Originally a PlayStation Vita game, Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is now available on Steam with a spectacularly optimized port that makes the game playable for low-end to high-end PCs. Fans of the Senran Kagura series will find familiarity with the game with its similar style in terms of gameplay and themes.
Steam describes the game: A mysterious illness suddenly broke out in girls in their teens and twenties, enhancing them mentally and granting them the ability to change their bodies into highly lethal weapons. The cause of the illness was a virus, currently classified into two types: the “A-Virus” and “V-Virus”.
The world government enacted a law to care for patients infected with the Virus. Five secret artificial islands were established to quarantine the infected patients. One such quarantine island: Bhikkhuni, the island famous for successfully controlling the “V-Virus”. Girls who enroll in Bhikkhuni’s school can overcome the virus. And thus, it is a school with many hopeful applicants.
Among them is a pair of sisters infected with the “V-Virus”. The elder Rinka Kagurazaka, whose innocent grace hides power within. The younger Ranka Kagurazaka, whose outgoing energy belies her frailty.
They are still unaware that there is only one way to control the virus. And that is… for infected patients to battle each other. To battle amongst themselves.
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is a hack and slash game where the player must battle against mobs of enemies to reach an objective usually with a boss waiting at the end of the map. The game allows for button-mashing, but it is easier to clear levels with intricately-planned combos. For example, when being knocked back by an enemy, the player can perform an air recovery and quick dash toward the locked-on opponent to perform a counter. Learning these combos are very helpful in challenge mode where a level may ask for specific move-sets to be performed. In fact, the first few levels in story mode serves as a tutorial in forcing the player to learn these various combos before he or she can proceed. Drives can be performed which cause the characters to transform for a power-up.
The game possesses various modes such as story, online, challenge, training, and survival which gives players a lot of content to go through. Most characters and some modes are unplayable until they are unlocked in story mode, thus it would be best to tackle that first. In story mode, during the first time a level is played, the default character pairs must be used, but when revisiting the level, any character pair can be chosen. Whatever support character chosen does affect gameplay in the long run, but different cutscenes can be shown. The difficulty levels in story mode range from easy, normal, and hard. There is also a cafeteria to raise romance levels with different character pairs, unlocking romance novels to read. A dressing room is also present with a myriad of costumes to help diversify the appearances of the characters. Costumes and other items can be bought at a shop which also includes a lingerie gatcha where points are spent to obtain random underwear.
The story is told in an ADV visual novel format with the text box on the bottom of the screen with the sprites on top. The sprites are live-3D and the screen can be shaken if one wants to witness jiggling breasts. The text box can also be hidden to fully view the sprites and there is a skip and history option as well. What is unfortunate is that there is no option to adjust text speed. In terms of the actual story, it may not be an immersive experience, but it does a good enough job in depicting the lives of school girls living on an island with a goal to battle against each other to rid themselves of the virus… Character development may seem forced and rushed at times such as when one girl shows care for her partner then suddenly abandons the partner for someone else for the sake of progressing the social ladder. Nonetheless, the personalities and appearances of each character are quite distinct.
For the actual port in question, it deserves nothing but praise. Supporting both keyboard and controller with the ability to remap controls, the game feels natural to play on PC. The game can also run at 60 fps with resolution up to 1080p or higher depending on the monitor. There are also various anti-aliasing options as well. With the options and optimizations presented, Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkuni does not feel like a PS Vita game played on PC, but rather a PC game played natively on PC.
I was first exposed to the franchise from watching the Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid anime series which led me to start with a negative bias coming into playing Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni. Thankfully, Bhikkhuni was a much better experience than Mermaid ever was. Despite the story being quite lacklustre, the real gem should be the gameplay and the diversity of options available.