This Week in Games - Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni

by Dustin Bailey,
The ARMS Global Testpunch happened over the weekend, and I played it. A lot of it, actually, and I ended up hitting nearly every single time slot, even getting up early a couple of days to play through the early morning slots. I enjoyed it far more than I ever expected to, especially given how tepid the game's initial showings seemed. By the end—when everyone had started getting good—each match was a tense guessing game of trying to bait out your opponent's big attacks so you could follow up and counter with your own moves.

It just feels great, and that goes for every control option. Every time Nintendo's shown the game it's been on motion controls, and there's a reason why. It's a far more nuanced way to play the game, and early impressions suggest that the real good players are going to have an advantage using that option. But it still feels good just using buttons on a pad, and I suspect that the contrast between the two styles will be like the pad versus arcade stick in traditional fighters—one is technically superior and preferred by the pros, but on a normal level it's all about individual preferences.

I went from minimal personal interest in ARMS to spending the weekend unable to think of much else. If you're a Switch owner, you should probably check out the next set of demos this weekend. (Also, screw your Min Min versus Twintelle debates. Ribbon Girl is the greatest.)

Preview - Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni on PC

Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni has the dumbest-looking boobs I've ever seen in a video game. We've thankfully moved on from the point where “jiggle physics” is an industry buzzword, and body parts just move in a way that's appropriate to the physics of their own world—whether realistic or cartoonishly exaggerated. This recalls the awkward days around Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, when breasts first started moving independently, appearing as small planets in tandem orbits that would soon begin circling if not for their fleshy tether to the torso of some bikini-clad ninja. The boobs of Valkyrie Drive are like water balloons, slipping and sloshing from side to side, except without the weight of water so they float like feathers and jiggle like gelatin. I didn't get into games writing to start reviewing digital breasts but that's apparently where we're at, so let me tell you—I am dissatisfied with the boobs of Valkyrie Drive.

Bhikkhuni joined Senran Kagura in the unlikely category of “busty anime brawler” when it first released on Vita last year, and like the recent Steam release of Estival Versus a PC version will be heading your way soon. If you've somehow missed the whole “weaponized lesbians” thing, the basic premise is that there's a virus which makes some women turn into guns and swords when they orgasm and turns other ladies into fighters who can wield the weapon women. (That doesn't get any less weird to write.) Everybody's isolated on an island built for the ostensible cause of curing and controlling the virus, but the location's mysterious overlords suggest there's a bit more than that going on.

The difference with the girls of Bhikkhuni is that everyone's able to be both a weapon and a fighter, giving you the full roster of seven girls both as playable characters and weapons. It's a brawler all about combos, dodges, combos, launchers, air combos, and more combos, and the game gives you a lot of possibilities without really demanding that you dive into most of it. I enjoyed getting the timing down for the advanced moves, but there hasn't been a single fight so far that I didn't feel like I could win by just mashing the attack button and making the occasional dodge, so while the action is often satisfying there's portions where it feels like complexity for complexity's sake rather than meaningful depth.

That's my impression after about four hours with the preview version, anyway, and I'd estimate less than half of that was spent in actual gameplay. The rest is in long—and I mean long—VN sequences where the girls spend ages agonizing over entirely forgettable things before somebody decides they wanna fight and actually get on with the action. It's also not very smutty for a game that trades on its own lewdness, especially compared to the constant nudity and frequent sex of the anime it released alongside, making the story seem even more dull and tame. At most you're looking at a quick boob grope or smooch before somebody fades to white and turns into a sword. (Though maybe moving all the sex into implication territory is for the best, since the main characters are sisters.)

The accoutrements you'd expect around a boob-themed game are all basically as you'd expect. There's a load of lingerie to unlock and either play dress up with or enjoy as the lady's clothes explode in battle, and a groping minigame where you poke and prod the girls as they alternately ask you to stop and moan suggestively. Whether that sounds appealing or grossly uncomfortable to your particular sensibilities, you are absolutely right.

With the game having originated on Vita, the PC upgrade is far more significant than Estival Versus, though the end result isn't quite so crisp and attractive. The lower-end original leaves even the upgraded visuals looking a bit muddy and washed-out, but it moves smoothly and certainly feels responsive.

The action in Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is pretty decent, which is just enough to drive past its dull story if you're looking for a vehicle for some admittedly tepid fanservice. The anime that spawned it is way hornier, leaving this spin-off feeling too tame for its over-the-top premise, and seriously—those boobs look really stupid. If, despite everything, you just can't enough of those weaponized lesbians, the PC version looks to be a sharp way to do it.

NEWS

NIER: AUTOMATA IS ACTUALLY SELLING WELL

I still haven't finished Nier: Automata. I got to the ending of route A, and though I liked it I wasn't quite in love with it the way so many others seem to be, so I put it down for a bit before returning for the remainder. Even though my enthusiasm is a bit less than others, though, it's a wild, cool game. That critical success is actually turning to commercial success, too.

Square announced that the game has sold over 1.5 million copies across both physical and digital versions, and for a one-console (plus middling PC port) game about sad androids, that's a real impressive number. The notion of Yoko Taro making a game that sees commercial success sounds downright absurd—the surreal quality of those games notwithstanding—and I'm equally pleased that Platinum has their name on something that's both successful and largely original. This can continue.

TOKYO RPG FACTORY HAS ANNOUNCED ITS NEXT PROJECT

The thought of a Square Enix-backed team turning a solid budget toward a new game in the vein of Chrono Trigger was certainly an exciting prospect for RPG fans, but the final product of I Am Setsuna didn't really really live up to that pedigree thanks to dull characters and repetitive environments. But there's no reason to give up hope yet, as Tokyo RPG Factory has announced its next project.

The new game, Lost Sphear, is another SNES-inspired title with a Chrono-like battle system, this time set in a world where folks are finding their friends, families, and homes slowly vanishing into thin air. It's got the same breathless aesthetic as Setsuna, but here's hoping a bit more character can filter into the story. The updated battle system will let you freely change positions during a fight, offering some more strategic variety. The game will hit Japan this fall, and early next year in North America on PS4, PC, and Switch.

MONSTER HUNTER IS COMING TO THE SWITCH WITH CROSSPLAY

The 3DS game we know as Monster Hunter Generations is soon getting an upgraded, expanded edition in Japan called Monster Hunter XX, only on Nintendo Switch. This is the part where I talk about how despite Monster Hunter's relative (but shrinking) obscurity in the West it's one of Japan's biggest franchises, but chances are pretty good you already know that. Following this announcement, Nintendo's stock price hit an eight-year high.

The idea that Capcom might consider Nintendo's new console as a home for Monster Hunter is huge, and points to the as-yet-anecdotal success of the Switch being very real, and significant enough for big third-parties to take a gamble on. The Switch is—at a minimum—take over from the 3DS and Vita as the go-to home for mid-budget Japanese games, and that's an exciting prospect indeed.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

CLADUN RETURNS: THIS IS SENGOKU!
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PlayStation Vita / PC
Release Date: June 6
MSRP: $39.99

The third entry in a pretty obscure series—even by the niche standards of NIS—Cladun Returns is a retro-style action-RPG set in historical Japan. It's not quite as roguelike-like (or more appropriately Mystery Dungeon-like) as it appears, with preset main stages and multiplayer options for both versus and co-op.

DARK ROSE VALKYRIE
Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: June 6
MSRP: $29.99

The preponderance of games with Valkyrie in the title doesn't mean they're all smutfests, nor sadly does it mean the return of Valkyrie Profile. Instead, Dark Rose Valkyrie is a new RPG from some of the key staff of behind the Tales series, featuring a combo of highly customizable combat and Phoenix Wright-style interview segments where you look for traitors among your party.

THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: MORROWIND
Developer: ZeniMax Online
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC
Release Date: June 6
MSRP: $59.99

The first feature-sized expansion for Elder Scrolls Online, Morrowind turns the focus to that dusty gray wild place that all the TES fans are nostalgic for. New class, new PVP options, and a new story take a bit of the sting out of this not actually being a new Elder Scrolls game. Come on, you want to head back to Vivec City, right?

TEKKEN 7
Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC
Release Date: June 2
MSRP: $59.99

It's tough to call Tekken 7 a “new” game—after all, it's been in Japanese arcades for over two years now—but this is the first worldwide home release for the game, and it looks to be a doozy. A massive cast, NetherRealms-style story mode, and a refined fighting system are in play, along with a guest-starring Akuma to remind you that Tekken X Street Fighter still hasn't happened. Still, it's a heck of a year for fighting games.

ALSO AVAILABLE:
The formerly Vita-exclusive rhythm game Superbeat: XONiC makes its way to PS4 this week, and rally sim DiRT 4 makes it to pretty much everything. Plus, PS4 gets a hot future-racing package with Wipeout Omega Collection, combining elements of Wipout HD, Fury, and 2048 into a single game.

Now that the weapon damage bug in the Vanquish PC port has been fixed, it's finally time to ride those rocket boots all the way to the end. Smell you later!


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