Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is a game which has caused quite a stir being banned in Germany and Australia. Luckily years of watching Eurotrash has eroded my morals to such a degree that I no longer baulk at the idea of sexually exciting a school girl to turn her into a weapon.
As a third person action game from developers Marvelous AQL, Valkyrie Drive has more than a passing resemblance to the Senran Kagura series. Not only in the way all the protagonists are anime school girls, but also in the menus and the inclusion of a dressing room. Although they remain different franchises you can clearly see the shared heritage.
When you start the story mode of Valkyrie Drive the first thing you’ll experience is a long introductory conversation between the girls. This sets the scene for how the game will progress, as there is easily half of the game spent on developing the story. These sections are handled rather well with the girls presented full screen with a full Japanese voice cast. If you were expecting a straight up brawler I can understand how this would put some people off.
The plot is pretty unique and centres around a near future world which is ravaged by viruses specifically prevalent to school girls. In order to get a grip on this outbreak special training schools have been created and the island of Bhikkhuni is one of these. The viruses give the girls super strength and also allow them to change, or Drive, into weapons if sexually aroused. Yes. Squeeze their boobs and each girl will transform into a specific weapon their partner can wield. The plot is teased out through sections which bookend each combat episode, often you can spend longer in the talking head story mode than you can in the actual combat.
Combat, when it comes, is surprisingly layered and the way you can chain together combos and cancel out of moves gives a decent level of depth to the fighting. There is also a clothing damage mechanic similar to Senran Kagura which will see clothes getting torn to shreds if you inflict enough damage. It’s not going to challenge the likes of Ninja Gaiden but it will certainly keep you on your toes. During combat you can fill a Drive meter with successive hits and once this reaches a certain level you can trigger a Drive. A little cutscene shows the aforementioned boob fondle and then your character gets a bigger weapon and can hit harder. Although there is great potential to the combat in Valkyrie Drive most of the time simple button mashing can see you through.
Where things fall down is in the blandness of some of the art design. Whilst the main girls are all lovingly crafted, the rest of the game looks a little average. The levels reuse locations and the general enemy designs are mostly forgettable however, when the enemies are mostly there just for cannon fodder these design choices can be overlooked. It is clear time has been devoted to making the girls look great and overall this pays off.
Outside of the story and combat parts there is the dressing room. In this you get to dress the girls in various outfits and underwear, you unlock more as you play. You’re also able to ogle the girls in full screen mode and touch them however you like. This is maybe something you’d not want to be doing on the bus mind. Within the dressing room is also a pretty lewd minigame which sees you catching hearts as they float over your chosen girl as she reclines in her underwear, this is accompanied with comments about how much she is enjoying it.
The game is full of titillation and lewd fun particularly if you explore the dressing room. It never really goes above this kind of titillation and personally I found that if anything the dressing room and mingame sort of got in the way of the rest of the game. I don’t see a reason for this game to have been banned.
Overall then we’re left with a fun game with a playfully rude side to it. As with a lot of Japanese games the story plays a very important role with equal time being devoted to this and the fighting. If you enjoy a bit of fan service and lots of anime girls then you’ll get loads of value for money here. However if you come from a straight up brawler then you may be left slightly disappointed.