Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Valkyrie Drive Boob, er, BHIKKHUNI, is something akin to the fanservice equivalent of a 3D fighter combined with a hack and slash with platform elements. Bhikkhuni definitely won’t appeal to everyone, especially given the, er, “well-endowed” cast, but contrary to my expectations, the gameplay is solid, the soundtrack is good, and the plot isn’t as flimsy as I was expecting. Bhikkhuni is very similar to Senran Kagura Estival or Shinovi Versus, except with more focus on gameplay in stages, as opposed to the predominantly PvP style combat in a style of over the top Japanese animation and cleavage. No, seriously, the smallest bust size is 87.
The story of Bhikkhuni revolves around Rinka and Ranka Katsuragi; two sisters who are sent off to the isolated island of “Bhikkhuni” to cure their special disease. What is this disease? Apparently it only appears in women and either causes them to turn their bodies into weapons, or allows them to turn others with the virus into a weapon, and so shall they be named “Valkyries”, for that seems a fitting title. You take control of one of the seven members of the “advanced class” as a combatant and one as a weapon, and you must battle your way to overcoming your infection! Well, sort of. It actually gets a little more complicated as the game progresses, but that’s the general gist of the plot. Each character has their own unique battle style and weapon, as well as their own specific stat modifiers they give when used as a weapon, providing a well-rounded arsenal at your disposal.
If you’ve played Senran Kagura, then you probably have the basis of Valkyrie drive down pat. The game is split into multiple stages within each chapter, or as they like to call it, a “drive”, which is the same term used for the weapon-weapon user partnership. For the majority of the game, these stages will consist of the first half of the stage following a hack and slash style with platforming, and “I Spy” if you want the bonus items. Usually the stages will be segmented into small areas, where you fight off hordes of enemies that stand between you and whatever your goal may be at the time. Enemies range from the standard humanoid to mechanical animals to “jumping laser turrets”. Yes, I’m quite serious about that last one. The platforming isn’t all that prevalent, but does happen occasionally, forcing you to jump over a blockade, dash over a wall, or get to an incredibly frustrating bonus item. Why so frustrating, you may ask? Well, that’s what happens when you can’t see your character’s shadows on the platforms you jump to.
Thankfully, these platforming sections tend to be either fairly short or simple, and apart from simply hopping up on a ledge and retrying, there isn’t really a drawback to failing your jumps. The hidden items previously mentioned are scattered throughout the stages, and range from “ oh look, clearly visible” to “where-the-sweet-golden-donut-holes-is-this-thing-I’ve-been-here-three-hours”. Bonus items come in one of three forms: one of three fragments, a chest guard, or a side challenge. The three fragments are floating around the stage somewhere, or inside statues, chest guards measure your “rank rank”, or “boob level”, as the trophy implies, and may require a certain character, while the side challenges are pretty typical event challenges like “kill the enemies in the time limit” or “cut all the grass”. Personally I found a large chunk of my time dedicated to completing these bonus objectives, partly because I’m a completionist and partly because the game will actually let you know what the hidden objectives are in a stage, and keeps track of whether or not you’ve earned them. Although some were ungodly frustrating, that sense of completion upon getting the hidden items felt all the more satisfying.
The second part of each stage primarily pits you against an opponent, either a human partner combination or a large mechanical boss. Some of the stages forgo the first portion of hack and slash combat and send you straight into a battle. While most of the enemies in these stages aren’t really all that tough, the game does offer three difficulty modes: easy, normal, and hard. If you find the game doesn’t provide a significant you can choose from any of the three difficulties before starting a stage. Fight sequences are a combination of strategy and planning. Or at least they can be if you give the game the opportunity. In addition to standard light and heavy attacks, you also have a launch/knockback attack that is dependent on charge time, a quick dash, dodge roll, double jump and drive and connect feature, all to build your play-style around.
Personally, I found myself using a lot of dodge-countering to fling enemies into the air, before starting a combo where they will land. There are lots of techniques to perform that can boost your damage or your drive gauge, which is used for special moves, performing a drive, as well as entering connect mode. One thing that wasn’t readily apparent to me was that you can actually progress through the drive levels sequentially. As an example, if you activate a level one drive, you aren’t stuck at level one. If you have another full drive bar you can go from drive level one to level two, or if you had two bars to begin with, you can skip straight to drive level two. As your drive level goes up, different and more powerful special moves become available. As for the connect mode, this is commented on early in the game but doesn’t make an appearance until MUCH later on. Interestingly enough, fights against other Valkyries from earlier stages will give you opponents connect mode once you’ve unlocked it, even if it wasn’t unlocked at that point in time.
Taking a break from the core gameplay, you can visit the “dining room”, where you can interact with characters, opening up side story dialogue, as well as find a lot of the other standard game elements, such as: records, vault, in-game-store, dressing room etc. Those of you familiar with Senran Kagura will be familiar with the dressing room as the place to go to outfit your characters with a plethora of different accessories. In this dressing room, however, you also have the option of raising a characters “rack rank” by, well, touching them, to start off with. Once you hit rank 20 (out of 120, I might add), a minigame called “heartcatch” becomes available, where you give the character a…massage. Sure, let’s go with that, by tapping hearts that float onto screen, not that the game ever tells you what exactly you’re supposed to do. And I’ll be damned if it isn’t surprisingly difficult to get a perfect score in what should be a simple mini game. The background music during it is surprisingly action-y though.
Speaking of the soundtrack, it’s quite well fitting, and very well done. Most of the character themes fit with their personality, fighting style, or both. The stage themes, while not very memorable due to the bgm getting replaced by a characters theme every time you activate a drive, are still tailored to the area you happen to be in. Boss fights sound like you should either be intimidated or challenging something far greater than you, making them enjoyable to fight through. In addition to the main story, there are also two other game modes for you to enjoy: survival mode and challenge mode. Both of these other game modes alternative challenges to help round out your experience.
Overall, I’d say Valkyrie Drive ~BHIKKHUNI~ provides a fun hack and slash style gameplay that’s easy to pick up for a few stages at a time, although I wouldn’t advise playing on any form of public transport. In stage transitions are speedy, although the loading times for the stage selection can feel quite long at times. There’s a lot of character variety and playstyle options, and with all the added gimmicks or abilities, it’s easy to tailor your fighting style to whatever you feel you enjoy. One of the nicest aspects, apart from being able to see what is left in a stage to get, is that after clearing one ending of the game, you’rre blatantly told exactly what you need to view the other ending, and you can do it all in a single save file. No arbitrary tasks that are so obtuse you question someone’s sanity, it’s all pretty straightforward. The biggest concern however is about how often I found the game crashing. While it doesn’t happen too often, it still crashed a total of five times while I was playing. Thankfully there’s an autosave feature that occurs really often, but it’s still incredibly frustrating when you’re on wave 98 of 100 in the last survival challenge and then game the game decides “lol nope”.
While the game definitely won’t appeal to a very wide player base, it certainly isn’t poor. Disproportionately cleavaged characters and all, I’d call this something of a guilty pleasure game. While I may not go out boasting about it, according to the trophy system apparently I am now officially “The Best of the Breast” and “The Backdoor King”, but I certainly had fun playing it.Score: 8 / 10