Recently, I have gained access to a PlayStation Vita. Having done that, I picked up a couple of games: BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend was one of them, but I’ll be focusing on the other one: Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni.
I’ll be discussing characters, gameplay and the story in this post. I’ll be discussing a fair amount about the game, but any major spoilers will be marked and need to be highlighted to be revealed: [like this].
First, a quick introduction to the Valkyrie Drive franchise. There are three projects in this franchise: the television anime series Mermaid (you can find my review for that here), the PS Vita game Bhikkhuni and now defunct social game for iOS and Android devices Siren.
Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni- was created by Kenichiro Takaki, the same person responsible for the Senran Kagura series. If you ever played any of the Senran Kagura games, then you’ll be in very familiar territory here.
Destructible clothing, well-endowed characters, and a dressing room are just a few of the things you’ll find the two series have in common.
The general concept of Valkyrie Drive is about girls who contract a virus that allows them to turn into weapons. The virus has two classifications: A-Virus and V-Virus. Whilst Mermaid focuses on the A-Virus – or Armed Virus – the V-Virus is the focus of Bhikkhuni.
The seven playable characters of Bhikkhuni are infected with a strain of V-Virus called the VR-Virus, that allows them to be either an Extar or Liberator – that is to say the girls can transform into weapons, but they can also wield those who can transform.
The artificial island Bhikkhuni was created as a way to control the V-Virus, and this is done by having the infected students fight each other.
I’ll now introduce each of the seven playable characters, as well as my thoughts on them.
Rinka Kagurazaka is the elder of the Kagurazaka twins. She’s an optimist who tends to be easygoing – her nature does cause some concern for her sister Ranka. Apparently Rinka’s swordmanship leaves a pleasant scent behind in the air.
At the beginning of the game, she seems to be somewhat airheaded whilst possessing a good nature. This leads to her seeing the world in simplistic terms, but some good old character development ensures that she realises that conflict may be necessary sometimes.
Even when people are downright aggressive towards her, Rinka still considers them to be her friends. However, if she sets her mind on doing something, she will do it. A prime example comes from the Chaos Route, [where multiple defeats at the hands of Ranka can’t even stop her from pursuing her objective.]
As for my thoughts on her, Rinka might be my favourite character in Bhikkhuni. It’s her sheer willpower to achieve her objectives I really like, as well as her optimism. When things start going to hell, she doesn’t even consider giving up.
Ranka Kagurazaka is the younger Kagurazaka sister, and her defining trait might just be the love she has for Rinka. It transcends sisterly love – Ranka has their wedding and honeymoon planned out and the only thing she needs to do is find a country where two sisters can marry.
Ranka is a tomboy who possesses a will of tempered steel. She can also be brutally honest and as such can be very blunt when speaking. Ranka specialises in hand to hand combat, with her Extars taking the form of spiked gauntlets.
Though I do like Ranka, I would have to say that Rinka is my favourite of the Kagurazaka sisters. Ranka’s devotion towards her sister is certainly something. [This makes her opposition to Rinka in the Chaos Route something very noteworthy.]
When Momo Kuzuryu is first introduced, she is pretty abrasive. She doesn’t make a strong first impression, but time spent around the Kagurazakas (Rinka in particular) results in her developing into a much more likeable character.
There’s a reason for her initial behaviour. [She was a member of the SOLDIER programme].
The first part of the game has Momo on a quest for identity due to amnesia, but she improves a great deal and starts developing friendships in an effort to create new memories.
Whilst Rinka may be my favourite character, I feel that Momo has the best character development out of the whole VR class. [Her willingness to put her life on the line for Rinka’s sake is a particularly powerful moment ].
I do not like Mana Inagawa. She doesn’t seem too bad at first, what with her trying her best to bond with her classmates and fit in on Bhikkhuni. However, that’s only at first. As the game progresses, Mana’s ambition makes her into a ruthless and selfish person. She only looks out for number one, and develops an almost pathological need to be noticed by everyone else. Also, her combat style relies on a bow and that just doesn’t feel as good to me as the other characters, who all use melee weapons.
In short, Mana is a bitch. [She’s the closest thing we get to a villain, particularly in the Chaos Route. Though saying that, her dreams are shattered into pieces in the Chaos Route. That is one satisfying moment, which she totally deserved. Mana’s quicker to realise her issues in the Order Route, but that doesn’t change my views on her.]
Manpukumaru Chang is a walking black hole. Food is her one sole motivation, and she will ally herself with whoever offers the most. She’s always cheerful, particularly when she’s eating. The amount of food she can put away is very impressive.
I do really quite like Manpukumaru. Her motivation is simple, and she serves as both friend and foe throughout the game as it is really easy to bribe her. She also refers to the other VR-Class students with some interesting nicknames: ‘Peach’ for Momo, and ‘Shadow Moon’ for Koharu.
In my opinion, there’s nothing about Manpukumaru to dislike – which makes Mana constantly referring to her as ‘pig bitch’ all the worse.
Viola is considered the ‘queen’ of the fifth-graduating class, and has plenty of arrogance to go with that title. Whilst she also uses a ranged weapon in the form of a gun, she has the decency to use a sword alongside that as well.
I wasn’t too keen on Viola at first, but her devotion to Koharu soon won me over. Admittedly it doesn’t really make up for her flaws, but I don’t think she gets as bad as Mana does.
Oddly enough, her circumstances before she came to Bhikkhuni were similar to Momo’s. Despite this, the only person Viola shows any interest towards is Koharu.
The head of the fifth graduating class, Koharu Tsukikage always tops the rankings. She is wise beyond her years, and her fighting style is said to be flawless. She has all the bearings of a proper lady, but should she need to fight you can expect her to go all out. Koharu takes an interest in Rinka over the course of the game, not romantically, but due to her potential as a Valkyrie.
Koharu tends to partner up with Viola, but is a nicer person than she is. When push comes to shove, Koharu remains determined to do what is necessary – even if it means fighting her fellow students.
I’m a bit ambivalent about Koharu (and Viola), honestly. I don’t really have too much to say about them – they serve their purpose, I guess. With Koharu, particularly, we don’t really learn anything about her past. If anything, she never really experienced any hardship before arriving on Bhikkhuni.
Other important characters include Echigoya (who serves as a shopkeeper), Bhikkhuni’s Director, and the four Pillar Gods. As you might expect, the Director watches over the island, whilst the Pillar Gods serve as teachers. Is there more to these characters? Well, of course – but I won’t be going into that here.
With the characters out of the way, I’ll guess I’ll focus on the Dressing Room – a staple of any game by Kenichiro Takaki. As you might expect, the dressing room is where you can change your character’s clothes, lingerie and accessories.
As far as I can tell, the only clothes you have access to without DLC are those that the characters’ outfits, which also includes one alternate colour each.
You have access to a greater range of lingerie, though – this is pretty much what you’ll be mostly unlocking as you play through the game. You can also spend the in-game currency, BP, at Echigoya’s Lingerie Printer. There are 100 different sets of lingerie to collect through that, though your chance of getting new sets diminishes as your collection grows.
As you can see from the screenshot above, you can change your characters hairstyle and colour, as well as equip a whole bunch of accessories. The hairstyles and colours are unlocked through raising characters’ Rack Rank. By engaging in some… intimate touching in the Dressing Room, you’ll build up that character’s Rack Rank. When you get it high enough, you’ll gain access to the Heart Catch minigame.
The idea here is that whichever character you’ve chosen strips down to their underwear, and you massage them by touching hearts that appear on their body. The hearts gradually fill in, so you ideally want to touch them when they’re completely filled for the best results. Also, the camera pans around the character whilst this is happening, so the hearts don’t stay in one place. The Heart Catch minigame is probably the most efficient way to increase Rack Rank, as a successful massage will have it jump up leaps and bounds.
All right, enough about Dressing Rooms and touching. Let’s talk about the gameplay. As previously stated, it is similar to that of Senran Kagura – well, I’ve only played Burst and Deep Crimson on the 3DS, but I can safely say those games do have similar gameplay.
Put simply, the goal is usually to get from point A to point B, defeating waves of mooks whilst doing so. As you defeat enemies, you build up the Syncro Gauge. Once the Synco Gauge fills up, you gain 1 Syncro Stock. Syncro Stocks are what you need to activate Drive, or Drive Break.
By activating Drive, you increase your character’s damage and gain access to longer combos. The weapon they wield also changes. There are four levels of Drive, with each activation getting progressively more intimate.
The first one, simply just called Drive, just shows Liberator and Extar standing back-to-back, with the Extar transforming into the Liberator’s weapon.
Second Drive has the Liberator placing her hand on the Extar’s breast, with the Extar placing both her hands over the Liberator’s. This transformation damages the Extar’s clothes, though some of their outfit still remains.
Third Drive has the Liberator hug the Extar from behind, which then leads to the Extar’s outfit being completely removed, leaving her in her lingerie.
Final Drive shows the Liberator moving in for a kiss with the Extar, as shown in the screenshot featuring Rinka and Ranka above. The Final Drive completely strips the Extar of all her clothes, including lingerie. However, censor steam and flowers prevent us from seeing anything too risqué. The flowers are hidden in the steam, though they are more obvious on certain characters.
As you progress through the game, you’ll also unlock the ‘Connect’ ability. There’s no intimacy involved here; it’s pretty much a super form you can activate as long as you have on Syncro Stock. Whilst Connect is activated, your Syncro Gauge will steadily decrease, and any damage you take will be deducted from your Syncro Gauge rather than your health.
Of course, clothing damage isn’t just limited to the transformation of the Extars. There’ll be times that you’ll fight other playable characters, and inflicting enough damage to them will result in clothing damage. Of course, if you take too much damage, then your character will be the one suffering clothing damage.
Inflicting clothing damage is good, as doing so immediately grants you a Syncro Stock, no matter how full your Syncro Gauge is – which means quicker access to Drives, Drive Breaks and Connect.
Drive Breaks are special moves. To use them, you need to have activated Drive, and you need at least one Syncro Stock. Each character has three Drive Breaks: Drive Break 1 requires one Syncro Stock and Second Drive; Drive Break 2 requires 2 Syncro Stocks and Third Drive; Super Drive Break requires Final Drive and 3 Syncro Stocks.
Drive Breaks are ideally saved for fighting bosses, as if you’ve managed to strip your opponent down to her lingerie and finish her off with a Drive Break, you’ll end up stripping her naked – and you also have a chance to knock her Extar partner out of her weapon form and strip her too. The more powerful the Drive Break you use, the more likely this will happen.
When the story continues after the fight, the characters will be in whatever state of undress they finished the battle in. Makes for some interesting situations when some serious stuff is going down…
Getting from point A to point B and fighting enemies isn’t always the only thing you need to do. Some levels have fragments, back doors and/or chest guards hidden within.
By collecting all three fragments from within a level, you’ll unlock more lingerie for your characters to wear. Fragments may be hidden in plain sight, or you may have to track down Lady Statues, which you’ll need to attack in order to carve them into shape.
Back doors are portals that lead to various challenges. This could be keeping an enemy up in the air for a set time, or cutting grass. Whatever the challenge, this is another way to unlock more lingerie.
Chest guards require specific characters to have a specific Rack Rank. If the character passes the chest guard’s inspection, you’ll unlock (you’ve guessed it) lingerie, or more accessory slots.
At the end of each level, you’ll have experience points to distribute between the Liberator and Extar you played as. Assigning experience points to the Liberator increases their level, thus increasing their stats.
The Extar, however, will have their Drive Rank increased when you assign experience points. This is something you’ll definitely want to do, as a higher Drive Rank means that you’ll gain access to higher Drives.
Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni- has an online mode, which I haven’t really touched. From what I can tell, it pits you against other players and it’s a case of fighting to deplete their health before they deplete yours.
Serving as a hub for the game is the Dining Room – a neutral territory on Bhikkhuni, where students are heavily discouraged from fighting.
In the Dining Room, you can strengthen the bond between characters. As the romance between characters grows, you can unlock ‘Affection Novels’, which details interactions between the VR-Class students.
So, with all the gameplay and features out of the way, let’s talk about the yuri.
My favourite pairing would have to be the official couple, Rinka and Ranka. However, if they can find some way to let Momo join them, then I’d settle for a OT3.
Failing that, Momo can always pair up with Manpukumaru. Really, the only other option is Mana, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
Viola and Koharu is another pairing I can get behind, though Koharu is oblivious to Viola’s feelings for her. If Viola is focusing on Koharu, she’s not being a terrible person to everyone else.
My choices do leave Mana on her lonesome, but… eh, she should’ve tried being a nicer person.
So, what are my thoughts about the game that was refused classification in Australia? Well, it’s a pretty solid action game, and will no doubt appeal to fans of Senran Kagura. Though saying that, it doesn’t really do anything to fix the general problem some people might have with the hack and slash genre. When it comes down to it, you are effectively mashing buttons to clear the screen of enemies. Admittedly there are some different techniques you can use to spice things up a bit, but it is still a hack and slash game at the end of it.
I’m a fan of hack and slash games, so I have no problem with the gameplay myself. Besides, it’s not just fighting – the Dressing Room provides an… er, interesting… experience. I mean after all, who doesn’t like
inappropriately touching fictional characters to elicit responses from them playing dress-up?
I’m not a fan of how you’re limited to character costumes without DLC, though the sheer amount of lingerie available to unlock is nothing to sniff at. Talking of DLC, the only thing I’m interested in purchasing adds two new characters to the game. Two characters who hail from the artificial island Mermaid…
The plot is actually quite interesting, too.
Things start relatively simply, with the girls arriving on Bhikkhuni in order to learn how to control the VR-Virus. However, as the game progresses, you learn the history of Bhikkhuni, and the truth behind the four Pillar Gods. Things turn out not to be all sunshine and rainbows…
Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkuni- is a fun game, and well worth checking if you’re fan of hack and slash games – as long as you can deal with the fanservice. Of course, Senran Kagura fans will almost undoubtedly enjoy this game, as I’ve already mentioned.
I keep mentioning Senran Kagura. Well, expect me to share my thoughts on the 3DS’ Burst and Deep Crimson sometime in the future. Actually, with access to a PS Vita now, there are a few games I’m interested in playing – Hyperdimension Neptunia and other Senran Kagura games being the ones I have my eye on. I’ll probably be sharing my thoughts on those whenever I get around to playing them, so keep an eye out for that.