Occasionally, a game comes across that’s so quirky or just generally offbeat that you frequently find yourself asking just what the hell you’re playing. If you’re lucky, you might also find yourself having an exceptionally good time with the game in question. From the onset, Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is a textbook example of the former, but how is it at the latter?
What Is It?
The easiest way to describe Akiba’s Trip is to invoke the name of its developer, Acquire, who are no stranger to quirky and sometimes-kind-of-fanservicey games in general. To describe it in strictly functional terms, it’s a beat-em-up RPG cut from very much the same cloth as Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble (which itself was one of the best PSP games no one played), but with a particular style that couldn’t be more different.
The main character is a fairly malleable player avatar named Nanashi by default (which literally means “No Name”, as the player didn’t go to the trouble of naming him). Being an otaku in the otaku capitol of the world that is Tokyo’s Akihabara district, Nanashi constantly struggles with the conflict of funds vs goods – specifically, rare and pricey goods such as figures and DVDs – to the point where medical R&D becomes an enticing source of income. Apparently a certain medical firm aware of this struggle made the connection and saw Akiba as fertile ground for test subjects, and Nanashi gets on board with the simple promise of aforementioned rare goods.
As luck would have it, this firm is actually a front for a criminal organization that would fit in just fine with the likes of Shocker, and they’re mass-producing vampires from their test subjects, known as “synthisters”. After being modified, Nanashi decides he isn’t having any of his would-be employer’s “open season on humans” marching orders, and escapes with the help of fellow vampire Shizuku Tokikaze. Upon arriving back at the otaku cafe that serves as his friends’ base of operations, Nanashi’s friends decide to support him and Shizuku in their efforts to stop the synthisters and their leader, Souga Kagutsuki.
Why Should I Care?
“Stopping the synthisters,” of course, means taking to the streets of Akiba, identifying synthisters among the sea of humanity that is Tokyo, and stopping them the old-fashioned way. Synthisters are a little hardier than your average vampires, though, as they can walk around in broad daylight so long as they are adequately clothed, and that brings us to the game’s central mechanic.
Lifebars and hit points in the traditional sense are not a thing in Akiba’s Trip, but rather, it’s the characters’ clothing durability that takes its place. High, medium, and low attacks will target headgear, shirts, and pants respectively. Once any article of clothing has taken sufficient damage, you have grapple moves that allow you to attempt to strip the garment from your enemy. At that point, you might trigger a QTE sequence that allows you to chain-strip other clothes from your enemy or other nearby targets, provided enough damage was dealt. This can make battles far less drawn-out than they would otherwise be.
As a synthister yourself, you constantly have to be mindful of the state of your own clothing. If its durability reaches 0, you’re in danger of losing it, so it’s advisable to duck away from the action long enough to hold L1 and get it all readjusted. Meanwhile, you can occasionally carry out team attacks with your partner character which will deal considerable damage to one target while stunning any nearby enemies long enough for you to get the upper hand.
You have a pretty broad range of weapons you can use to make things easier, but you have to be careful, as a high-damage weapon might sound like the path of least resistance until some of your collateral damage decides being a bystander is overrated. Get too many innocent passersby caught up in your wake, and you might prolong a battle much further than you can sustain. Moreover, you have to be cautious of police officers who have no real idea of what’s going on, because they won’t hesitate to step into a fight, and dealing with that, while certainly not insurmountable, is generally far more trouble than it’s worth.
The battle system might sound very simple, and to be fair, it really is. Its implementation is so well handled that it remains a lot of fun to play, however, and it would be inappropriate to suggest that’s all there is to Akiba’s Trip, anyway. The game really nails down Akiba culture as a whole, packing in references to other games and anime freely, whether in a direct or indirect way, and nailing down the atmosphere about as well as a game ever has. The story and characters are also fun and engaging, giving you plenty of incentive to see things through to the end, and even stick around for awhile thereafter.
The story itself plays out with a fairly RPG-like structure, consisting of quests and sidequests given to you through the game’s main narrative and your smartphone alike. Sidequests are particularly time-sensitive in Akiba’s Trip, so make sure you stay vigilant with them if you want to make the most of your playthrough. Failing that, you always have the option of leaving Akihabara, ending your playthrough and saving your inventory for a New Game + attempt.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Odd concept aside, Akiba’s Trip is a fun mishmash of genres, and a nice palate-cleanser to slip in between 2014’s heavier offerings. Xseed Games is becoming very good at zeroing in on acquisitions that are really excellent examples of video games in the purest sense of the term, and Akiba’s Trip is no exception, where the whole is most definitely greater than the sum of the parts.