Game Title: Drive Girls
Developer: Tamsoft, Aksys Games (Publisher)
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Download: 590 MB
Availability: Retail | Digital
PSTV Support: Yes
Have you ever wondered what Transformers would’ve been like if instead of being giant fighting robots, the cars and vehicles transformed into sword-weilding anime girls? No? Well, you’re going to find out anyways, because this review is about a game that revolves around that very concept!
Recently localized from Aksys Games is a Tamsoft action game that no one expected to ever come to the West. Here is my review of Anime Girl-Car Transformation-friendly PS Vita exclusive, Drive Girls!
The world of Drive Girls is a world where humans, specifically women, are able to utilize equipment called “Carms”, which allow them to transform into vehicles/cars to not only drive down the road, but defend themselves from attack. The main character, Lancier, is one such woman whom transforms into a Mitsubishi Lancer during combat.
The plot of Drive Girls revolves Lancier, as she is tricked into taking an examination to become a member of the “Drive Girls”, a secret military group aiming to eradicate mechanical invaders known as “Bugs” that have infested one of the major islands of their city area. After being taken to the island and involving herself in rescuing some of her new comrades, she tries to embrace the way of the “Drive Girls”, although she was tricked out of joining the Defense Group she had originally wished to enter.
The only thing I can say about the story is that it is bare-bones and contains anime cliché after anime cliché after anime cliché. Every cutscene in the game lacks depth and feels like a collection of anime cliché events. The first episode has her with a “fateful encounter of running into someone” that causes her to take this exam, and the second has a cliché “wants to leave the group but is guilt-tripped into staying”. I love anime cliches, but it feels like that’s all there is to the story mode.
Like many Tamsoft games, Drive Girls is an action game where you control a character and fight off hordes of enemies. Kind of like a Musou game, actually, but on a smaller scale with the stages not being huge fortress-based arenas. There are also some mild racing game mechanics thrown in as well, so Drive Girls is kind of like an Action Driving game.
As far as Game Modes go, you basically have 2 different options. You have Campaign, which is Story mode, and you have Multiplay, which is Local or Online Multiplayer. Both of these are available to you from the get-go, so you don’t have to worry about clearing the Story to gain access to the Online Functionality.
The Story Campaign goes through missions, where you start a mission, get some cutscenes, and then are thrown into combat until the mission ends. It’s the same kind of progression as previous Tamsoft games, like the Senran Kagura VS games. Multiplay is similar, but without the cutscenes. You’re just thrown into combat.
When you go into combat, you’re able to choose a character, each unlockable and based on a specific type of car. As I said in the Story section, the game’s protagonist is based on the Mitsubishi Lancer, but there are a few other characters based on other kinds of vehicles.
The basis of combat is that you’re thrown onto an arena that doubles as a road/race-way littered with enemies. You start out in human form and can fight off enemies with your equipped weapon or by transforming into your Car Form and fight them off by driving over them, spinning out on top of them, using a nitrous boost to plow through enemy groups, etc. You can also jump back into your Human Form any time you wish.
The mixing of these two elements goes together in the form of the race-ways the missions take place in. Enemy groups are often spread apart, requiring you to turn into a car and use racing controls to drive your way towards the next group. The game also helps this by putting in little boost pads you can use for extra speed to not only get there faster, but achieve more damage when driving over enemies while in the middle of that boost.
Now, when you’re actually fighting, it’s kinda like a musou game. All the enemies look almost exactly like the others and you can light and heavy attacks you can combo together to fight them off. There are also Overdrive elements, giving you access to special skills once you fill a gauge, but it’s really a typical musou type of combat. Slash and button-mash until the enemy goes down and go into Car Form for enemies that move around too much for you to keep combos on.
The first mission or two of this aren’t too bad. But the further you get into the game, the more you realize that every single mission looks and feels exactly like every mission you’ve already done. With only a few enemy differences (mostly being Boss enemies), you are fighting the same enemies with the same skills over and over again across the 6-hour Story Campaign. To put it bluntly, it feels repetitive and boring because of a severe lack of environment and enemy variety.
The biggest thing to add variety is all the customization you can do. As you clear missions, you can unlock new car parts in the game’s Shop, so you can beef up not only your car’s performance but add vinyl stickers to the outside of it. Bringing in a very mild car tuning aspect to the game as a replacement for a standard equipment system.
But really, aside from the fact that the game’s story lasts a mere 6 hours (versus the normal 15-20 hours these types of games normally have with their plots), the game just feels like it isn’t done yet. The fact that there’s almost no enemy and arena variety do fit the whole “Game takes place on a single island” deal, but really doesn’t do much to hold your attention.
Controlling the game isn’t that hard to get a grasp on. The tutorial mission does a decent job of explaining all of that to you, from combat to transforming between your Human and Car forms.
Moving around the stages is done with the Left Analog Stick and moving the camera is done with the Right Analog Stick. The L and R triggers are used for transformations. Holding them both down will allow you to enter the Car Form. While in this form, you can use L and R to brake and accelerate.
Then you have the face buttons. While in Car Form, all of these buttons can be tapped for different attacks or held to go back to Human Form. While in Human Form, X is used for jumping and Circle for dashing. Square and Triangle are used for light and heavy attacks.
While that may sound confusing, it’s really not that hard to get a grip on. And if you ever have any trouble, there’s a Tutorial button at the Mission Select screen to give you a refresher on how everything works.
As far as graphics go, I can’t really complain. The game isn’t pushing the Vita to its limits, but it doesn’t look bad, really. The character models are pretty smooth, both for you, Car Forms, and enemies.
With performance, I’d say about the same. Load Times for me have never exceeded 5-6 seconds and the frame-rate stays nice and steady the whole way through. As much as I found flaws in other sections of the game, the presentation does pretty well for itself.
In conclusion, Drive Girls isn't a bad game, but isn't a great game. The idea of having driving elements in an action game is quite interesting. But the bare-bones story, short campaign, and lack of variety in its environments and enemies really bring this below other games of the anime-style action genre.