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  1. #1

    [PSV] Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni

    Valkyrie Drive is the brainchild of the same guy that brough us Senran Kagura, and rather than going for a single videogame first the whole project started with an anime series (Mermaid), a mobile game (Siren), and Bhikkhuni, this Vita game. Still published by Marvelous, development shifted from Tamsoft to Meteorise, the same guys that did Dekamori Senran Kagura; fret not however, as Bhikkhuni uses a tweaked version of the Senran Kagura Estival Versus engine: tweaks include reusing the same interface, the same cutscene animations, the same bad camera, the same button-mashing combat, the same...uhm.
    Well, we have new bugs! Having a buggy boxed release is a tradition of Senran Kagura games though...and it's not like they're subtle bugs, they are huge visual flaws: one of the character's right sleeve going crazy with her idle animation (essentially 90% of her custscene times), special effects left hanging around in stages, and a camera that wobbles up and down when a character moves around.

    But patch 1.01 (note the .01) comes to the rescue, with its 1.7GB of data. The camera still wobbles up and down, but at least the biggest graphical flaws are gone. Other small improvements include a completely revised interface, splash screens with voice overs, revised balancing between difficulty modes, enemies showing health when locked on, new requirements to unlock challenges (or maybe they now work, I dunno), new prompts to confirm choices, and other things. The game still have some other glaring flaws, but at least now the presentation isn't so similar to Senran Kagura. Oh, the game now hangs for no apparent reason. Got two of those in an hour. Great.

    Anyway, Valkyrie Drive is a 3D beat'em'up that follows the style of, you guessed it, Shinovi Versus and Estival Versus. If you played the latter, you will instantly recognize the camera that gets struck into everything, the square button-based combat system (there are more attack buttons, but you won't need them), and the general lack of fun.
    Story goes that in this world girl might be infected with a virus that turn them into weapons by, well...climaxing. Oh boy. Bhikkhuni starts when Rinka, Ranka (they're sisters, so I guess it's OK...?), Mana, and Momo arrived on Bhikkhuni island, a place where girls with this virus are sent to. They are sent there because... don't know. Don't care. There is some sort of plot thread where Mana kinda turns evil and Rinka (or Ranka) is hurt, but don't care one bit.

    There's a story mode, challenge mode, survival mode, and online mode. You always select two characters, one you directly control and one that will turn into a weapon, an act called drive. The game is tamer than you might expect, some Senran Kagura games went further than Bhikkhuni. There are four drive levels, that progressively increase attack power and allow to unleash three powerful special attacks. Drives and special attacks can be activated by spending a token, and such tokens are acquired by attacking enemies. Missions always start with three healing items that you can use when you want, but you'll find others in crates.
    Characters gain levels; active character levels influence combos, attack power, defense, HPs, and maximum number of tokens they can stock; support character levels are used to determine the maximum drive and special attack levels, along with other bonuses; at the end of a mission experience is split between the two as you see fit, and in a cruel twist of game design you have to go through every single level up: characters are always introduced at level 1, and going through 15 level ups at once is just painful.

    You have two attack buttons, normal and heavy, plus launcher/homing button, and jump; they work as in Senran Kagura, though here there's a lot less emphasis on air combos. There's a dodge button, and various combinations allow to use drives and special attacks. It's also possible to zoom the camera in an out, but the zoom is reset at every loading screen and the camera has the tendency to stick to the ground during combat; it's still the Estival Versus camera, so expect it to get stuck around corners a lot. Developers tried to solve the problem by removing any sort of obstacle, creating large combat arenas, and having enemies spawn in the centre of those, but their AI compels them to flee to the corners. The choice of having large environments is a poor one, as Valkyrie Drive has collectibles hidden around levels, and characters moves sloooooowly. And the camera wobbles up and down when following a moving character.
    Sigh.
    Combat is as dumb as it can get, you mash square until everything dies. Maybe press triangle or circle if you really want to be progressive. Don't worry about directions, the lock on automatically turns you around. The trick here is to trigger the drives as soon as possible to get a boost in attack to go through all enemies as quickly as possible. Bosses like to dodge and run away from you, so most of the times you'll give chase to score a couple of hits, or just special attacks. There are a couple of bosses where you have to destroy their armour to get to ther weak points, but those battles highlight the flaws of the camera and combat system even more: these bosses' standard attack pattern is to use knockdown with pushback attacks to stop you or force a dodge, only that their attacks are so weak that you won't care about getting hit, dodging can bring up camera/lock-on problems, and it takes more time to recover from a knockdown and get back into the fight than just getting back on your feet.

    Some enemies fly, and Valkyrie Drive has some pretty impressive jumping mechanics. Impressive by how unresponsive they are, that is. Pressing x makes the character jump with some delay, because you can keep down x to charge a dash that has to be activated by pressing x again; the dash can be used on ground, though its only use it to quickly home on flying enemies that are there to fly around the battlefield rather than attacking you. The lack of willingness to attack is shared by every enemy, and some of them will just run around in circles until you put them out of their misery.
    Jump-dashing is also used to get some collectibles, but locking on levitating bells. When you get the jump-dash to work (the initial delay really kills it), you just need to press jump again to reach the second bell, only that the camera is not meant for this kind of maneuver, and you won't understand much about what you're doing. Some collectibles must be reached by exploiting flying enemies, and when this happens, I just skip the damn thing.

    Now, try to imagine this combat system in survival mode, where you have to defeat from 10 to 100 waves of enemies. Enemies start dumb (very dumb) and get more aggressive as the waves go on, but the only way to get damaged is not to spam special attacks against named characters that you'll fight every 10 waves. Oh, I forgot to say that bosses will trigger their drive and special attacks, but unless they have an area attack, they will miss you most of the time. Getting hit by a special attack destroys someone's clothes, and patch 1.01 introduced a full second delay when that happens to you, allowing you to score hits on the boss before the cut-in happens. The 30 waves trial takes around 20 minutes to complete, and that's because the game has to load enemies between waves, and loading times in Valkyrie Drive are terrible, especially when the loading screen is completely black with just a "loading" animation going on in the lower right corner of the screen.
    Being on the Vita the game cannot go faster than 30fps, and I think that influences how responsive controls are. The framerate is not that constant, hitting its lowest in the dining room, a playable menu (think you-know-what-game).

    Challenge mode features missions where you need to perform three attack types, keep enemies suspended for 10 seconds, and things like that. If only the system proved to be midly entertaining and competent I would actually try those.
    Valkyrie Drive is also a short game, with only story mode offering some kind of lasting appeal. Unlike Shinovi Versus and Estival Versus, VD doesn't have personal storylines for its characters, and the game is also criminally easy. The main difference between easy, normal, and hard is how much health enemies have; bosses are a bit more aggressive in hard mode, but they don't require anything more than in normal.

    Once again developers failed to build a decent game, but here the thing is even more damning: Valkyrie Drive is a new game, and it plays exactly like the most flawed of all Senran Kagura games; or better, it plays worse than the most flawed of all Senran Kagura games. Patch 1.01 is a clear indication that technically the game wasn't ready to be shipped, and that Marvelous, Meteorise, and everyone involved in these booby games don't really care about making a good game. You want to do a button masher? Fine by me, but make it fun to play.

  2. #2
    I popped into the import folder here to see what people were importing, and it seems Beefroast Kazuki is the only poster starting these topics.

    I salute you sir for keeping the dream alive, and find these all very interesting to read about. Well done.

    Though any chance you could add videos from YT or screenshots? I find myself dual Googling while reading.

  3. #3
    What people call creepy anime bull****, I call it a Friday night!
    I usually attach videos I do, probably never did for VD because the game was really lame.


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