Vampires have had a long-running connection to the world of gaming, whether it be through the iconic Castlevania franchise, or adaptations of hit shows and films such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Bram Stoker’s Dracula. While the blood-sucking creatures have had a less-than-successful 2014 (the less said about Lords of Shadow 2, the better), developer Acquire has introduced their own spin on the creatures with the release of Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed.
Set in Akihabara, one of Japan’s uber-popular shopping districts, Akiba’s Trip centers around a young hero named Nanashi. In a scenario that hits a little too close to home for this critic, Nanashi is broke and in desperate need of a job. However, after answering a mysterious job posting online, our protagonist finds himself chained to a table and turned into a Synthister, or someone who feeds upon others’ life energy. Before he can be killed by the villainous Zenya Amou, though, Nanashi is rescued by the equally mysterious Shizuku. Nanashi and Shizuku soon team up with a group of freedom fighters in order to purge Akihabara of its Synthister population.
While Synthisters serve as the title’s vampire stand-in, defeating these beings is not as easy as stabbing them with a wooden stake or shoving garlic down their throat. Rather, the only way to stop these creatures is by removing their clothes. Yes, you read that right. The key to victory is to strip your enemies to their skivvies. In case you hadn’t already assumed as much, Akiba’s Trip is a weird and often perverted tale. Usually this type of oddball plot annoys me, but I have to say, I kind of enjoyed the story here. Sure, its plot is convoluted and silly, but I kind of enjoy the fact it is so gloriously out there. Your mileage may vary with the tale, though, depending on how you feel about “otaku” caricatures and barely-disguised innuendo.
With Acquire’s previous experience in the action game genre (Tenchu, Way of the Samurai), it’s disappointing that the gameplay in Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed is as bland as it is. Playing like a traditional brawler, Nanashi can target opponents in three distinct areas: their head, abdomen and legs. Weakening each one will open it up for exposure, which can make way for a chain attack, provided the whole body is weak. While the capability of choosing where to strike should add variety, the combat begins to grate and feel stale after a short amount of time. Battles typically don’t have much variety outside of mashing the buttons and hoping for success. To make matters even more frustrating, the controls can feel rather unresponsive at times, particularly when it comes to blocking.
This unique experience could’ve also benefitted from better mission design, as most fall into one of two categories. Main missions are typically the more action-oriented quests, as they often center around Nanashi and company traveling to a designated location in order to battle a group of Synthisters. Meanwhile, a majority of the side quests are pointless fetch quests that get boring after the first few times, but are necessary in order to get better gear. With the whole of Akihabara at your feet, I wish Acquire would have shaken things up more often.
If the tediousness of its combat engine wasn’t enough to drive prospective players away, Akiba’s Trip also suffers from a host of annoying technical issues. The one problem that anyone who plays the title is sure to encounter is the fact that there are way too many loading screens. I’m pretty sure I spent more time loading areas than I did actually exploring them. For a late-generation PlayStation 3 title, this is unacceptable. Frame rate issues also pop up throughout the game, which while noticeable, don’t particularly hamper the experience.
It’s just odd that frame rate problems even happen in the first place, especially when you consider how unimpressive this game looks. Acquire spent all of this time replicating Akihabara, but forgot to put any details into it, besides the few shops you can enter. Pop-ups also frequently occur, as NPCs take some time to load, even after you have already entered a new area. Sometimes specific NPCs, who must be spoken to during missions, won’t pop up until you run around their designated environment for a little bit. Even when they do appear, though, they are far from impressive, as the same few models are used over and over again.
The fact that Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed almost manages to overcome its goofy gimmick is something of a victory in my book. While the story won’t appeal to everyone, and will probably be outright hated by some, it’s enjoyable fluff. It’s just a shame, that as outlandish as the plot is, the rest of the game is so generic and bland. The gameplay is repetitive, the graphics are lacklustre and the environment leaves a lot to be desired. It feels like Acquire spent a ton of time crafting the story and then half-assed everything else.
This review was based off the PlayStation 3 version of the title, which we were provided with.
Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed features a clever story, but its repetitive combat and bland graphics make it hard to recommend.