Bare & Despair
If you’re wondering exactly what defines a game like Akiba’s Trip, look no further than the final five characters of its title.This is a distinctly low-rent action-RPG set in the wild and crazy world of Akihabara: Tokyo’s infamous “electric town” that used to house the greatest and most esoteric range of videogame paraphernalia on the planet. Nowadays it’s a mecca for more than a few of the stranger Japanese cultural phenomenons, with narrow streets chock-full of maid cafes, minor cosplay celebrities, anime stores and more porn than your average teenager's hard drive. Unfortunately, it’s this most modern phase of Akihabara that Akiba dials into.
In keeping with the stereotyping of its male denizens, the novelty of Akiba’s Trip is primarily found within its strangely-sexualised mechanics. You don’t just defeat the humanoid forces of darkness here, but you must strip them of all their clothes in the process. Male or female, it doesn’t matter; they all need to end up buff in the mid-day sun, their flesh slowly turning to ash under the guise of being a race of man-made pseudo-vampires. Collecting the leftover underwear is optional, but strongly encouraged by developer Acquire.
HormonesSo yep, it’s a weird one alright. Akiba’s Trip might have made a passable short anime at some stage in its life, but as a videogame it’s just a bit too icky for its own good.
You begin the game as a typical nerdy male teenager, venturing into a dark basement in Akihabara to attend a job interview. Of course, things swiftly go wrong for our primary protagonist, and he soon finds himself strapped to a table and interrogated by a bunch of “Synthisters”, a group comprised largely of overly-dramatic superhumans with an inability to stand direct sunlight for more than a few seconds. He’s soon rescued by a mysterious girl, and the two quickly find themselves part of a ragtag group of “Akiba Freedom Fighters”, waging war on the Synthister menace.
The action that follows adheres to an extremely basic RPG template, with missions branching out into rough approximations of real-life Akihabara locations. Indeed if there’s one thing to praise about Akiba’s Trip, then it’s the clear love for its primary inspiration. Real-world shops are featured heavily throughout the game, whilst the history of the town is discussed at every opportunity. Fake Twitter threads and emails drop into the protagonist's phone every now and then, and those are often cutely-written send-ups of silly message board discussions about pop idols, food outlets and all the other obsessions that define daily life in Akihabara.
Those details add a dash of colour and charm that was badly required, as without them, Akiba’s Trip would have been one of the worst RPGs I can recall in recent console history.
No matter which story beat you’re following, Akiba’s missions always boil down to stilted, dull, slow-paced and laggy combat. Your opponents’ clothing needs to be whittled down with high, middle or low attacks before jumping in to tear them off, which sets off a chain attack in which you can remove any clothing that’s sufficiently weakened. If you manage more than seven pieces of clothing in a single chain you’ll be granted the ultimate “bonus” of having your opponents stripped completely naked, at which point their genitals are covered by a shining light as they dash off into the adjacent streets.
It’s absolutely terrible. Attacks take forever to wind up no matter if you’re fighting with your fists or a computer monitor, and there’s a complete lack of finesse and feedback throughout. Special team-attack strip moves can be performed once or twice in a battle by powering up a meter with your partner, but those quickly become old, with a single individual animation for each of your team members. It’s monotonous even by budget JRPG standards, and the laggy input just compounds the frustration.
BoremonesThe RPG mechanics aren’t that much better. Akiba’s Trip wants you to power through the storyline and side-quests in search of new clothing and weaponry, but those are the only stat-based items that really matter. Your character has an individual level that increases with combat-accrued XP, but I only needed to look at it once or twice in the 11-12 hours I spent in Akihabara. Weapons and clothing can be fused into more powerful versions by asking your little sister to combine them together, but it’s never really that necessary. There’s a massive number of outfits to collect and with which to customise your party, but most of them are worthless, low-level junk.
On a technical level, as a PS4 port, Akiba contains the bare minimum amount of visual tweaking and enhancement you might expect when coming over from a PS3 and Vita original.
Sure it’s running at 1080p, but you’re scarcely able to tell when the world is rendered in such a styleless fashion. Textures are low resolution, animation is sparse, audio cues are mostly terrible, and the whole thing has the feel of a fan-project rather than a fully-developed console title. There’s a welcome option to tinker with the cel-shading hidden amongst the menu system, but despite my very best efforts, none of those sliders could wipe the smudgy, low-rent art production from the screen.
And while I couldn’t shake the feeling of ickyness brought on by constant ogling of Anime flesh and indulgently hormonal dialogue, it’s also worth noting that the overall tone of Akiba’s Trip is less menacing than just really, really weird. There’s a certain teenage innocence to its obsession with jiggling boobs and naked male torsos, although the game does stray into the red zone when doling out the ability to stroke the PlayStation controller and watch your partner’s chest heave up and down as they remonstrate with you via the built-in speaker. Yep, that’s a mechanic.
- Real-life material
- Fake social media discussion
- Terrible combat
- Slim RPG mechanics
- Too weird for its own good
Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed PS4 ReviewNo matter what way you slice into Akiba’s Trip, its themes and gameplay mechanics fail to gel into anything even resembling a mediocre RPG. The procession of combat-based missions quickly become dull, while the storyline plods along a well-beaten path as a vehicle to indulge teenage fantasies.
And yet, there are moments when the charm wins through. The faux-social media discussions of Akihabara's past, present and future are well-written and interesting, while the inclusion of real-life locations, flyers, shops and businesses provide a glimpse into an exotic and interesting location.
It's not enough though. At times, Akiba's strip-heavy gameplay and obsession with naked flesh steps over the line into something just a little too weird for its own good. There's a nugget of enjoyment to be found here, but a fundamental lack of basic polish combines with the icky subject matter to make a videogame worth avoiding.
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