It’s not every day that I get to walk through the streets of Akihabara while ripping the clothes off vampires. But in Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed, that’s just the sort of activity one does with style.
The game takes place in modern day Akihabara, a district in Tokyo known for its unique subculture of anime, manga, idol singers and maid cafes. After a shady job goes horribly wrong, your otaku self discovers the truth that Akiba is actually infested with Synthisters, humans who have fallen prey to their desires and attack other humans to absorb their life essence. During your journey, you’ll encounter with a wide cast of characters, with their own motives for either protecting Akiba or utilizing it for their own goals.
Be ready to strip, pose, negotiate, and cross-dress your way to uncovering the truth behind Akihabara.
The buildings, streets and architecture in the game are methodically crafted to create an authentic replica of the real deal, though the graphics on the Vita don’t do it much justice. Gameplay flows quite linearly; you’ll have a main quest line that leads to the next story event. You can either hoof it to your destination or use a fast travel system through your map, which is admittedly much more convenient once you’ve explored the town to your satisfaction. The map is broken up into many smaller areas, which means that every time you enter another zone you’ll be treated to a loading screen, then wait a few more seconds as models and other NPCs phase into the area. It’s a far cry from the seamless world of Grand Theft Auto, but thankfully the loading screens aren’t super long, and is more of a minor annoyance than an actual hamper to gameplay.
In a dangerous place like Akiba, you’ll have to defend yourself with whatever weapons you can find. Getting into a brawl with enemies is seamless and fairly smooth. You can make three different attacks that hits an opponent’s head, torso, or leg. It’s not enough to simply beat them to a pulp however, as your ultimate objective is to strip off their clothing and expose them to sunlight in order to rid of them. Once you’ve dealt enough damage to the target’s clothing, you’ll be able to initiate a strip action to finally tear off that piece of fabric. There are also a few other actions you can perform in combat, such as dodging, a strong attack that ignores defending enemies, jumping attacks, and ‘Unison Strip’ moves that can be performed with a partner. Stripping a target’s clothing is stylish and comedic, especially later in the game when you can unlock different strip animations for your character, with some being sillier than others. You can also chain-strip multiple enemies with damaged clothing, as long as you can press the buttons fast enough. If you manage to completely strip an enemy down within a chain-strip, you’ll purify them in a shining light, burning off their underwear and allowing you to loot it (don’t worry, it’s censored). Unfortunately, the variety of opponents in the game is sorely lacking. It would have been a nice change up to fight something in the game that wasn’t a humanoid, instead of fighting the same type of enemy over and over again.
A character’s move-set is defined by the weapon they carry, with four different weapon types. Within these groups, there are more subtle differences with each weapon. For example, a baseball bat and a wooden sword are both considered to be 1-handed weapons, but have drastically different attacks. This is basically the extent that you can customize your characters abilities. It would have been nice to see more special moves, particularly something that would help you deal with groups of enemies.
One of the main focuses of Akiba’s Trip is the sheer amount of items and clothing there are in the game. Any weapon or clothing that someone is wearing can be yours, and there a lot of shops if you’re looking for something specific. There are a plethora of uniforms and clothing you can obtain, however if you’re a hoarder like me, a lack of a safe or locker of some sort makes it tedious to keep track of all the items you have in your inventory. Early in the game, you’ll also gain access to upgrade your equipment by fusing items of the same type and increasing its strength. It’s a good way to make sure your favorite weapons are getting stronger, but it also makes it difficult to change different equipment, since you’ll need to invest a good amount of money and items to strengthen it back to a usable level, especially if you’re playing later in the game when the enemies become much stronger.
When you’re not going around fighting Synthisters or stripping people in sight, you’ll be doing side quests. You can open up your phone menu to access the side quest menu, which will give you a list of missions that are currently available for you. These missions usually only reward you money, but some will give you access to unique costumes to strip or nifty abilities. They also come in a variety of different flavors, some are the typical fight quests, but one had me convince an idol group to calm down, take photographs of various landmarks of Akiba, or even meet someone to have them confess their love to you. The side quests are not particularly fleshed out, but nevertheless they offer a relaxing change of pace from main story line.
Acquire does a fairly good job of incorporating you into Akihabara, simulating what it would be like to roam its streets. There were a lot of miniature events that occurred as I walked around, from the maids advertising their shops, to a Lolita-dressed woman posing for photographers. I even got scammed by an ‘Artlien’ while I was minding my own business.
Your phone is your life-line to the town, giving you access to the map, viewing your status, changing options and many more, but more importantly also allows you to view your messages and Pitter threads. Messages aren’t very useful, they really only serve to remind you of your objective, but the Pitter threads are interesting, as they comment on a variety of different topics, some related to your current objective, others seemingly random. The dialogue exchanged on there is quite amusing, and definitely retains that tone of skepticism and rudeness that parallels the internet in reality.
The story of Akiba’s Trip is fairly straightforward. As a member of the Akiba Freedom Fighters, you and your group have taken upon themselves to ensure the safety of Akihabara. The plot is nothing special, but it was interesting to see the cast of characters you meet and how they tie into the grand scheme of things. When you’re not navigating around in the world, you’ll be in dialogue screens a la visual novel style. There are good amount of dialogue options during the plot, but while most of them are purely for flavor, some are capable of improving a character’s opinion of you. Needless to say, depending on how you make your decisions and choose your words, your ending will be influenced.
Unfortunately, the beauty of Akihabara is diminished due to the limitations of hardware. The graphics on the Vita aren’t bad by any means, but between the loading times, waiting for NPCs to appear and the slow-down when multiple enemies were on screen made me wish that I had picked up a PlayStation 3 version of the game, though I don’t know necessarily if it would have been that much better. The slow-down isn’t enough to make the game unplayable during combat, but it definitely makes it a bit more of a slog to work through.
Acquire’s Akiba’s Trip is a unique kind of game. It’s not quite as open world as I would like it to be, and it suffers from some issues like repetition in enemy and environment, while the graphical side of the game could definitely use some optimization. Regardless, the game is surprisingly entertaining because it’s not very often that you can run around, beat people up and steal their clothing in such an amusing fashion, or laugh out loud at the silliness of some of the characters in the game.
But perhaps most importantly, Akiba’s Trip is not meant to be taken seriously, evident from the subtle breaking of the fourth wall and the descriptions of items. It’s the kind of the game that you can sit back and enjoy with an open mind, and be immersed in a world that seems so alien to western society.