It’s often said these days, that the games industry is stagnated.
Predictable yearly sequels to big IPs and identical, mass-market-pleasing shooters, don’t exactly make for the most unique content. So when something new does come along and offers a concept so unashamedly bizarre, it’s worth a quick look if nothing else.
Akiba’s Trip comes courtesy of Japanese developer Acquire, the guys responsible for Tenchu, Shinobido, and Way of the Samurai. But in something of a change from the norm, ‘Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed’ dispenses with Edo period warriors, and instead takes place in modern Tokyo, where you’re tasked with thwarting a plot for world-domination orchestrated by a race of pseudo-vampires, by tearing off their clothes and exposing them to sunlight.
Now you can’t say that’s not different.
The story begins with broke, otaku protagonist Nanashi, responding to an unusual job advertisement he finds posted online. Sure enough, the ad turns out to be a trap, and before he knows it, he’s strapped to a table, interrogated and turned into a vampiric, energy-sucking ‘Synthister.’ Fortunately, cutesy anime archetype, Shizuku is on hand to break him out, and the pair are let loose in Akihabara, the ‘electric district’ of downtown Tokyo.
The core gameplay could (rather generously) be compared to that of the Yakuza series. Outside of combat, you’re free to roam around the map, explore the various shops and cafés, and uncover optional activities and side quests. Most missions are entirely combat-based however, and involve you stripping down assailants to their skivvies in order to burn them up in the sunlight.
If you’re using a 360 pad, Y will attack a targeted enemy’s head, B the body, and A the legs. Once each spot has sustained enough damage, holding down the correct face button will see you tear away a piece of clothing. Repeat the process ‘till they’re left in just their undies and your opponent will flee… or combust.
Wearing down multiple enemies sufficiently will allow you to chain-strip, where a quick-time prompt sees you take care of several foes in succession. And more often than not, you’ll be partnered up with another member of the ‘Akiba Freedom Fighters’ with whom you can execute co-op moves to finish an enemy quickly, and open up others to QTEs. To say it’s a deep system would be a stretch, but there is plenty of variety. A substantial number of improvised weapons from boxing gloves to anti-tank rifles are on hand to brain the opposition with, all of which can be easily upgraded to an overpowered degree. Even your fighting style can be changed between a selection of different martial arts, and the co-op move sequences change depending on the partner you have with you.
Credit where it’s due, having been to Akihabra ourselves, the attention to detail in the world design is hugely impressive. Not only is the map layout accurate, but Acquire have gone so far as to gain permission from local businesses to use their storefronts in-game. Actual Japanese chains like: Trader, Gamers, Animate and Taito, are all faithfully recreated, and even the loading screens feature real-world advertisements from licenced companies.
Beyond sightseeing and tearing clothes off of vampires though, there’s very little else to do in Akiba’s Trip. Side missions offer little variation on the same themes (either more combat or fetch quests), and the rewards for completing them are negligible. There’s a weak attempt at introducing Persona-style social links, but one that ultimately boils down to choosing the most ‘appropriate’ dialogue option of three when prompted.
Unfortunately, Akiba’s biggest shortfalls come as a result of being a handheld port. The mission’s short, repetitive nature is the biggest giveaway that they were deigned for pick-up-and-play sessions. Graphics are simplistic at best, and were clearly never designed for scrutiny on a monitor or TV. Even at maximum draw distance, NPCs more than twenty-feet away are displayed as grey silhouettes that get jarringly replaced by their actual models once you get close enough; and the use of filtered photographs as textures on buildings feels pretty lazy.
The team have done an excellent job of localising the script though, and the in-game emails and ‘Pitter’ feed you have access to, read exactly like what you’d expect from anime fans on the Internet. There’s plenty of self-referential humour and nods to Otaku culture that are bound to appeal to some, and the majority of characters are at least more endearing than they are annoying. But the writing just never seems quite sharp enough to be satirical, and you’ll spend more time rolling your eyes in exasperation, than rolling with laughter.
Overall you’re looking at ten hours of story with an extra five hours worth of side-quests, but for an RRP of £19.99 (£17.99 until June 2nd), Akiba’s Trip represents some pretty poor value for money.
Our advice: wait until this one inevitably shows up in the sales with at least a fifty-percent price reduction. Or if you’re really desperate to strip down Akiba’s undead to their pantsu, give it a go on the Vita where the experience won’t feel so jarringly low budget.