Review: Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed

In a part of Tokyo there exists a town that is a haven for otaku (person with obsessive interests) and pop-culture enthusiasts alike. Enter Akihabara, or Electric Town as it is affectionately known. Nanashi, a young otaku who lives and breathes Akihabara, applies for a job that pays in out-of-print or rare figurines. One day Nanashi awakens in a basement; tied to a table, and told that he has been transformed into a “Synthister”, a man-made vampire whose job it is to feed on social energy and vitality, by the very company he applied for. But a girl named Shizuku comes to his rescue, and together along with Nanashi’s friends throughout Akihabara, turn against the evil corporation and defeat the evil Synthister regime.

Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed opens similarly to other adventure games localized from Japan, with an anime FMV sequence which is both ominous in storytelling but overly vibrant at the same time, accompanied by a J-Pop song. This sets the tone for the entire game; bright and detailed anime combined with synth-laden dance and rock music.

Cutscenes are also vibrant and rendered in two ways – a brief interlude of game-rendered models, leading into text-based conversations with anime midshots of characters as they talk. The gameplay models are faithful to their anime counterparts, but adopting the 3D-rendered anime style seen before in games such as Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z.

Characters are voiced by both Japanese and English voice actors, and upon starting the game there is an option to decide between the two. Each dialogue cutscene is fully voiced bar the playable character (as the character is generic and selectable as male or female). The dialogue is actually well-thought and at times quite hilarious, and does not feel generic or forced in any way. The music is catchy but can sometimes get a bit annoying; different songs play in different areas, such as a funky jazz tune for the ‘Akiba Freedom Fighters’ base where most of the missions come from, to different upbeat dance tracks when fighting Synthisters on the streets.

One of the most notable things is that the developers of Akiba’s Trip have faithfully recreated Akihabara within the game, right down to locations of stores and all. Having been to the real town myself in recent years I was blown away by the level of detail within the game, with notable stores and attractions being represented truly. The same goes for street vendors and the like; the street vendors, promotion people and even the coin-operated capsule machines were all present. It truly feels like Akihabara.

While Akiba’s Trip plays like a stock-standard beat-em-up, it has a large twist that changes the tone of the game drastically. In order for the character and their allies to defeat Synthisters, their aim is to use weapons and fighting styles to strip the enemy’s clothes off.

Yes, you read that right.

As the Synthesters are man-made vampires, the ‘only known way’ to defeat them is by exposing them to full sunlight. Triangle, Circle and X are reserved for high, medium and low attacks respectively, and each attack targets a specific item of clothing. Once the clothing is weakened, holding the button strips the enemy of their clothes, and once all but the enemy’s underwear has been stripped, the enemy is defeated. Combos can be achieved by chaining attacks and countering moves, and strip chains can be triggered when multiple enemy clothes are weak. When fighting with allies, massive tag attacks can be activated by filling a teamwork bar, which results in an enemy being completely stripped and any surrounding enemies being stunned. The R trigger is used for blocking and dodging, and also allows the player to counter attacks and chain combos. The L trigger (when held) restores the player’s clothing back to normal, and when simply pressed activates or ends battle mode.

While combat already sounds crazy enough, it occasionally gets clunky and annoying. Hits fail to register, camera angles change when evading, and battles can get downright frustrating when you are unable to block attacks or land any blows. This is amplified by the number of enemies on-screen at one time, and the environment that is being fought in as well. Battles can be lost easily when the player is surrounded by enemy units, and sometimes escape is near-impossible from the group. Playing on the PS Vita I often found that the controls were too small for my liking. While the Vita itself is a comfortable unit, the button-mashing battles managed to make the game uncomfortable and annoying. Some of the button functions did not work correctly, and half of the time I was putting my weapon away mid-battle, or trying to rip off clothing instead of attacking.

The majority of the game is accessible through the character’s smartphone (through the START button), where missions, character customization and communication can be selected at ease. Through the map application, fast-travel is available, saving the player from having to continuously run through zones to get to their destination. This is extremely useful as some of the loading times for the game are excessive, especially when traversing through smaller areas.

Side quests can also be activated through the smart phone, but the game suffers from an inability to display more than one quest; the primary mission is always displayed, and side quests become easily forgettable and difficult to find because of this. This becomes annoying as side quests are a major source of in-game currency, and forgetting to undertake them can lead to shortages of funds when buying and upgrading equipment. Thankfully salvaged gear can be sold to nearly anyone, allowing you to slowly replenish your funds as you play.

Even though the game’s story makes up for it, one of the biggest problems the game has is being too repetitive. With rarely any variation in gameplay, Akiba’s Trip revolves around hitting the streets and fighting Synthisters, returning to the team base, and repeating again. Occasionally this is interspersed with a training mission to keep the player’s skills current, but otherwise the game grows repetitive really fast.