Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound and Debriefed — ugly and unenjoyable

Remasters have become increasingly common over the last few generations of consoles, bringing older titles to modern hardware with varying levels of graphical improvements. PSP remasters, however, aren’t exactly common — of the few that exist, Final Fantasy Type-0 did a decent job at updating the game’s visuals overall, and Conception Plus: Maidens of the Twelve Stars featured some noticeably improved character models and artwork.

As for Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed… things are decidedly less positive. Despite some changes to the 2D assets, this is still just a bad port of a decade-old game.

Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed is set in Akihabara, an area in Japan known for its focus on otaku culture. For whatever reason, sun-hating vampires (or Shadow Souls are they’re known here) seem to be using Akihabara as part of their plans for controlling humanity. One of them ends up attacking your friend, leaving you for dead in the process.

After being revived by a mysterious girl and turned into a Shadow Soul yourself, you’re “recruited” — read: captured and threatened — by an organisation named NIRO. NIRO are supposedly fighting against the Shadow Souls for the noble purpose of saving humans, but their shady introduction doesn’t inspire much confidence. Either way, the protagonist must work with his friends, the Akiba Freedom Fighters, and NIRO to find out the truth behind the Shadow Souls’ presence in Akihabara.

Akiba's Trip Hellbound & Debriefed Rui

It’s a somewhat goofy premise, made even weirder by the various characters you’ll interact with during the story. Considering the game’s setting, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’ll run into various otaku, maids, and other larger-than-life characters — in fact, this is probably the best part of Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed. Its not going to be for everyone, but the solid characterisation and interactions between the cast do a good job at keeping the otherwise simple plot interesting.

Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same for everything else. Visually, barely anything has been done to make the game presentable on even the Switch’s screen. UI elements have been given some updates, and character art is higher resolution than in the PSP original — everything else though is downright ugly. Taking a game that looked OK on the relatively small screen of Sony’s handheld then increasing the resolution was never going to end well without any improvements to character models or textures.

Exploration is also hampered by the original hardware Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed was made for. Each area of Akihabara is tiny, often just being a short street with a couple of shops. There’s very little to actually do outside of beating up Shadow Souls or buying items, which makes the constant backtracking and searches for specific things even more tedious. Adding to this are the noticeable framerate issues in certain areas, something that really should not be an issue for a game that looks like this.

Akiba's Trip Hellbound & Debriefed exploration

But if Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed’s exploration is boring and lacking much variety, combat is downright abysmal. With Shadow Souls being weak to the sun, battles revolve around stripping your opponents before they can do the same to you (because of course they do). This takes the form of simple three button attacks and blocking. Each attack button relates to a certain body part, letting you wear down a specific piece of clothing before attempting to strip it off. If multiple clothes are weakened, you can quickly strip them off by performing multiple QTEs.

It’s an incredibly basic battle system, even once you’ve visited a few shops and gained new moves, and things often devolve into button mashing. Any real chance for skilful play is thrown out of the window thanks to the awful lock-on and janky hit detection. Your character often swings wildly in the wrong direction — something that happens even more frequently when multiple enemies are on screen. There’s little fun to be had, even if you can dress up in stupid outfits and beat people up with a baguette.

Akiba's Trip Hellbound & Debriefed combat

It’s hard to really see who Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed is aimed at. People that were put off by some of the issues in Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed aren’t going to play its even jankier predecessor, and £34.99 is a steep asking price even for someone that might be interested in trying this out. If you’re desperate to see the series’ origins, then this might be worthwhile — just go in with appropriately low expectations!

This review of Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed is based on the Switch version — the game is also available now on PS4 and PC via Steam and GOG. Thanks to Marvelous Europe for supplying a review code.

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Isaac Todd
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