Drive Girls is a brand new Vita exclusive for the west that’s been localized after its initial release in Japan. It’s a mix of Senran Kagura and Transformers, which was enough to grab my interest.
The game was developed by Tamsoft, known in recent years for their Senran Kagura and Onechanbara titles, but perhaps best remembered by the general audience for the excellent Battle Arena Toshinden on the original Playstation – one of the top fighters for the platform before Tekken came along.
Drive Girls isn’t destined to become a classic like Toshinden, but it does have an interesting premise – featuring a lineup of five girls who duke it out with an army of mechanical bugs (Senran Kagura-style). The twist in this is that each of the girls is able to transport into a different car whenever they want and drive around the battlefield. This of course immediately evokes memories of the Transformers franchise, but the majority of the game is spent brawling, not driving.
Fighting is easy enough, featuring a simplified control system when compared to the likes of Dynasty Warriors or even Senran Kagura. There’s very little in terms of tactical choices to be made, bar the upgrade options that you have in between levels. With light and heavy attacks, it’s easy to string combos together – especially in “over drive” mode. You can attack while in human form, but for some reason your car is also able to spin around in place and delivery damage that way. It’s an excellent move when surrounded by enemies, but your car form is also great for those hit and run moments where you charge at an enemy and use the car’s speed to get away after hitting him.
The story campaign in Drive Girls is surprisingly lengthy, and strung together using visual novel-esque story sequences. Looking at how much work has gone into story development between levels, it’s a shame that the game’s maps don’t have a whole lot of diversity – which can also be said of the game’s roster of enemies. This makes the actual gameplay somewhat repetitive, something that the upgrade system can’t hide either.
Drive Girls is a decent looking Vita game, with visuals that look like they were inspired by toys from the eighties through their use of color and shapes. Because of this visual approach, the game runs quite well, though awkward vehicle controls can get in the way sometimes.
What Drive Girls made me realize is how I miss a good Transformers game on the Vita – the X360 and PS3 generation has a couple of very good ones, but there hasn’t been anything like them on the Vita. Drive Girls certainly doesn’t come close either, but it’s a novel approach to the Senran Kagura style of games with a different twist than the nudity-angle that those titles usually take. For that reason alone, Vita owners with a taste for Japanese titles will want to check out Drive Girls. If you have little interest in the weird concepts that Japanese titles can bring, then Drive Girls won’t sway you – it’s not nearly good enough for that with its repetitive gameplay and the Vita has far better brawlers available to play.