Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed Review
One of the newest titles on the market represents a walking advertisement for one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, especially when it comes to gamers such as ourselves. The epicenter of Japanese culture, Akihabara has always been one of those places that brings in a variety of different hobbyists. In Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed, the newest inhabitants inside this haven of nerds more closely resemble the soul-sucking variety.
A vampiric group known as the Synthisters have begun to terrorize the local residents by taking advantage of man’s material greed and turning their passions of all things otaku against them, draining their life force and converting their depleted bodies into one of them - superhuman beings overflowing with quick reflexes and monumental strength. Answering a local ad promising valuable character goods and figurines, our hero (default name Nanashi) finds himself recently Synthister’d.
After refusing to do the dirty deeds of the mysterious figures who made you into what you are now, a strange girl named Shizuku busts in to rescue you and drag our protagonist back to MOGRA, the home base of the Akiba Freedom Fighters who serve to protect the town.
There we find the main character’s tomboy of a childhood friend Touko; the foreigner from Finland, Kati; the twin brothers who are nothing alike, Yuto and Kaito; the CEO of a powerful pharmaceutical company, Shion; and your adorable sis Nana who is simply overflowing with “bro” puns (“Brotaku”, “Brofessor”). Their goal is to stop the looming devastation that threatens their town and everything around it by the Synthisters and the Puppet Master behind them.
Much of the story told in Akiba’s Trip is presented in a visual novel format that includes elements of player choice for plot direction. All of this is presented beautifully thanks to Akio Watanabe of Monogatari fame who did the character designs. Anyone who has watched those shows knows how much focus they place on the expressions, and all of that is represented well here with the sometimes hilarious reactions the characters give in different circumstances.
The character models are nicely detailed with a slight cel shading given to them, helping make Akiba's Trip one of the better looking titles available on the Vita platform. This is backed by the great inclusion of Dual Audio, of which both the Japanese and English dubs are pretty good and serve to keep things engaging.
The game also features dating sim elements, allowing you to choose from a selection of women to hook up with in typical harem fashion. There are five different endings to unlock each including a different relationship route, so the replayability here is solid, even if the story is very by-the-numbers and arguably a little generic given the silliness of its plot hooks, especially if you’ve been keeping up with modern anime as I have.
Although much of the game serves as this amazing recreation of a geek paradise that is Akihabara, a lot of the gameplay centers on its combat. In the style of a brawler, players are able to dish out high, medium, and low attacks using one of the dozens of weapons available in the game. By constantly attacking and weakening a specific section of the body that is clothed, the glowing garment can be stripped, exposing the Synthister to direct sunlight and destroying them like any good vampire.
By weakening groups of enemies, extended stripping combos can be carried out, driven by QTE-tapping sequences, which also builds an experience multiplier to help one level up quicker. Once the QTE combo hits its artificial peak, the player has the ability to remove not only the clothing but even the underwear from the enemy (which is censored via the infamous “White Pillar of Light”). There are different fighting styles to unlock to make these sequences more entertainment, like one that makes you look like Jackie Chan out of “Drunken Master”.
Unfortunately, the combat in Akiba’s Trip is somewhat poor and can be best described as unwieldy, hampered by imprecise controls, confusing button sequences for pulling off the different attacks; the lack of a hard-lock which would come in real handy while surrounded; and the sometimes non-existent hit detection. This left me feeling frustrated at times where I felt that it was the game’s fault that I lost.
Both the equipment and the weapons dropped can all be picked up and, thanks to the lack of an encumbrance system, makes it easy to acquire money to use in the game’s shops and maid cafes. This is where the game truly shines - its sheer amount of items that are obtainable that gives the game a high volume of customization.
You will be able to pick up a huge assortment of hats, glasses, shirts, pants, shoes, accessories - even underwear. Weapons range from paper fans and glow sticks to stop signs and dakimakura (hug pillows). There’s also a relatively deep crafting system, letting you transfer the traits of one weapon or piece of clothing to another, serving as a good really to build up the stats of your character overall.
While it’s great being able to visit these fine establishments (of which a snapshot of the real-life locale is taken and displayed in the background), the only real downside is how few of these places are actually accessible. You can clearly see Sega Arcade and the Gundam Cafe, but you won’t be able to enter their domain. There only appears to be one arcade game to play based around a group of in-game anime characters, but you can’t play on pachinko machines or mahjong or anything like that.
I would hope that if the developers ever plan on making a sequel that they’ll consider bringing more activities into the fold for the player to enjoy. Of course, I am not saying that the game is barren, but much of the game will mostly consist of zipping from one story sequence to the next. Thankfully, there is a New Game Plus that injects some nice bonuses and extras into the game to keep the experience fresh for a bit longer. Just don’t walk in expecting a Yakuza level of interactivity, but that’s honestly asking too much from what is otherwise a faithful representation.
The storefronts themselves are a little disappointing with their low-res textures. Sure, you can tell what they are supposed to be as the developers did a good job in the depiction, but there’s almost no depth to them, making you feel like you’re running around inside of a pop-up book than a living, breathing city. It struck this weird contrast between the higher-resolution 3D models against these cardboard cut-outs.
There is also the rather short draw distance where NPCs that are not too far way appear as these gender-specific cursors that don’t appear unless you run up alongside them (some don’t even appear when that happens. Technically, the game ran smoothly on the Vita, though I did notice some stuttering going on with the PS3 version and slightly longer load times (offset by the assortment of store ads displayed here). If you have to pick one platform over the other, I would personally recommend grabbing this game for the Vita, though the PS4 version set to release later features higher quality graphics and faster load times.
Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is a wonderful experience for a big game and anime nerd such as myself. Not only was it a pure blast being able to walk around the place of my dreams, but I loved seeing the many different in-game ads that feature prominent properties such as Disgaea, Genshiken, Hyperdimension Neptunia, and Super Sonico. If the game’s job was to serve as a tourist trap to give players a good look at the town’s many appealing attractions, it does a wonderful job in that respect
While it may have its fair share of shortcomings, like its clunky combat and relatively few places to visit, there is plenty of here to to enjoy such as the high degree of customization and a script that the translators appeared to have a lot of fun working with. That along with the strong presentation, beautiful art design, and slick UI, there’s plenty here to enjoy and a definite purchase if you’re big into otaku culture. For everyone else, you may want to consider your options a little more carefully more before diving in.