While the PS Vita may be winding down or being relegated to almost all digital or indie releases in 2016 as far as the Western world is concerned, Sony’s handheld is still pumping out fully featured physical releases for quite a few games in Japan with no signs of slowing down. The variety of games being released is also vast, but unfortunately, not many of them are set for release outside of Japan.
One of the most recent major releases is Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni, a part of the Valkyrie Drive triple-threat media project that started late last year, including an anime series (VD: Mermaid,) a smart phone social game (VD: Siren) and this fast-paced action game for PS Vita, Bhikkhuni.
Bhikkhuni is brought to us by Marvelous Games, and directed by veteran Kenichiro Takaki, who was the main director on their Ikki Tousen games, Half-Minute Hero games, and most relevantly, the entire Senran Kagura series. This may give you some idea of what to expect from the aesthetics of the game, given his previous work with abundant comical fan service and over-endowed female characters.
Make no mistake that the Valkyrie Drive series has nearly out-done the Senran Kagura series as far as fan service goes in a very short time (which is quite a feat,) but VD: Bhikkhuni has some tricks up it’s sleeve to make it transcend the silly and over-the-top fan service that Takaki is known for, while still maintaining the familiar elements that fans love.
As far as gameplay, instead of being a Dynasty Warriors-style simple hack and slash game like the Senran Kagura or Ikki Tousen games, Bhikkhuni features a lot more skill-based combos and maneuvers that involve precise timing, much closer along the lines of games like Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, or Onechanbara.
There are 7 different characters in the game, all with hugely varying sets of moves, weapons, and abilities, and on top of that, every time you go into battle, you choose a partner, or “Exter” to go with you, and which character you choose for your Exter and their current level also adds extra stat boosts or move sets for your main character, allowing a lot of customization for each battle situation.
The battle types range from encounters with many smaller enemies at once or one-on-one battles with another main character and her Exter, all the way up to giant mechanical monsters where you have to destroy each piece and limb separately while flying through the air and dodging devastating attacks.
It features 56 missions to play in the main story mode with 3 difficulty levels, plus various other modes including some hard-as-nails challenge and survival modes which test every ounce of skill and patience you have.
There’s also customization and dress-up modes, a dining room mode that has visual novel-style interactions and cutscenes between the characters, online play, and a thorough training mode that explains and demonstrates the finest details of the deep combat system.
After playing around 70 hours, I still haven’t completed all the content here, so there’s definitely no lack of things to do for the price of entry.
On top of all this content, the visuals are some of the best anime style visuals that have been done to date on the Vita. The colors are extremely vibrant and pop off the screen (as you can see from the screenshots) and the HD visuals are quite a treat, with smooth and clean character models, very few muddy or low-res textures on background environments (common with some Vita titles) and there’s almost no slowdown, even with many enemies and actions on screen.
The music and sound is very well done, with a huge variety of energetic songs backing you up during your battles, some great menu music, and a stand-out opening song that caught my attention more than any anime game opening in years. The sound effects are powerful and the audio is even used as small cues for actions in the combat system that you can use to your advantage on some tougher boss fights or to pull off tricky combos.
Most importantly, the controls are also smooth and responsive throughout, with you feeling in full control of your character at all times, and split-second maneuvers are usually dead-on accurate if you know the system. The dual analogs offer proper control for this type of game and even in long play sessions, it stays comfortable and tight.
All in all, this is one of the most impressive games I’ve played from this genre or style, even standing against the big names previously mentioned, and I play almost all games of this type. There’s no guarantee the game will make it here, since some of Marvelous’ games don’t get a release here, and even if it does, it won’t be for at least another year.
The game is available now from import stores, and doesn’t require a ton of Japanese skill to understand or play. The only exception may be that some of the intricacies of combat system may be hard to grasp without being able to read the instructions in training mode, even though there’s on-screen button press instructions to help most of the time. Otherwise, light to moderate Japanese is fine for this game.
You can view the trailers below and purchase with the link below, and I suggest not taking the chance of waiting to see if it gets brought to the West. If you like these types of games, this is a must-play for fans of this style.
Buy Valkyrie Drive – Bhikkhuni-