You have to chain back to the square attacks to continue, so why even bother? Hitting triangle by itself also does little, since you have to hold it down to charge the attack to actually use it. Again, not really worth it (except for maybe Mana).
You can launch an opponent back (by holding circle) or up (by pressing circle), and chase them for an air combo. Trouble is, the air combos aren't good. You only get three normal hits before dropping a bit. Yes, you can keep chaining those three as long as you are in the air, but you drop so much that it is rarely worth it. Triangle in the air does a ground pound, which is kind of useful, as it will drag a person to the ground.
There are decent mobility options, since you can dash toward a target by holding the X button until your feet glow. This is a cool move, and useful, but I don't like it being a charge. I had trouble getting the timing down, and frequently messed it up. Just a press versus a charge would have been better. You can also launch people multiple times, and do the dash to chase instead of a normal one. I feel like they spent too much time putting this fairly useless stuff in the game instead of making combat better. Yes, you get a tiny damage boost for doing this stuff, but it's not worth it on normal enemies, and you can't do half the stuff on the opponents that matter.
As you fight, you gain Syncro Gauge levels, which you can use to activate Drive and Drive Break. As the girls gain Extar (weapon) levels, they can go up to four Drives, which further increases damage and gives access to Drive Breaks. I like the multiple levels you can drive into, but I don't like that you don't get a super move for the first Drive. This makes it kind of useless. If you remember Senran Kagura, finishing a stripped opponent with a super rips off the remaining clothes, and leaves them in a humiliating pose. If you hit a stripped opponent in Drive with a super, it strips both opponents. Double your fun?
The game follows a basic structure of doing all of the levels in a chapter to unlock the next. As you get toward the end of the story, the plot might not go as you expect it would. Afterwards, you unlock an alternate story that requires you to beat specific stages with the max rank. It's a bit of a pain, but your increased levels from the end of the game should help.
At various points in the story, you will have to fight bosses. These are large beasts that look pretty cool. Unfortunately, these fights are not fun. Whereas most normal fights are on the ground, the boss fights are entirely in mid-air. This makes most super moves completely worthless, as they won't hit. The bosses move around a lot, and hit you really easily. It's annoying to have to constantly dash and hit them a few times before sinking down too low. While the designs of the bosses are cool, the design of the fights themselves are anything but.
As if replaying some chapters to unlock another ending wasn't enough, there are also different collectibles found in the different stages. What's available is clearly shown on the stage select, but it can be difficult to find them all on your first run. The first type are the three sections of a lingerie slate that gives you a special set if you get all three in the level. Thankfully any you find will count toward the completion, so you don't have to find all three in one run. Second is the little grope machine that, um, makes sure the girl's rack is a high enough rank, letting them into a small room and another special set of lingerie. Some stages also have special challenges to complete, and they can get pretty hard. It kind of reminds me of the ones in Bayonetta.
Besides the Story mode, there is an unlockable Challenge mode and Survival mode. Survival is...ok, but some of the later difficulties of it get ridiculous. The challenge mode basically wants you to repeatedly do some of the finer functions of the game. Basically a lot of the stuff that uses circle and the dash move, and other things that boost your attack strength. I wasn't really looking to master the pretty superfluous systems for the meager increase in attack power, and having them all named "phantom" something didn't make me better at remembering which was which. I did a few of the challenges, but I'd only recommend the headache if you want the platinum. For better or worse, the trophy pictures make a long, connected image, which is always something I think is cool. It's almost exactly like the Lost Dimension list.
Like Senran Kagura, there is a shop that has probably way too much to buy in it, and a lingerie gashapon machine. At first I liked the new machine, since if you hit the button at the right time, you got a better chance to get something new. Unfortunately, it only increases the chance by about 50%, which is next to nothing when down at the bottom. The percent still falls disproportionately with the number you have unlocked, meaning when you have 20% of them left, putting max money in the machine only gives you about a 30% chance to get a new pair. Spending that much (the max amount) should always guarantee me a new pair, since it would require way too much time to grind stages for that cash. As before, it's better to just sit there and spend the least amount for more chances.
It took me 27 hours or so to beat the first 20 stages, which then tells you about the alternate path and lets you try for that. I completed all but one stage on the normal difficulty, and only had to heal on the second to last stage. The final boss was the only part I couldn't do on normal, mostly because it's just a poorly designed fight for the last of the poorly designed bosses. It would take another few hours to unlock the alternate stages and go through them.
I had some high hopes for Valkyrie Drive when I first heard about the premise. Unfortunately, the lack of satisfying combat, too many useless mechanics, and terrible boss fights drag the game down. If you are a fan of action games, there are better to be played on the Vita.
Interesting idea, the graphics are nice, and the playtime to cost ratio is good.
The boss fights and the combat.
Cross this game with Drive Girls to make Valkyrie Drive Girls. Would it be twice as terrible, or would they cancel each other out and make a good game? The world may never know.
(Code for Valkyrie Drive was won through a contest)