Developer Meteorise might only have made one other game in its short existence, but they seem keen to compete with Tamsoft's own Senran Kagura. It's even weirder that their previous game was a rhythm game based on that IP. At least they are using Estival Versus as their structure for Valkyrie Drive, and their result has shown gamers a title that's got a leg up on their inspiration.
Valkyrie Drive takes place on a man-made island called Bhikkhuni, where young women have traveled to seek treatment for an infection called the V-Virus. While the virus bestows great power to an individual, it will slowly kill them. The only way to prevent this is to learn how to properly regulate this power, which is done though battle and training.
The game has quite a bit of story this time, as well. There's only sixteen chapters with about two levels between them, but there's a good chunk of story segments for each level. Unlike Senran Kagura, however, it's presented in a visual novel style with character models. (Senran Kagura would often have sound novel segments prefacing each chapter instead.) The amount of content makes it easier for Meteorise to flesh out each character, which is something Senran Kagura has often failed to do. Because of this, the characters themselves become a lot more interesting.
Valkyrie Drive's gameplay also borrows from Senran Kagura's engine, but there are thankfully enough tweaks to set it apart. There's your basic light and heavy attacks, and there's even a launcher attack, from which you can hold down the X button to do a pursuit dash. You can even do a Shinobi Ninja Art-inspired Drive transformation. The concept of the game is that two characters can fight together, with one turning into a weapon while the other wields them.
The ones that turn into weapons are called Extars, and those that wield them are called Liberators. Extars can add passive stat boosts depending on their drive level with their Liberator. Where the game differs aside from that, though, is the mobility and control with which you can fight. There are also Phantom skills that are hard to pull off, but they are strong.
Of course, coming from the pedigree of an IP like Senran Kagura, you can expect the same level of fan-service in Valkyrie Drive. There are collectible lingerie to find in the game, which are earned either by finding three fragment hidden in a level, or passing a Chest Check. If you have the right character, you will be judged on your Rack Rank, and if you pass, you'll get more lingerie. The lingerie is just a cosmetic collectible, but they are there for completionist. Oh, and you can increase your Rack Rank by touching the girls in the dressing room, or by playing a Heart Catch mini-game where they lie on the floor in their underwear & moan every time you tap a heart. Yeah, no doubt it's ridiculous and some will absolutely see this as terrible (as well as be seen as a deal-breaker), if it weren't for the fact that it's optional.
The game is quite a bit of an improvement from Senran Kagura, and the story is interesting. However, I just wish that there was an English dub to go with the dialogue, which would help as some lines aren't translated (i.e. the merchant's dialogue). The other issues would be that Phantom skills seem to hard to pull off, and that this game really deserves to be played on a PS4 or PC at 60 frames per second.
While the Vita does a good job, the game is still held back by the platform. Fortunately, if straight and bi-male oriented lewd-service cheesecake doesn't bother you, Valkyrie Drive is a good beat em' up to pick up. I hope publisher PQUBE continues to provide quirky games to Western audiences in the future.
The Good – The game has a lot more story than Senran Kagura, which is nice.
The Bad – Pulling off some of the phantom skills can be hard.
The Ugly – Some dialog isn't localized, like the merchant.
SUMMARY: Valkyrie Drive is a fun beat em' up that has a leg up over the Senran Kagura series.
Promotional consideration provided by Peter Fury of PQUBE Games