This is going to sound strange, but if you have a love for cars and anime girls and would like to see those two combined into one video game, then developers Bergsala Lightweight and Tamsoft have you covered with Drive Girls. Tamsoft is known for creating action titles in Japan that often receive western releases, such as the Senran Kagura series. These titles are known to have decent combat and controls as well as respectable in-game character models for the platforms that they release on.
Sadly, these expectations for the Tamsoft brand will need to lowered if you are going to try to enjoy the PlayStation Vita exclusive Drive Girls. The game is nowhere near what I’ve come to enjoy most about the anime girl action genre, but there might be some redeeming features that another player might be interested in.
So let’s dive (drive?) right in: Drive Girls is set in a city called Sun Island, where people have the ability to turn into cars at will. The story begins by introducing a new student named Lancier who is recruited to hunt an invading enemy known as “Bugs.” However, Lancier will not battle these creatures alone — she is joined by four other girls who each enlist in the effort to rid the lands of this annoying enemy throughout the campaign.
Now, I wish I could tell you more, but that’s basically the entire game. You’ll meet new girls over the 24 story missions and fight Bugs. Aside from a few funny jokes sprinkled throughout the story here and there the campaign is forgettable and less interesting that I thought it would be.
It’s not as if I was expecting a good story, but I’m the type to give every game a chance to impress me on some level. However, Drive Girls fails to deliver with a small cast of characters that simply check off each trope of the anime girl checklist. However, the dialog is fully voiced (with Japanese audio) and I thought the characters all sounded great.
During the campaign, story scenes will lead to a menu where the player will be able to choose a mission and the character that they want to control. Battle missions will put you on a linear field where you must get from one end of the map to the other and clear out all the enemies.
Enemies in Drive Girls all pretty much look the same besides a variation in size. The combo system is as basic it can be with simple pushes of the square and triangle buttons. There is a dodge button, but I found it almost completely useless because of a slight lag between when I press the button and when the girl commits the action, usually after being hit.
Aside from normal combat mode, players will also be able to turn into a car during battle. In car mode you’re able to attack enemies and race around the field, but this is not advised. Driving is not the easiest to control in small spaces and this mode only has one real attack besides running into enemies at a high speed.
Aside from battles, some missions will have you race around a track for a few laps. This system is interesting at first, but then the game has you racing on the same tracks with the same enemies. This racing system had the potential to be awesome and bring the racing genre back to the handheld, but sadly there is little fun to be found during on these uninspired courses.
Also, the circle button is the boost, but if you hold it down you will transform back into a human. There were many times where I would accidentally transform into a human when in a race as I was trying to boost. I feel like the human form should have been disabled during the racing missions because there’s no need for them.
Drive Girls isn’t all bad though. The character models during gameplay are decent and the costume breaks are as entertaining to watch as they’ve ever been. The story illustrations of the girls are also well done and feature static images in different outfits and poses.
Additionally, the combat might be lacking, but it was decently responsive and worked well as a simple beat-em-up. Controls are easy to master and I never felt frustrated with the action, which is a huge plus because fighting enemies is pretty much all you do outside of the handful of racing missions.
However, the environments are boring and repetitive. Get ready to visit the same maps over and over with various obstacle differences. Basically the maps are just roads and you won’t see anything special throughout the 6 hours of campaign gameplay.
Each character has different weapons that they excel at, but they are all pretty strong in battle so it doesn’t matter who you choose, just pick the one who you think is the cutest. In order to improve your party’s stats, there is an upgrade system where you collect decals or “Stickers” and put them on your girls.
These items are found during missions after defeating enemies. It’s necessary to keep an eye out for them because they can sometimes blend in with the map. The stat boosts can make the game pretty easy and I never had a problem with the difficulty for any of the stages. That’s not to say that I didn’t die a few times for trying to just rush in and mindlessly attack. At times, Drive Girls does require some defensive maneuvers.
I’m not sure if Aksys is the studio who localized this game or if they are only acting as publisher, but there were a handful of localization errors that I found within the first ten minutes of the story. Hopefully these are patched out, but it’s just a combination of weird punctuation and a few missing words that aren’t hard to miss.
In theory, Drive Girls sounds like a game that I would love: A weird game action game with cute anime girls. However, its faults are easily discovered within the first hour of gameplay and don’t improve throughout the rest of the campaign.
Drive Girls is for those Vita fans out there that are dying to play an action game from Tamsoft and can’t wait for some of their other games to come West. The game fails to deliver a proper fighting system or campaign to make it worth the short gameplay experience, but if you’re looking for decent graphics and cute anime girl illustrations then maybe this niche Vita game is just what you need.