Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed (Vita)

The day it was announced that Akiba's Trip was being localized (i.e. translated into English and brought over to the Western world) was a surprising one indeed.  Considering the subject matter, which will easily offend people (not to mention seems quite pervert-ish), the publisher took a risk.  The other interesting thing is that "Akiba's Trip" can be read as "Akiba Strip"... which I guess was the intention.  One thing to note is that this is actually the second game in the series as the original Akiba's Trip was on the PSP, released only in Japan.

Anyway, enough musing.  Akiba's Trip is a Vita game which is also available for the PS3 and PS4.  All three versions are the same with no noticeable differences in gameplay or content.  Unfortunately, they are not cross-buy but on the plus side, they have three separate trophy lists.  There are two things about the game that makes it stand out.  The first is that it depicts an accurate depiction of the real Japanese suburb Akihabara.  For those not in the  know, Akihabara is famous for being a shopping distract filled with video games, anime, manga and computer goods.

Akihabara is faithfully represented in digital form and fully explorable.  The enjoyment increases if you have been to Akihabara and you recognize landmarks and buildings as you play the game.  The second standout point is something that's... either going to put you off or not.  The protagonist will constantly strip people down to their undergarments (and occasionally to stark naked, the game is censored though so there's bright light covering them).  The whole game is centered on this mechanic and the reason given is that Akiba's infested with vampires, whom you must destroy by exposing them completely into the sun.

This is actually a plausible premise.  The game isn't as bad as it sounds as it takes on a lighthearted and humorous approach rather than a perverted one.  Nevertheless, the game does have some flaws which hold it back.  Exploring Akiba is awesome and all but it is broken up into smaller segments which are separated by a loading screen.  These segments are fairly small and it is annoying when loading screens takes a few seconds each time.  Pop-in is a serious issue, I am not sure if the game was compromised due to the Vita's weaker hardware but NPCs always take a few moments after the area has loaded in order to come onscreen.

The draw distance is not very good either, making finding NPCs to start sidequests harder than it should be.  Combat is awkward and not easy to master.  The basic controls are intuitive, three of the face buttons correspond to an attach to a particular area:  head, torso or legs.  The fourth button is for a jump and you can block.  Sounds good right?  However, it is not as simple as mashing a button and enemies can gang up on you and wipe you out with consecutive attacks.

The game doesn't do a fantastic job of explaining the game mechanics; it gives you the basics for sure but doesn't fully show you how things work.  Once you've bashed a particular piece of clothing enough, you can strip them of it and it becomes quite cool when you "chain strip".  Chain stripping is rapidly stripping enemies' clothing through a quick time event.  It can end up with a finisher that is quite hilarious (and causes the enemies to become fully naked).  With all that said, the battle system is still clunky especially when you fall down and want to get back up, enemies may now allow you by rapidly bludgeoning you to death.

Playing on higher difficulties will mean you end up using countering tactics most of the time due to enemies constantly dodging and dragging out the fight.  This makes it more boring to be honest.  Enemies like to gang up on you, each hitting you multiple times without giving you a chance to react.  For some reason, slow down randomly occurs which makes your button presses out of sync.  You can equip stuff and it is encouraged that you make each piece stronger by fusing other pieces of equipment with it.

If you play on Hard mode right from the get go, you will struggle a little bit and need to reinforce your equipment asap as enemies hit a lot harder (2.5 times the normal rate).  The visuals are pretty good and contain a fair amount of detailing.  It captures Akihabara quite well right down to the advertisements.  It's accurate that way and I'm surprised they managed to secure all the licensing as you end up getting advertisements for stuff like Square Enix games, Hyperdimension Neptunia, Conception II, Sega and PlayStation.  On the Vita version at least, buildings can appear to be blocky and flat but the aesthetics help alleviate this.

The story is lighthearted and never takes itself too seriously.  While it is not horrible interesting, it was passable enough for you to keep playing.  That said, the endings were good and made the whole experience worthwhile.  The actual main story itself is very short, easily able to finish within two hours if you played the story missions one after another.  What makes the game stretch out into the six hours is the sidequests.  You get new sidequests after each story mission.  These are timed too in that if you don't complete them within a few story missions, they disappear for good.

Nonetheless, while the sidequests does not add in any new story elements and are usually fetch quests or fighting huge mobs of enemies, they are fun and you play them for the in-game rewards of cash and equipment.  They're satisfying though.  The story is told via text with 2D artwork and voice-overs.  Akiba's Trip pack in dual audio so you can ether pick Japanese or English voices.  I personally prefer the Japanese version since it feels more natural, that and the fact that I could not stand the little sister's English voice actor.

As mentioned earlier, there are multiple endings, five "true" endings in total, one with each of the female protagonists.  This also means you need to play through the game multiple times to unlock it all.  New Game Plus allows you to transfer your levels and equipment which makes the game much easier and faster to play the next time around.  Further bonuses are unlocked such as oversized character models, invisible clothing mode and dialogue hints.  Overall, Akiba's Trip:  Undead & Undressed is a decent game, provided you overlook the questionable premise.  It is a solid game and while it has its fair share of flaws, I had a lot of fun and it's a game that you can relax on.


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