Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni developed by Meteorise and HONEY∞PARADE GAMES has brought their take on an anime-inspired action combat with a strong yuri focus. With Meteorise being the developer of Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! I was already excited to check out this game and see for myself what all the hype and positive reviews were about.
Pros and Cons
-Good story with likable character personalities
-Combat is fun, while a bit tedious on occasions
-Dressing Room is a really fun side activity, especially with the heart catch minigame
-Graphics are colorful, the backgrounds are fitting for each area you visit
-The story suffers from some really bad pacing
-Severe lack of challenge from both normal and boss enemies
-Mana and Ranka require you to lock onto enemies in order for their hits to count
-Lock-on camera changes to non-intended targets when moving the camera around during combat
-Inconsistent quality for the 2D art
-Achievements are glitched
The story starts out with Rinka Kagurazaka and her sister Ranka who have just arrived on an island named Bhikkhuni island. They have been sent to this island due to being infected with a virus named the V Virus. This so-called virus allows both girls to summon weapons, with the requirement of them being paired up 100% of the time they are fighting.
The girls take orders from the director of the island who controls all activities that happen on the island including the class partner battles. The girls take part in battles as this is the only way to treat the V Virus.
This leads them to meeting the other inhabitants of the island who will eventually unlock as playable characters. The girls are also introduced to Four Pillar Gods that they interact with during the story which looks like something that you would see out of Yu Gi Oh.
Four Piller Gods that watch over the island and protect the inhabitants.
The best part of the story is the likable characters. They are mostly cliched, but we do get to see character growth throughout the story which caused me to love some and hate others.
However, when focusing on the story itself, it falls flat being very boring and generic suffering from some major pacing issues. Certain parts cause the story to come to a complete halt eventually causing my interest to see the end dwindle. Previous Senran Kagura games also had pacing issues, but Valkryie Drive: Bhikkhuni somehow manages to be even worse.
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is divided up into 20 chapters with two or three missions inside them. You will be playing as at least two characters in each mission. There is the Libeator who you control and the Extar which is the supporting character. My personal favorites to play as had to be Vola, as I liked her combos when fighting, and Rinka due to her being the sword-based character as I tend to play as those in hack n slash games.
Combat is just like your typical hack n slash, and plays like Senran Kagura where you can lock onto enemies to help them targeted while moving about. You can power up your weapons and transform them into stronger more powerful variants. The Extar can do this by channeling herself into the weapon, by doing this, the Libeator is fully healed, can do more damage, and unlocks more combos.
At the end of each level, you will get experience points that will level up your Libeator and Extar. Libeator’s will get more health, defense, and damage, while Extar’s will have chances to unlock stronger variants of weapons when partnered with certain characters.
There is something to mention about two characters, Ranka and Mana, as they require you to lock onto enemies in order to consistently damage them. For Ranka, enemies tend to slide off many of her fist attacks while Mana's projectiles just miss and fly everywhere until you lock onto enemies. I'm not sure if this mechanic for these characters is intentional, but until I figured out that locking was required, it simply prolonged the already tedious battles.
One of the reasons why the battles are so tedious is that the enemies do not fight back. They act as virtual punching bags to simply walk up to take hits from you. Bosses also lack sufficient challenge and are easily defeated without much strategy, with the exception of the final boss in the last chapter.
It is worth noting that when you move the camera around it will also switch the targets that you are locked on. I felt that this decision was not well thought out as it prevented me from looking around to pre-plan the next area to direct my attacks to while finishing off a current group of enemies.
A unique feature of this game has to be the Dressing Room. Here, you can put different outfits and clothing items on the girls that you buy from the shop or unlock in the levels.
There is also a unique heart catcher minigame where you collect hearts that can be used to level up your character’s Rack Rank. Rack Ranks have a max level of 120 and if you get perfect at level 100, the selected character will enter lovey-dovey mode, which changes some of their dialogue lines.
Graphics and Performance
The 3D graphics are pretty good overall with vivid colors and backgrounds that fit the area you are heading to nicely, although some themes are more exciting than others. One of the standout areas for me is an area showcasing the city at night. I ended up pausing to take in the cityscape scenery underneath a starry night sky.
There are two styles of art shown throughout the story, a flat art style for the CG scenes and then an animated 2D character sprite for other scenes. There is a noticeable quality difference between the two and I wish they would have used the same design for the CG scenes as they did the animated character sprites as they just look so much better. I have two examples below where you can how the shading is done in the two different styles.
The soundtrack is a varied mix of rock, jazz, and some pop thrown in. Although it was nice to see an inclusion of various genres, there were no standout tracks, essentially simply checking the box of having music to play in the game.
The game runs fine, with no issues with performance. I tested the game on an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, AMD Ryzen 5 1500X Quad-Core Processor 3.50, with 16 GB of RAM. I did come across one crash while I was playing, but didn't have any further issues after restarting the game and continuing my playthrough.
The achievements seem to be very buggy though. I received achievements for items that I did not initiate the required action for, but did not get achievements for others that I put effort into unlocking. This may be an issue for any achievement hunters if they experience a similar situation.
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkuni has all the combat modes that you would expect from this genre along with some interesting features such as the heart-catching system that I really enjoyed, but overall the game only provided only a middle-of-the-road experience. There are many better games in this genre out there, along with others that aren't as good. The few standout stages and character personalities were not enough to move needle to an above average rating, especially when the story has so many issues with the pacing.
I still recommend buying the game when it goes on sale as it helps to balance out what it delivers versus the cost. Yuri fans may be okay paying full price though, as they certainly do a good job providing yuri content throughout the game.