This is a game I imported long long ago when it was first released in Japan on PS3 and PS Vita, convinced that the complicated rights issues surrounding all of the real-life businesses and ads in Akihabara would ensure it would never see an English release (crow is delicious, incidentally, and bravo to XSEED (NA’s publisher) for pulling off what I’m sure must have been an extraordinarily complicated rights issue).
The plot: you are a young nerd running around a crowded part of Tokyo picking fights with strangers and violently tearing their clothes off while yelling to anyone who will listen that it’s cool, it’s because they’re vampires. OK, slightly embellished version of events, but this is likely how any explanation of the game’s actual plot will come across, like if a family member walked in mid-game and wanted to know what the hell you were playing; a lot of the game’s dialogue discusses stripping strangers and will look super-weird without context. And also with context. All of that said, the part about the denizens of Akihabara (Akiba for short, “electric town” for long) being hunted by vampires is true. These vampires are “Synthisters”, and feed off of Akihabarans’ material lust, leaving them more of a lethargic husk than usual. You’re tearing these Synthisters’ clothes off to maximize their exposure to sunlight so their pale bodies disintegrate, you see. I mean why else would you be doing it?
A more detailed plot summary: you are Nanashi, a high school student who responded to an ad promising payment in anime figurines, only to find yourself captured for medical experiments because nothing about being paid with dolls appeared suspicious to you. These experiments render you into a sort of hybrid Synthister/human, still sensitive to sunlight but without the same desire to hunt the innocent, and you are saved by a mysterious parasol-wielding young woman. After an I-swear-it’s-effective-in-the-real-world mouth-to-mouth blood transfusion with her (complete with a pervy dialogue branch option if that’s how you want to play this game) you are reunited and on your merry way with your otaku clique, set to use your new-found powers to rid Akiba of its new menace and perform good deeds as a self-elected neighbourhood watch of sorts.
Fighting in this game is a mostly-straightforward brawler. You have three attack buttons for attacking the upper, middle, and lower areas of your opponents, and deal damage not to them (their inhuman bodies are effectively invincible to physical attacks) but to their clothes; once enough damage is done to an article of clothing, a grapple move can rip off the item in question, and it’s possible to “chain strip” and tear off multiple pieces of clothing (even across multiple targets), allowing you to dispatch larger groups of enemies quickly and effectively, and more stripping-related abilities are systematically revealed to you as the game progresses. On the game’s easiest setting, the need to attack different heights is done away with, allowing you to cruise through the game easily. It’s important to keep on top of the different attack heights, as once an article of clothing has been removed, further attacks to that now-exposed area are wasted energy and accomplish nothing.
The game offers a variety of (not necessarily effective at damaging clothing in the real world) weapons, including baseball bats, microphones, and even comical “electric town” choices like a keyboard, laptop or LCD monitor. You fight almost exactly like you would imagine someone who’s never been in a fight before would, with lots of flailing around and wind-ups to punches which can be seen from a mile away; about the only attacks you can execute with any sort of panache involve the expert disrobing of your foes.
Between fights you also have a smartphone, which on top of being used to access various game settings like saving and loading, and getting to your equipment screen, includes standard smartphone features like a camera, email, and access to a web forum resembling a Twitter chain, authentically created with a variety of users and an unseen post history shaping their current fame (or infamy, as the case may be).
On the off-chance any readers are unaware, Akihabara is a real place, a specific part of Tokyo famous for catering to all manner of otaku, from the anime fanatic to the musical idol fanatic to the PC fanatic. If you want something Japanese and it’s related to either electronics or anime, you’ll almost certainly find it here, and can celebrate your find with a visit to a maid cafe afterwards. Items can be somewhat expensive both in this game and the real world, although you don’t have the luxury of leaving Akihabara in the game to pay less for your goods elsewhere. This game is surprisingly faithful in its recreation of the district, to the point where I was able to locate specific stores because I know where they’re located in the real Akihabara from my few visits there. The game’s original design for the PS3 and Vita has fairly small areas and was notorious for all-too-frequent loading. A fast travel system helps, with various actual Akihabara ads showing during load screens, although you can disable this in the options if desired; despite being someone who would normally be rubbed the wrong way by in-game advertising, in-your-face advertising is an integral part of the Akihabara experience so I’m willing to let this one slide. Many of the ads are no longer relevant anyway, coming from the game’s original Japanese PS3/Vita release, and advertise things like Anime box sets releasing in Japan in late 2013.
Although the interiors of shops are sadly not rendered for you to walk around and browse in (a quick RPG-style menu you order from pops up immediately when you enter one), they nonetheless have plenty of items available to you for the right price, allowing you to both play Dress-Up with Nanashi and get various RPG-style boosts to your attack and defense attributes. You can also change your gait, and have the ability to pay to fuse two items together and get an even more powerful one. Learning what’s available to you will be important when playing on the game’s harder difficulty settings, unless losing the “health” of your clothing in a single hit sounds like a fun time.
The translation is extremely well done, with each character having a speaking style that’s well-adapted from the original Japanese, and is fully aware of the game’s tongue-in-cheek humour. Like the PS3 and Vita versions, both voice and text are available in either English or Japanese. XSEED even went the extra mile in the aim of political correctness; certain boss and boss-like fights would have close-up art if you successfully stripped them, although only with the women in the original Japanese version. XSEED actually hired the game’s original artist and corrected this oversight, and now all boss characters, male and female, feature art like this. The game features multiple possible endings depending on which girls you mainly spend time with and if you say the right things with certain conversation branches.
The biggest issues with this game, aside from its story’s odd nature, stem from its lower-budget status. Even on the PS4 the load times get somewhat frustrating, and it’s occasionally not very obvious what you have to do; I recommend enabling the Map UI setting; mission-critical character names will show in red, making them easier to find in the dense crowds, and it lets you know where area exits are, which isn’t always obvious otherwise, as some areas can be seen from each-other but require loading when crossing the street. Accidentally wandering into the wrong area can be frustrating as you wait for the wrong area to load, and then return to the original area and wait for loading again. It can also be hard to tell whether going down a certain alleyway will reveal more shops and characters, or go into another area. It’s also frustrating as fights frequently occur near area borders, and the camera can become uncooperative if you’re too close to an exit. Some of the mechanics of some missions isn’t obvious, and may require you to fail them once to understand what they’re looking for and then reloading, or checking your “To Do” list for greater detail.
If you’ve played the PS3 or Vita version, there are two immediately obvious differences in the upgraded PS4 version; for one, the random crowds are a lot denser. Still not quite what it actually looks like in Akihabara, but a noted improvement from the ghost town the original versions were. Second, a really annoying slight “hitching” or stuttering on the older versions, due to the older consoles struggling to maintain the texture data, is gone, and the game now runs at a consistent frame rate. This game isn’t a graphical powerhouse, and it probably should have been capable for the PS3 version to run better with the right work put into optimization, but smaller game devs don’t always have the resources to make this happen and the PS4 is at least helping deal with that particular headache. There is also a “toybox” mode new to the PS4 version, which is basically akin to playing a 100% NewGame+ file without having to go through the base game first. You can’t earn trophies or unlockables in this mode, however. Rounding out the PS4 version’s new features are a visual editor allowing you to change how the game’s display works (if you’ve played Retro City Rampage, it’s like a more customizable version of the visual presets offered there), and a feature allowing people watching you livestream the game to execute commands via chat to help (or hinder) you in battle.
All-in-all, it’s not a massive leap forward from the prior PS3 and Vita versions, and if you’ve done those versions thoroughly there’s little incentive to upgrade, but if you had to pick a version of this game, this is the definitive version to get.
If you want to pick up Akiba’s Trip for PS4 then why not buy it through our Rice Digital Store? We have free shipping in the UK and cheap shipping internationally. Not to mention we’re currently cheaper than Amazon on this! Check it out here.