Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed Review
It's very hard to describe a game like Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed. The nearest comparison I can give is that it is similar to Sega's Yakuza series. Instead of Shinjuku, you will explore the Otaku Mecca: Akihabara or Akiba. The trip, however, is not without its flaws.
Platform(s): PS3, PS Vita, Ps4
Publisher: Xseed Games
Developed by: Acquire
Genre(s): Adventure, Beat 'em Up, RPG
Release Date(s): August 12, 2014 (Ps3,Vita)/ December 2014 (PS4)
Rating: M for Mature
(Quick Note: I'm reviewing the PS3 version of the game.)
Tour Japan from your chair.
My recent history with beat 'em ups is with Sega's Yakuza series, and it was a incredible beat 'em up - with brutal finishers and a near replica of Japan's Shinjuku district. It was like a virtual tour in Japan. When I heard that this game would be similar in that aspect, but with the famed Otaku Mecca of Akihabara or Akiba, I just had to see if that would hold up to that promise. That was the preconception I had when going into Akiba's Trip (or Akiba Strip, take your pick). In short, it does keep that promise somewhat.
Vampire, Otakus, and Stripping, Oh my!
The story itself is not too great, but I can't help but feel absorbed into the world. You play as an Otaku, (default named Nanashi, meaning "No Name") who was lured with the promise of a limited-edition figurine. Needless to say, things go sour real fast. You awake, tied up to a table, and you're about to have your essence stripped from you. And not in the good way. Here, you get your first dialogue choices like in a Visual Novel game. This gives you an insight into what your character is like. Xseed's localization team pokes fun at the Otaku stereotype, either by depicting you as a materialistic person who follows his desire, or as a normal Otaku who retains his common sense. Mostly, the dialogue choices are divided into either the normal, the expanded/suave, or the downright silly/perverted responses.
Thankfully, you're saved by a cool beauty named Shizuku Tokikaze and receive your first tutorial mission. This is where it starts to get ugly. Combat is simple, but very stiff. You attack: either a high, mid, or low attack. Each targets either the head, body, or feet. There is no health bar like in other typical beat 'em-ups. Instead, your clothing is the health bar. Each time you damage any article of clothing worn by your enemy, you raise the chance of it being stripped. Yes, stripping clothes is the main focus of this game. Since your enemies are "Synthisters", the only way to destroy them is to expose them to the sun by destroying their clothes.
This mechanic also applies to you. If you take too much damage, you can be stripped, and it's game over. Thankfully, you can retry again if you do. They won't penalize you if you die, so don't worry. Also, when you hold L1, you can fix your clothes and regain all your clothes HP. A nice feature to have.
Where did they go?
Another bad point is the camera. It doesn't adjust to you when fighting. The camera stays in the angle that you had it when the fight began. For example: if you attack an enemy and push that enemy towards the screen, it doesn't adjust to place the camera behind you. Therefore, you can't see the enemy. You have to adjust the camera manually with the right stick in battle. That is just no good. It feels awkward - and in battle, you can't afford to do that. There is something to help relieve that, but it is not perfect. R1 resets the camera behind you, but it also toggles your defensive stance, which automatically dodges any any attack, except heavy unblockable attacks. When you hold it once, it goes to the stance, so you would have to double tap R1 quickly in battle. This gets real troublesome, especially when dealing with a crowd of opponents. Personally, this doesn't feel right because I believe you need to have a camera that works with you, not one that is solely dependent on you.
Welcome to the Freedom Fighters
To sum up the intro, you protect Shizuku from a blow and are gravely injured in the process. She makes a blood contract with you that saves your life. However, you become her familar. Then it shows you that you are a part of the Akiba Freedom Fighters, a volunteer group who patrols Akiba and keeps the peace. You also get introduced to your shut-in sister: Nana, whose dialogue is hilarious. You then meet your comrades in the group. Touka Sagisaka, your childhood friend. Kati Raikkonen, a Finnish exchange student who works as a maid. Kihachi Sugiyama (a.k.a. "Pops"), the manager of the base/game bar, MOGRA. Lastly you meet the Tachibana Brothers: Kaito is the older sibling who is enthusiastic about protecting Akiba, but lacks the brain power. Yuto, the younger sibling, is more composed and has the brains of the group. You then learn who the organization is, who the Synthisters are, and how to finally put a stop them.
There are more characters introduced, but it is up to you to find them. The characters themselves are okay, even if they follow the usual anime tropes that we know. Besides the main heroines, who you can have an ending with, the characters are pretty forgetful. The story is not deep, so don't expect a riveting, complex narrative. To sum it up, Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed has an average storyline, and the only reason to go through it again is to get the multiple endings with the girls.
The Sights and Sounds of Akiba
When you explore the town of Akiba through the main mission or the side quests, there is a lot to see. The towering ads and the stores depicted are real places in Japan. The world also has flyer girls like in Japan. So if you want to get a feeling of what Akiba is actually like, this is as close as you can get in a video game without a plane ticket.
Check out these comparisons of Akiba in-game and in real life:
The locations are separated into their own areas. This is another downside. Every time you go to another area, there is a loading screen. This can be annoying. Also as you can tell, it's not detailed with specks of dust or cracks on the sidewalks. Backgrounds or alleyways are simple copy paste pictures of their real life counterparts. Another issue is about the people roaming about. Usually there are at most 5 types of characters you see, which spawn on loop when you're in the area. In some areas, it can just be simply empty and barren. Xseed said that this is fixed in the PS4 version, so wait if you want the improvements.
When fighting or travelling in these areas, the frame rate drops and becomes jagged. This is especially true when there are multiple people on screen. The game freezes as well. I only had two freeze ups in my first playthrough of 30 hours, but it's wise to save when you have a chance.
ACQUIRE decided wisely to go with an anime, cartoon-model look for the visuals. The highlight of the visuals are the conversations that come up in the story. Like with the Disgaea series, the portraits of the characters are great. The CG sets keep the feel of the moment. If you like Disgaea, this is right up your alley.
Concept of the main character, Touka, and Shizuku.
The voice acting is a big plus. The game is dual audio, so you can keep the original Japanese voice cast if you want. Surprisingly, the dub is very well done. When the moment asks for it, the actors really capture the scene. There has been hate on Nana's English voice acting, saying it is too monotone and flat, where the Japanese voice is bubble and cute. I say give it a chance. For me, it grew and I appreciated it in due time. Again, it's all preference.
Fan Service to Go Around
This game is Otaku bait, as I like to call it. You will like this game if you are a gamer, an admirer of Japanese culture, or an anime/manga lover and so forth. Other audiences may find themselves alienated or disgusted by this game. This game is about stripping people's clothes off, after all. Some may even say that this is the "most despicable game ever", which is not true. You have to understand the cultural difference between the U.S./Europe and Japan. Besides, we have seen far worse than this in the industry.
It's Culturally Aware
One thing I like to point out is that this game is pretty much self-aware. If you seen any anime of late or familiar with the culture, you will recognizes the these ads .
Hyper Dimension Neptunia
Even the side quests pay tribute to the past. One quest giver directly quotes Final Fantasy 10: "Listen to my story. This may be our last chance." In one dialogue choice, it even says "Well EXCUSSEEE me, Princess". The script of this game is full of references and laugh out loud moments, which I love and would like to thank Xseed's localization team for. Another fan service tribute is the finishing strips. There are about 10 strip styles. One style even pays tribute to Fist of the North Star, as you do Hokuto's Fist of Penitence. See if you can spot all of the parodies and tributes to anime.
Then of course there's the "ecchi" fan service. You will be stripping both male and female down to their underwear. You may even strip them of their underwear. When you strip a chain of more than 8 articles of clothing, you will do a sentai-style finish and blind them to the light, literally.
I'm not joking. There's a trophy called "Let 'Em Dangle"
Xseed said that they will include both Male and Female strip portraits in the game, so it would be fair on both sides.
What You'll be Doing During Your Stay
Overall, this is a short game. You will explore the city, do some side quests in between main quest missions. After finishing with a side quest, you go to the main quest, head back to MOGRA to trigger the next story or cut scene and repeat. There is also an encyclopedia to fill up, so if you want to complete it, more replay value for you. A small detail to take note is your weapons and clothes. You can use hand drills, wooden swords, a sniper rifle, capsule machine, all sorts of weapons. You can then upgrade it by heading to your sister Nana and synthesizing the material. For your fusion, you will get the title of Alchemist. Yes, that is a Full Metal Alchemist reference. This can be done for your clothes as well. But like with any RPG, you will only go for the one that has the highest stats, so the clothes and weapons are generally cosmetic.
I finished my first playthrough in 30 hours. I did most of the side quests, completed the battle arena, and story. There is a bit of grinding if you choose to do so. Overall, it's a pretty mundane flow when you play though the game. When you finish and gain New Game + mode, you can change your model to a woman and play as one. However, the story will still perceive you as a guy. Strip Skills, Titles, Encyclopedia, and Strip Portraits are carried over, so you will want to play more than once if you want to get 100%. So with all that said and done, is Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed worth the trip?
There is so much potential in this game, and certain pieces make this trip worth taking. However, it's held back by graphic limitations, framerate drops, a stiff combat system, questionable camera, and lackluster game flow.
The encylopedia and the multiple endings will make you come back for more, and the dual voice over will make you want to listen to both sides. It has good humor and a decent story, just not a strong gameplay aspect. Best to get this on a bargain or rental. A valiant effort. But when it comes to having a virtual tour of Akiba, there is no other game like this one.
+ Great Voice Acting
+ Virtual Tour of Akiba
+ Good Customization
+ Great Humor
+ Good Side Quest System
- Stiff Combat
- Frame Rate Inconsistent
- Bit Too Easy
- Nana's Conversation Minigame
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