Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed Review

Developer: Acquire
Distributor: NIS
Platform: PS3, PS Vista
Release Date (Australia): 16th October, 2014

Pros:
-Lovable characters
-Witty, humorous dialogue
-Outstanding soundtrack
-Gorgeous cinematics
-Uniquely fun and original

Cons:
-Awkward camera movements
-Outdated in-game graphics
-Frequent loading screens
-Unfair combat scenarios
-Difficult fight mechanics

Verdict: 9.5 (out of 10)

For over ten years, I have been a fan of Anime films and television programs, but until now I have not attempted to become involved in an anime video game. Perhaps some may question why my first foray into anime gaming would be Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed, however, the originality of the product, not to mention its attractive atmosphere, gorgeous female warriors and hilariously witty and intelligent dialogue, is sure to captivate a vast quantity of people. Right from the opening, the game feels a lot like an Anime television series, with a beautiful introductory movie clip introducing each of the major characters, while an entertaining musical score and impressive vocal talent delightfully peaks your interest at what awaits you on your journey.

The graphics of the cinematics however do not last. Although cinematics play a large role in the game, which is an incredibly loquacious piece of fiction, they are an alternate variety than what you may have come to expect from other titles. The game itself fades out into the background as the characters are displayed in front of you. Only their eyes and mouth move, and their faces employ a wide array of emotion, conveying embarrassment, happiness, grief or anger, with their dialogue textually appearing beneath them. After these occurrences, the game returns to normal, the graphics experienced during the exploration and fight scenes being rather dull in contrast with games today, the eyes of the characters especially, when visible, appearing rather alien and lifeless. Despite the graininess of the image, it does retain a great depth of brightness and vibrant beauty, although the fact the game was originally released in Japan a year ago clearly illustrates that by today’s standards, it is unable to compete with the flare that games are displaying now on the new consoles.

When walking down the street, despite the comic style setting, you cannot deny the feeling of reality which coats the world around you as you explore and take in the sights. This however comes with its own limitation. Unlike in FarCry 2 and 3, where the entire world was explorable, and very rarely did you even see a loading screen, in Akiba’s Trip, you frequently bump into areas which require loading (you also bump into a lot of people too, but that’s a different story). The city is separated into districts, and each one requires a short period to load before you can gain access. This can be somewhat avoided with the use of fast travel, however, as with many titles, these areas need to be initially unlocked.

Set in the technologically profound, and entertainingly captivating location of Akihabara, Akiba’s Trip is one of those titles that falls into the love or hate category. It also requires the gamer not to ask many questions, for even suspending your disbelief over the course of the game will potentially leave you with a variety of queries. Providing a unique take on the vampire genre, Akiba’s Trip, rather than conceiving the normally unsettling atmosphere one might assume for a game in this genre, throws you into a world which is always bright and sunny.Referred to as ‘synthisters’, the man made vampires you encounter, rather than consuming blood, devour energy, and how they were made, and for what reason, alongside how they can be possibly stopped, are three of the major plot points which push the game forward. Moreover, rather than the stereotypical stakes and garlic one might expect to find attached to our company of ‘freedom fighters’, sunlight is the primary weapon of choice, and apparently, the best way to stop a vampire’s rampage, is to strip them down to either their panties, or their tighty whitey’s, and watch the exposure to the sun obliterate them.

When battling agaisnt an enemy, often they come equipped with head gear, a top, and bottoms, each piece of their attire having to take substantial damage, before it is capable of being ripped clean off. If several enemies have weakened attires, the player is able to chain strip, meaning, by following the key prompts, the character can automatically strip several pieces of clothing one after another, rendering the enemy less problematic. The way in which clothing is entertainingly removed can be altered by applying different combat skills to your person, which can be obtained from reading material. The best possible comparison I can think of is The Matrix, where knowledge on fighting is uploaded to the character’s minds. Additionally, you are, later in the campaign, able to activate special combat styles after attaining enough juice from battle, which deals extreme damage to enemies, and often reverberates onto others in the immediate vicinity. How a vampire can run around without a top and suffer no excruciating pain from the sunlight is beyond me though. How the bodies of the attackers are not damaged by the excessive blows they take, or how exactly the clothes can be removed in the fashion that they are, all very interesting questions that come equipped with no answers. Like I said; this is a game that you are meant to enjoy, rather than consistently analyze.

Fighting during the game is very basic, with each attack connected to a single key on your controller. To attack head gear, press the triangle; for the torso, use the circle, and for anything beneath the belt, use the ‘x’. However, what makes combat an unnecessary challenge, are the camera angels. Although you can personally pivot the camera anywhere you want, during combat this becomes a nuisance, when your primary focus is the deterioration of your enemy’s attire. On more than one occasion, the enemy fell out of the frame, and I was unable to see how much damage, if any, I was inflicting. On top of this, if you happen to begin moving out of a general area, say, into a side street, off the beaten track, the position of the camera will become similar to a bird’s eye view, something which cannot be manually altered unless you move out of the immediate area. Additionally, battle mechanics in general can appear rather difficult, and although the controls are easy to master, employing them appropriately is a different struggle altogether. On countless occasions, when attempting to confront one particular enemy, the character instead attacked another. It would have been an idea to have a way to aim your attacks at a specific target. Instead, over the course of the game, you inevitably, inadvertently, attack, on occasion, complete strangers. This happened a number of times to me whilst patrolling the streets, in which I accidentally happened to find himself in a fist fight with an officer of the law, rather than an enemy synthister, an act which subsequently led to my arrest.

Combat in general is already made quite challenging by the fact that rarely is there only one opponent you face down, with often, anywhere between four and eight plus assailants getting in your way. Although you usually enter a fight with an NPC (non-playable character (for the uninitiated)) beside you, even the assistance they provide is unable to quell the steady advance of the opposition, who appear to, on many an occasion, be equipped with better equipment than you. Moreover, during combat, you are unable to alter what weapons or clothes you happen to have on your person, but you are able to repair your attire at the press of a button to replenish all that was lost to damage. However, this slow process always leaves you vulnerable. Although some could argue this is equal to a healthy challenge, there is a point when a challenging scenario becomes intolerably unfair, and appears to be a developer’s way of making a game last for a greater period of longevity than it would without the frequently overbearing battles.

Attempting to thwart the threat of the synthisters however occasionally seems to be not as pertinent as building relationships. During the game, you portray Nanashi, and rather than being the quintessential hero one may expect, he is rather, a geek, unfortunate enough to be transformed into a synthister. He, along with his friends, who form the Akiba Freedom Fighters, their base of operations held at the gaming venue MOGRA, take it upon themselves to try and save the city. Although the player’s name can be altered, and during conversation, when subtitles appear, the other characters refer to you as the name you provide yourself, the physicality, and features of Nanashi cannot be changed, which I found a little restrictive. If it is any conciliation however, your character is able to frequently alter their chosen attire.

Over the course of the game, there are a number of (gorgeous) female characters, including the mysterious Shizuku, the multi-talented Rin, the athletic Tohko, the well presented Shion, and the foreign Kati, either of whom your character is able to form a romantic attachment with, as long as you don’t stuff up. In Mass Effect, it was mandatory to have conversations with people you wished to romance, and a similar, albeit, more difficult concept is applied here. Rather than alerting you with what is possibly the best response when prompted to say one of three possible sentences, the game challenges you to realize which statement or answer would best attract the woman you are attempting to woo.

The dialogue options the game provides to you are not necessarily separated into good or bad, but often have varying degrees of sarcasm or sexual innuendo attached, and it is up to you to decide how you want to be viewed. In Mass Effect, the most positive comment was always located at the top, while the most bad ass were at the bottom. Such a technique is not applied here, with options always been randomized in their location. Occasionally you can appear humble, violent, or even laid back, but again, many a response comes equipped with its own pros and cons. Luckily, the game does assist you in tallying how well your rapport is with each available woman. By communicating with Yuto, a young man who considers himself an expert on the female psyche, he notifies you where each woman stands, and appears only too happy to admit when they feel nothing at all – sick bastard!

At times I felt constrained by the often lacking opportunity to speak, and I occasionally wished to be granted the option of retaliating agaisnt attacks directed towards my character. This was especially true with regards to the character Kaito, who not only had sarcastic quips to make about my efforts, but was trying to move in on my territory and steal my Shizuku! That dirty mongrel! I hiss inappropriately in his direction!

On the other hand, there was something undeniably poetic about much of the dialogue, for not only Nanashi and the other freedom fighters, but for the enemy as well, with a beauty that swept you up in the motivations and passions of the characters. At times, even the player could not help but relate, and understand the reasoning behind antagonist’s decisions, which not only made them enjoyable as bad guys, but an interesting contrast to the heroes.

One of the best characters however had to be Nana, Nanashi’s ‘adorable little sister’ as she called herself, who, apart from having some of the best witty punch lines and responses, was also capable of advantageously crafting new material. Been able to splice together several garments to create a more durable outfit, or even merge a number of ‘weapons’ to make them more efficient in combat. The fact there was no limit to how many items could be merged into one, ensured these upgrades could immeasurably assist in making your character’s offensive abilities more powerful, and their resilience to attacks exceptionally impressive. On a side note, notice the quotations around weapons? Well, the equipment you offensively use to smite your enemies in Akiba’s Trip are not the stereotypical variety one may be used to seeing. Although there is a collection of boxing gloves, balls, bats, swords, sticks and umbrellas to choose from, there are also brooms, guitars, posters, monitors and laptops, with basic home made appliances and everyday utensils been customized for combat. Depending on the size and shape of the weaponry will also weigh heavily on how your maneuverability is affected in combat.

Unlike in other games, upon finding a new dress or weapon, you can instantly fix it to your person without having to worry about the level you are on. Taking part in the main quest is only able to progress you so far, and it is during the side quests and the battle arena, that the player is able to acquire better equipment. Side jobs, including hunting down synthisters, communing with everyday citizens, and helping people with basic dilemmas, not only provides you with money, and a degree of popularity amongst the locals, but almost always results in some kind of fight that allows you an opportunity to find equipment. The same goes for the battle arena, and as you progress forward, you are able to fight stronger opposition. If finding items becomes a little strenuous, you can simply buy something from one of the many stores, however the prices do seem a little exorbitant, although as I live in a country where we use ‘dollars’, I’m unsure how much the ‘yen’ is actually worth in contrast.

Annoyingly enough though, side quests come equipped with a time limit, and you are only made aware of this by checking on social media. During game, you are provided with an e-mail account, which people use to contact you, and a Pitter profile, that allows you to keep up to date with public opinion. The level of detail which has been applied to the social media spectrum of the game is amazing, with there been a huge abundance of Plips, each one feeling as though it could have easily been written by a real world individual. On top of this, Akiba’s Trip makes use of apps, with one such nifty gadget you are provided having the capacity to tell who is a synthister. By taking a picture with your camera, you are able to tell the fake people from the real, and attack the enemy on site, wherever they may hide.

Moving on, the game’s ending happens to arrive very fast, so much so, it is almost unexpected. One second you are attempting to decipher how you might thwart the enemy, and the next, you are in the midst of the final boss encounter, striving to secure a resolution. In a game running for ten plus hours, the conclusion seems to settle out of nowhere after experiencing a storyline which seemed to indicate it would build to something considerably longer. This however is not a criticism, the ending maintaining the same consistent feel as the rest of the product, and unlike many American games, does not leave you up in the air, but ends conclusively, although I might recommend you invest in a box of tissues. Once the game has been finished, a wealth of benefits are unlocked, which resolve a number of the quandaries that some gamers (myself included) may have had with the original play through. If anything though, it is sad to say goodbye to the characters, who were excellently and wholeheartedly conceived. But like any good friend, the characters never truly leave, and at the insert of a disc, they will gratefully return.

Akiba’s Trip is a uniquely fun experience, and although some could refer to it as a perverted storyline, the unyielding humor consistently reminds you not to take yourself too seriously when embarking on this adventure. Moreover, despite been occasionally predictable, and although revisiting the same locations, and fighting in similar areas can become repetitive, the wealth of options at your disposal regarding what weapon you could use makes almost every encounter different. Additionally, the option of choosing which NPC to accompany you (something which is occasionally provided) allows you to not only experiment with who is the most physically adept team member, but grants you the opportunity to potentially get even closer to the Goddess you are trying to ensnare. If you are looking for a fun, comedic adventure, with little emphasis on explanation and contemporary issues, and a strong emphasis on romance and butt kicking, look no further than Akiba’s Trip, which is sure to quench your appetite for all things crazy and unreal.

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