Otaku culture is one of the most polarizing aspects of gaming fandom in the west. Some people love it, some people hate it, and even more think it is weird/creepy/add your own adjective. But does that stop the Japanese or make them care? Not a chance. Say hello to Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed, one of the more wacky, T&A games to hit the western market from Otakuland.
Right away it needs to be said this is not an adult, triple-X game, despite what the name and advertisements tease. You take over the role of an Otaku who gets tricked into a weird experiment that turns you into a vampire. If you think that is bad, then wait until you’re told there are tons of other vampires walking around. Yeah, just ignore the whole sunlight thing, at least partially. To defeat these artificial creations you’re tasked with beating the clothes off of them. That is not an idiom—we’re 100% serious. While the idea is unique, especially with the idea of stripping enemies to death, it is not a story that will ask deep philosophical questions. It helps you get to point B from A, and a reason why you’re beating random people up on the street.
Obviously there is no nudity in the game; rather, you reduce enemies down to their underwear. One of the game mechanics allows you to try and figure out who is a vampire and who is a human, but anyone can be attacked on the street by simply pushing them, kind of like a reverse Yakuza moment for fans of that series. If it is a vampire they evaporate, but if human they just run away in embarrassment or slap you in the face. These fights are how you get your XP and random loot in a semi-open world environment based around the Akihabara district in Tokyo.
You don’t have to physically strip off the clothes of enemies, as simply mashing buttons will degrade their HP to zero and they’ll tear apart. Stripping them, however, boosts your XP and also allows gives you the ability to take them as your own. An added rouge-like touch is the enemy can do the same to you, as remember, you are also a vampire. Lose your shirt and it is gone forever, adding a bit of tenseness on higher difficulties when wearing the best threads in your inventory. With your partner, players have the ability to do double-team strip attacks which are like instant kills. Once the partner gauge hits full a simple push of the up button on the D-Pad activates it.
Having been to Akihabara while attending the Tokyo Game Show last year, it was very cool how the developers fully created the district. The buildings seen in the game are real, circa the development cycle. Stores I saw while exploring in real life I was able to see exactly in the digital world. It is surprisingly fun to get a flyer for over 100 real-life shops in the game, and then go street fighting in front of them. It is also a nice piece of loyal fan service asking you to go visit them when in the area.
This is the double-edged aspect of Akiba’s Trip. This is a game made for otakus and lovers and Akihabara. If you have zero interest in Akihabara then the architecture, the in-game advertisements for other games, and the general wackiness that requires a suspension of belief as you beat someone up with a computer monitor, all go to waste. Flip it around and all the otakus, or at least people who are indifferent, can enjoy the creativity. At moments I’d stop running around to just watch the game ads being played on a giant billboard, which immediately had me flashing back to a similar trick in the PlayStation One classic, Syndicate Wars and their Ghost in the Shell trailer. It was also surreal seeing the ad for Disgaea 4 on the Vita, a game I was reviewing at the exact same time.
One of the best parts of the game that is helping Acquire set their products apart from the rest of the JRPG moshpit is their voice acting department. When I reviewed their recent release, Mind Zero, it was one aspect that I made a point of mentioning, and I am doing it here again. The MVP of this cast is your otaku sister who is able to pull off a tsundere vibe while staying more deadpan in tone than Cho from the hit TV show, The Mentalist. With multiple endings, multiple partners, and multiple difficulty settings allowing for lots of replayability, the excellent voice acting is an added bonus.
This is not some graphical beast though, and honestly, if you’re wanting to play the game because of seeing people in their underwear then save the $40 and download some free porn. You’ll get more bang for that buck that way. The visuals are decidedly lower-tier, and as such this hampers the game world. I can understand the reasoning as it is cheaper to make a game look PS2-gen, as the Yakuza Kabukicho treatment can be pricey. But it is a shame the kingdom of gaming culture didn’t get a better showing. It gets the job done, and that’s it. One additional annoyance was the way the weapon models were molded onto the characters. They just kind of float there, unattached, and move in sync with the character. Something like that I don’t understand as the gap is pretty wide and takes away from the immersion experience.
The musical score for the game is kind of non-existent at times due to the style of gameplay. The developers decided to give as much of an authentic real-world experience as they could by not having music play in the background when walking the streets. Instead you hear the noise of walkers-by and also those sweet, sweet in-game ads popping up where select buildings have the big screen. I realized the music couldn’t be all that bad as I didn’t find myself lowering the volume control in the heat of combat; a definite step-up from Mind Zero by not sounding like generic, shrill metal that kind of drones everything out. Overall, it does the basics of playing a catchy, blood pumping beat, and that is all.
Needless to say, if you have a problem with T&A, or are the over-sensitive type, I’d avoid picking this up right away. For those that keep an open mind and don’t take game plots overly serious, a fun RPG can be found in this game. Is it perfect? Far from it, and while it has some flaws like the story and graphics, it is still fun and will make you feel like you’re in Akihabara.