Drive Girls - PlayStation Vita Review

Stalling at the gate

  • System: PlayStation Vita
  • Publisher: Aksys Games
  • Developer: Tamsoft
  • Release Date: September 8th, 2017
  • Price:$29.99
  • Rating: T for Teen
  • Genre: Action, Racing
  • Players: 1

Who it Caters to

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You may have never heard of them, but Tamsoft has actually been around for quite some time. They got their start in the PS1 days with Battle Arena Toshiden, but since then, made their name by churning out cheap niche titles for the PS2 and NDS with their Simple 2000 series. One particular game within Simple 2000, however, transcended its low budget and managed to find a cult following: Onechanbara. It was an extremely basic action game, but was honest about its intentions; you played as a bikini-clad girl who would go around chopping up zombies. It proved to be enough of a hit for Tamsoft to invest heavily into fanservice games, which brought them to the Senran Kagura franchise. Like Onechanbara, the beat ‘em up mechanics are largely used as an excuse to have its buxom, scantily clad girls to lose even more clothes over the course of play.

Which finally brings us to Drive Girls. Much like its 2 predecessors, you’ll choose from a selection of curvy cuties who, if they lose enough health, will be stripped of their armor and reduced to their bra and panties. Also, in the tradition of Onechanbara, Drive Girls is priced cheaply at $29.99 as opposed to the standard $39.99 for Vita games. The combat mechanics are fairly simple, where combat comes down to mashing the attack button and occasionally dodging out of the way. The story is even largely tongue-in-cheek, so if you were into the self-awareness of Onchechanbara and Senran Kagura, Drive Girls has probably already caught your attention.

What to Expect

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While you might have a couple of different approaches to the combat every now and then, most battles are going to boil down to the same pattern. You’ll encounter an enemy nest that hosts an endless swarm of fodder enemies and a host enemy. You’ll have to beat the “host” enemy to end the swarm, but to do so, you’ll grind a few waves of the fodder ala Dynasty Warriors to build up your EP meter, and run away for a moment to use your EP to build up your Drive gauge to enhance your attack power. When you max your drive, you’ll enter Overdrive, which outright doubles your attack strength. Once you do this, you’ll focus your attention on the host enemy until it dies. Once it dies, a new nest will appear in the level. You’ll repeat this process until the level decides you’re done, and then you’ll be graded based on how fast you completed it along with how little damage you took. You are rewarded accordingly with money, along with whatever loot you picked up throughout the course of the level.

Of course, this being Drive Girls, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the driving mechanics. Each girl can transform into a car, which is mainly used to quickly transport yourself from one nest to another. You have to be careful of running over mines along the road, which hurt a bit and knock you out of your car form, slowing you down. You can mow down enemies as a car, which seems to stun them and builds up your EP faster. Also, there are a few missions where you have to race against someone through a race track and make strategic use of boosts.

Drive Girls Trailer – PS VITA:


Drive-Girls-game-300x383 Drive Girls - PlayStation Vita Review
Lancier was a normal girl with a dream: to join the ERT and help everyone she can. In fact, Lancier is so helpful that on the day of her ERT exam, she ends up getting distracted giving directions to people and misses her test! However, her kindness does not go unnoticed, as a mysterious woman tells her that she’s willing to give her a make-up exam. Lancier passes, and is drafted into a shadow government organization, the Drive Girls; created to save Sun Island from Bugs, mechanoid alien creatures that have been infesting in secret. Along the way, Lancier teams up with the clumsy Regalith, the passionate Galaxa, and the stern Seven. Together, they attempt to free Sun Island, where they’re stationed, of Bugs.

Drive Girls is clearly meant to be taken as self-parody. While the story is told mostly straight, it constantly undermines itself by addressing common tropes found in other stories like it. When Seven calls that it’s time for the girls to roll out, the rest of the team comments how they let Seven say it since it was her turn in the story to say it. It never once attempts to justify its game world to the players. Not even the central mechanic of transforming into cars is explained. They can just do it because, hey, why not?

However, don’t take all that as praise. Just because it’s meant to be taken as parody does not make it particularly funny or a memorable parody. It doesn’t work because the game never goes far enough. The idea that you have a clearly fetish-y concept that has no basis in reality is funny, especially when they refuse to even acknowledge it as strange. But the narrative never does anything fun with the concept. For example, you’ll find the standard “girls take a bath together to bond” scene. The set-up here is perfect. You could have their bath area designed like a carwash or auto shop, and the girls could transform into their car forms and discuss how difficult it is to access their “headlights” or “exhaust pipes” as thinly veiled innuendo to drive home how ridiculous this set-up is. Instead, the girls remain in their human forms and wear skimpy outfits in the shower and just go through all the motions you’d expect in this sort of sequence. As a result, the parody rings as hollow as an excuse to justify the leering rather than a genuine attempt at comedy.


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If there’s an upside to the combat in Drive Girls, it’s fluid. Characters feel like they’re gliding at all times, so you can easily chain attacks while moving so that it feels like a natural extension of their motion. The attack animations flow together well and really look like they’re causing some serious damage, so unloading a full, uninterrupted combo can be satisfying at a base level.

There is also a bit of engaging risk/reward to the Drive system. In order to charge your Drive gauge, you’re left entirely defenseless. Since boosting your attack strength is critical to finish a mission quickly, there is a bit of tension stopping your onslaught by leaving yourself vulnerable for these moments.

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Unfortunately, that’s about all that works for the gameplay. As mentioned before, you don’t necessarily have to alternate between building up your EP to charge your Drive to win missions, but frankly, that is all we had to do to clear the main storyline. It’s exceedingly repetitive because your other options for combat are just too unwieldy to be feasible. Attacking as a car guarantees a stun to stop an enemy attack, but it’s not generally usable when you’re surrounded because enemy attacks come out faster than you can get them off and they’ll knock you right out of your car form. There’s a gun system to allow you to attack at long range, but equipping it is cumbersome (pressing the right directional button and then selecting the weapon on screen), it ends up replacing your melee attack, does minimal damage, and drains your EP meter anyway. You’re better off not bothering with it.

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Compelling level design could help alleviate some of these issues with the combat, but sadly, it feels like levels were designed to justify the car mechanic. Stages, with a couple of minor exceptions, are long stretches of road where talking is just too slow to get through the mission at a reasonable time. However, there are mines strewn about the road to keep your attention so you’re not just aimlessly driving.

This is a fine idea in concept since it puts the onus on the player to make use of it rather than feeling forced into traveling by car. There are a few major issues with the execution. Since levels are largely just a long, straight line, they end up feeling pretty same-y. The only way the game has to mix up the design is by how the mines are arranged and how the walls are positioned, and there’s only so much you can do with this. Not only that, but the hitboxes on the mines are so wide, and there’s so little space in between them, that it’s hard to judge where the game intends for you to drive, if even at all. Finally, there are also chests lying all over the roads as well. You can break them by running into them, but you won’t actually get the item inside. You have to awkwardly turn around in car form or turn back into a human to grab what was inside. Since it’s generally a health or EP restoring item, you could make the argument that it’s to incentivize better play. However, the issue with this is that your drive is always draining when you’re not in combat, so it’s almost always worth it to grab the item.

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However, none of this compares to the amount of unfair hitstun you’ll have to put up with. Your only defensive maneuver is a dodge, but this isn’t reliable since you can’t cancel out of your attacks to use it. This wouldn’t be an issue if enemies had a clear, deliberate attack animation to signify that you should lay off. However, enemies’ attacks are pulled off just as quick as yours, and worse yet, as soon as you’re hit, your combo is interrupted and you’re sent flying. Enemies can keep attacking you during this period, and you’re completely defenseless to do anything about it. Too many times, we found ourselves at least at half health, only to get caught in the middle of an attack and get hit by several other enemies at once, causing us to die and restart the mission.

Worse yet, while it only takes one hit to stun you, you’re never really sure what’s going to stop them. There’s definitely something that does, as we found the only way to reliably beat host enemies was to get them locked into a combo and just keep attacking them while they were stunned. What was causing the stun? Sometimes we’d perform a full combo without the enemy flinching once while they responded with an attack of their own. Sometimes we’d hit them and they’d be immediately stunned. Sometimes they’d get stunned in the middle of a combo. Were we wearing them down? Did we interrupt them in the middle of an attack? We don’t know.

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

Honey’s Gameplay Consensus
There are some okay ideas in Drive Girls regarding the concept, but it fails to utilize them in any meaningful way. If Drive Girls went further with the story, it could have at least been a bit of campy fun. Unfortunately, it does not, and Drive Girls’ gameplay isn’t enough to make it worth a recommendation to anyone, even longtime fans of Onechanbara and Senran Kagura craving something new.

Honey's Pros:

  • Fluid combat system
  • Semi-self-aware story that might occasionally elicit a chuckle

Honey's Cons:

  • Repetitive combat that’s easily exploited
  • Goofy premise doesn’t go nearly far enough

Honey's Final Verdict:

Drive Girls is the sort of game that gets sold as part of a stacked promotional deal when you need one more eligible game to get the discount. It catches your attention due to the goofy premise and makes you think “Eh, why not?” This is probably the only reason to actually pick up the game, though. It’s difficult to justify buying the game any other way. Disagree? Let us know in the comments below!

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Author: Matt Knodle

I come from Indiana, where I grew up near a video rental shop that proudly stated “The widest selection of anime in the state”, setting me on a course to enjoy as much anime as possible. I’ve devoted myself to over-analyzing various sports anime and video games probably more than they were ever intended. I currently co-host a weekly sports anime fan podcast called KoshienCast with my good friend, Matt.

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