All the greatest vampire hunters throughout history each took a different approach to slaying the undead, whether it be via silver stake, garlic pepper spray or a very sharp axe. Decades of cinema has taught us that the best way to deal with bloodthirsty vampires is to expose them to direct sunlight, but it appears that perhaps Blade, Helsing and Lincoln all missed a trick, as the most effective way to shower them in ultra violet light is apparently stripping them down to their underwear … welcome to Akihabara.
Akiba’s Trip is a third person action RPG that follows a young ambitious freedom fighter as he/she tries to overthrow an organisation that manufactures man made vampires, or Synthisters as they’re known in the game. After agreeing to carry out a shady job, you are imprisoned and turned into an elusive Synthisters, an undead secret assassin charged with the task of sucking out every Akiba citizen’s life energy. Thankfully you are rescued by the mysterious Shizuku, a day walker who passes her blood into your body (through a snog obv) to prevent your transformation but subsequently makes you even stronger and turns you into the only one who can save Akihabara. Your HQ in the game is trendy game and anime cafe MOGRA, which serves as the base for you and your friends, or the Akiba Freedom Fighters as you all like to be called. With the new arrival of Shizuku, the freedom fighters have become aware of the Synthisters popping up around town, so you band together to investigate the outbreak around the busy district, along with help from a pharmaceutical CEO and a teen idol, to save the public from having their soul and social energy drained. The Freedom Fighters soon discover the only way to defeat the growing population of Synthisters is to tear all of their clothes off and watch them burst into flames. As well as saving the city’s residents, the game also focuses heavily on relationships, where interacting with specific characters in a certain way will unlock one of many endings, so how your character interacts with his/her friends plays just as big a part as ruthlessly stripping the Japanese nation.
Honestly this game does sound like your stereotypical ‘Japanese’ game, just a showroom of scantily clad girls with their bits out trying to convince you there’s a serious game somewhere, but you may be surprised to hear it’s not as perverted as you may think, and certainly not what I expected upon hitting new game. From very early on you’ll find a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Characters will constantly make remarks about daft anime and game references and inconsistency, which works as back handed compliments and jokes made towards the subgenre the game has found itself in. Battles do require you to target your opponent’s clothing, hitting triangle for headwear, circle for torso and X for legs. Once each garment’s durability drops to zero, you can tear that piece off in comic fashion, and only once every item has been stripped off will they be defeated. ‘Pulling off’ a successful strip will open up an opportunity for a strip combo, and hitting a cracking 8 strip combo will present you with a quick time response, which when pressed correctly will remove your victim’s underwear too.
Each cut-scene between missions is rather lengthy, and though it can often feel a little dragged out and forgettable, it is refreshing to see a detailed story amongst the otherwise raunchy undertone. Your in-game smartphone is your first point of call serving as your menu, and flicking through each app you’ll find your inventory (wardrobe naturally), mission log and camera. The missions themselves follow the typical action RPG format, go fetch this, go defeat them, go meet him, go save her, so you’d be right in assuming the game is very repetitive. Story missions are a plenty and there are always a large number of side missions at your disposal, so rest assured there is a fair amount of content to keep you going for a while. The main story isn’t too dull to play-through but you’ll perhaps find the bizarre and utterly random side missions more worthwhile, though sometimes just as unrewarding as each story mission; the game doesn’t have an auto save option either so be sure after each tough challenge to save your progress. After unlocking the battle arena and hitting the required level, you can challenge Akiba’s residents and in doing so improve your rank. After each rank you unlock a new stripping style, each time getting more OTT and exciting, which nicely freshens up the otherwise repetitive action. The combat system isn’t the smoothest around and attacks are very limited, but the constant fast pace of each fight does keep the action exciting and enjoyable. You can equip yourself with an array of different weapon types, (sword, two-handed, melee) but each category boasts a vast amount of different weapons, each with their own basic move set; the move set between boxing gloves and combat gloves for example is noticeably dissimilar. The weapons available are hilarious to come across, I mean who wouldn’t want to defeat vampires with a 6ft kebab buster sword, but unfortunately too many weapons have awkward and annoying combos that cannot be interrupted and you’ll find more often than not you’ll be pulling off impressive moves to nobody. Your character’s clothing too can be customised with a huge array of equipable clothing, to make you trendy yet indestructible. The battle camera too can be infuriating, especially when you wander too close to an exit point and it zooms out, making it very difficult to block attacks and determine who you’re attacking.
What does however make Akiba’s Trip a worthwhile play is the outstanding localisation and the fully explorable digital replica of the real Akihabara. Some studios that set their games in real locations can often fail at truly capturing the heart of their chosen hometown but from what I know about the electronic district and from researching the area after starting the game, it’s pretty damn accurate. Every store you walk past or purchase from in-game is an exact digital copy of an actual working store in Akihabara, every landmark, scaffholding and kiosk is placed perfectly in accordance to the real bustling district. Most games have collectibles scattered throughout however you’ll find Akiba’s Trip has the most meaningful and touching of all, digital replicas of flyers found in the real Akihabara. Each flyer is advertising a real life Japanese store, and opening up the in-game encyclopedia will not only tell you more about each store, but ask you to thank each one of them for appearing in the game if you were ever to visit; playing this game I found a very proud statement and genuine love and affection for it’s town and people.
Visually the game is mediocre at best, the district looks pretty and bright but characters and props look a little rough around the edges, and it’s hard to give the benefit of the doubt because of it’s cartoony art style as it’s not hard to find similar titles that look more superior. The frame rate too is a tad sketchy where you can stand still for a good few seconds waiting for an important NPC to appear on screen, and you’ll also find yourself loitering in loading screens a little too often too.
In short Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is a fairly fun game with plenty to do, even if it won’t keep you playing for longer than an hour at a time. The weapon choice is very creative and the environment in which the game is set is brilliantly recreated, however the quickly repetitive and limited combat doesn’t differentiate one battle or quest from another, making it a rather boring game pretty quickly. For hack ‘n’ slash fans looking for something different, it’s not a bad play as it certainly is unique, but it’s no where near the best action RPG on the market currently. Battles are action packed if a little too sloppy, the story is detailed if a touch boring and Akihbara is pretty if a tad empty. Ultimately each negative overshadows the positive counterbalance in a way that prevents you from fully immersing yourself in the game, however NIS America plan to bring the PS4 re-release to Europe early next year, so I’ll be revising this review in the near future to see if it’s faults have been ironed out, those panties aren’t gonna uncrease themselves.
To be continued!
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.