There are a lot of games out there that say they're Japanese-inspired and try using that as a focal point. In the case of Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed that's actually the game's core focus. Japanese developer Acquire has created a game that provides an in-depth look at the culture in Japan's Akihabara district, focusing on the various anime, manga, fashion and video games trends that take place in the region.
The idea itself is interesting enough, but a video game needs more than just that to make it worthwhile. Akiba's Trip relishes in that weirdness but due to some issues doesn't quite fulfill its promise to its full potential.
You take the role of an average otaku teenager who happens to have a penchant for figurines. After seeing an ad on "Pitter" (the game's parody version of Twitter) for work in exchange for rare figurines you end up drugged and in the early process of turning into a "Synthister", essentially like a vampire with the daylight side-effect but stealing people's energy instead of blood and eventually becomes driven by their impulses. After being saved by a mysterious young woman named Shizuku who is able to keep the mental side effects of the transformation at bay, you join up with your group of friends in an attempt to take down the Synthister threat that's threatening Akihabara.
One interesting twist is that while the main character is male and fits the otaku stereotype initially (although in a New Game+ run you can choose any character model, including female characters), the developers gave the player some leeway in how they can mold the character to fit their own ideals better. You have essentially three options: considerate, womanizing and the stereotypical otaku response. The responses you get from people as the game goes on change in response to those choices, which makes replays interesting if you want to change up your responses. Amusingly enough, this ability even leads to an early-game "game over" if you know what options to choose which was an amusing touch.
Keeping with the otaku culture idea, Acquire thoughtfully decided to mix the seriousness of the overall plot with some downright quirky segments to lighten up the mood. Part of this has to do with the relationship system that lets you court from a select group of the female characters based on what choices you make to their questions and how often you invite them along with you in the various quests you embark on. Once these relationships have been leveled up enough they lead to scenes where both characters try courting each other, often quite awkwardly.
These antics run into some issues when the actual gameplay comes into focus, however. When combatting the Synthisters, you engage in hand-to-hand combat. Pressing the triangle button hits high, the circle button hits medium-high and the cross button hits low. After dealing enough damage to a specific region you can attempt to strip off that enemy's clothing and add it to your collection, which requires stripping enough clothing to obtain a 100% success rate without ripping them. On the flip side, since you're also partially a Synthister you'll burn up and die if you get all your clothing ripped off.
In theory these gameplay mechanics make sense but Akiba's Trip plays all of its mechanics out too early so battles becomes a matter of rote repletion which is made worse by the odd bouts of slowdown in the digital PS3 version I played. The enemies aren't affected by said slowdown, so there were times when I ended up with a couple-hundred damage because I couldn't block fast enough due to the slowdown. This generally only occurs only when the game puts a ton of enemies on the screen so it isn't too often but it's an annoyance when it does occur.
The stripping mechanics also feel half-heartedly implemented as there's no easy way to see how much more damage you need to strip an article of clothing outside of it flashing once it's dealt enough damage. Battles later in the game seemed artificially inflated even with the improved gear and weapons I had acquired and felt like they took forever.
Getting to these battles is also a bit of a chore. Going between each area requires a 5-10 second loading screen each and every time. You do get the ability to quick-travel between areas after going to them once, but the actual areas don't have a map so you'll end up running from one section to another to track down the quest marker which only appears once you get close enough to it. There are a few quests that also specify a specific store but since the signs are in Japanese, you'll have to endure loading screens going in and out of each shop until you find the right one you're looking for.
Because of this I ended up skipping most of the non-important side quests because it wasn't worth the effort. Supposedly the PS4 version fixes most of these issues, but that won't be till later this year and the issue still remains in the PS3 and Vita version.
One thing that should be mentioned is the excellent localization by XSEED Games. The publisher did a full voice-over for the English dub, although the original Japanese voice-overs can be selected if one desires. The writing is quite playful and references the stereotypes present in the game without making them feel overdone and annoying. XSEED also includes some male strip portraits for the more important boss fight-level enemies to go along with the female strip portraits that existed in the original Japanese version.
The upcoming PS4 version will fix some of the gameplay issues, but there's still a simplistic sense to the gameplay mechanics and the discovery and lack of motivation to do the repetitive side quests puts a damper on the quirkiness that Akihabara brings to the table. This trip is generally good, but some of its stops could have been excluded or modified for the better.
|Great localization by the publisher.|
|Storyline walks the line between wacky and serious quite well.|
|Both fanservice and manservice.|
|Grating loading time issues on PS3 and PlayStation Vita.|
|Hard to tell when you can successfully strip someone's clothing.|
|Occasional slowdown issues.|