Every once in a while, I encounter a video game that just outright fascinates me. Whether because of interesting mechanics, nutty concepts, or some intangible X-Factor, these games consume my time and leave me in a state of awe.
In the summer of 2002, at the ripe old age of nine years old, it was Mr. Mosquito. During one of my first forays into the Let’s Play community in 2010, it was Octodad. And now, smackdab in the middle of my first few months here at BentoByte, it’s Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed.
I should clarify at the outset that finding a game fascinating does not necessarily translate to a game being… good.
Akiba’s Trip is a game that is lacking in many ways, but it features stripping as a main game mechanic, faux-vampires doing battle on Japanese streets, and a cast of characters that includes a Swedish maid and a Japanese pop star. So… yeah. Fascinating is one way to put it.
Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed follows a life-long battle between the demonic vampire-esque Synthisters and a tribe of hunters born to fight them, while being Synthisters themselves, known as Nighteaters. Synthisters feed off of the lifeforce of materialistic human beings, have super-human strength, and are weak to sunlight. Nighteaters are similar, minus the sucky-sucky vampire bits. With both sides weak to sunlight, the only means of defeating the other in combat is… to violently strip their clothes off.
The story picks up in the Akihabara district of Japan, which is known for being a hub of otaku-culture (video games, anime, and manga.) As is the case, it subsequently becomes the hub for the Synthisters, feeding off the otaku in the area who purchase their goods en masse from Akihabara’s many stores.
Your character, an unnamed player avatar, is the latest in a string of otaku who have fallen victim to the Synthisters. Drawn in by a promise of “rare and exclusive figurines”, players find themselves converted into a Synthister and brought in to their evil plot. But before converting to a life of evil Synthister soul-sucking, a Nighteater named Shizuku Tokikaze saves the player’s life and enlists their help to stop the Synthisters.
If that all sounds needlessly convoluted and strange, that’s because it is. Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed takes all the classic tropes from your run of the mill anime and mishmashes them into a horrible mess. Evil corporations, long-lost siblings, wars between demons. It’s all in there. And there’s issues with the way Akiba’s Trip delivers its story.
You see, the game runs through a pattern. Brief talky bit where mission objectives are made clear, running to said mission objective, combat, outro talky bit where mission objective is discussed. Rinse and repeat. Except… there is no passage of time in the game world. In the first hour of playtime, it feels as though only an hour has passed and yet the characters talk as if they’ve been at it for weeks and it just feels odd. And there are bits of combat tossed in to pad the game at every corner. Missions will start out with a simple objective. “Go to the store and buy some lunch!” and while you’re out, suddenly a group of Synthisters appear with stripping on the mind. There are no attempts to make these things even the least bit natural (except through a variety of “patrol missons” which quickly wear out their welcome.)
With the majority of the game’s endings relying on who the character ends up with in the end, Akiba’s Trip ends up being partially a dating sim. Throughout the story, players are introduced a number of dialogue options, with most influencing how other characters feel about you. Of the dating sims I’ve experienced, Akiba’s Trip is fairly basic and ends up being mostly “CHOOSE A GIRL, THIS IS THE GIRL YOU ARE GOING TO END UP WITH” when it’s all said and done.
“But forget all that,” I can hear you thinking. “What is the stripping like and how does it work? HOW DOES IT WORK?”
Let’s break it down.
As I said before, Akiba’s Trip’s main game mechanic is stripping. Before anything, I should bring up the fact that developers promised “equal opportunity stripping” in the game and they mostly fulfill that promise. In combat, you are 90% of the time stripping dudes and that’s fairly welcome when you consider the usually fan-servicey nature of Japanese games. That isn’t to say there are no moments of fan-service in Akiba’s Trip, there is more than enough actually, but it does stand as the rare Japanese-developed title that gives some fan-service love to the dude characters. And that’s kind of cool.
ANYWAY. Back to the stripping.
Akiba’s Trip features a fairly basic and rudimentary combat system with some neat twists. Instead of your traditional “light” and “heavy” attacks, buttons are mapped to certain parts of your opponent’s bodies. One for their head, one for their torso, and one for their legs. Players target the clothed parts of their bodies and mash away until the clothes are ruffled just enough that you can hold the corresponding button and violently rip their clothes off. Combos can string from body part to body part and there is enough complexity there that makes it interesting for a few sessions. There is also a combo strip mechanic that allows you to swiftly strip off clothing items one after another if you’ve weakened multiple clothing items before stripping your opponents.
And let me tell you, there’s nothing more satisfying than going on something like a 12 item combo strip, wiping out your opponents in one go. That’s how I would sum up Akiba’s Trip’s combat mechanics. Satisfying. The payoff of the strip (if that wasn’t one of the weirdest lines I’ve written in a long time…) is incredible. While the actual act of fighting is equal to say… the combat of a game like Dynasty Warriors, the stripping end result is equivalent to the finishers in the Batman Arkham series.
Yeah. I just made that connection.
There is also an insane amount of item collection that is sure to wet the whistles of all those completionist minded folk out there. From insane clothing items to weapons that range from computer monitors all the way up to giant keytars, there is something worth collecting for everyone. And there is tons to explore as well. Akiba’s Trip delivers the Akihabara district in an open world manner and fairly realistically as well. Genuine Japanese shops line the streets and ads for Japanese games play on big screens. Loading screens take you from zone to zone, but you are free to roam the streets as you please.
But even with all that satisfaction, there is still a ton of monotony. The shine on the concept grows dull real fast and the combat doesn’t do enough to excuse the repetitive nature of the experience. The game’s one shining grace is its side missions. Throughout the game’s story, the player and their crew decides to help those not plagued with the Synthister problem in the Akihabara district as a means of making money. These smaller side missions break the pattern by offering some new things to do between the horrendous patterned experience of the story missions. A personal favorite has your character cross-dressing to deal with a group of assholes hitting on local women.
On the A/V end of things, there’s a lot to like about Akiba’s Trip. The music is catchy and reminiscent of the Persona series perfect blend of tunes, though a few songs will play a few dozen times through your time with the game. Visually, Acquire has done well to capture the anime art style fairly well in motion, with impacts between player and enemy highlighted with bright neon explosions and the like. The aforementioned realistic depiction of the Akihabara district adds a lot to the game’s charm, as pantsless foes face off in between stores like Kotobukiya. Character designs are fairly generic anime fare though and there are a ton of technical issues to mar the experience. As a re-release of a 2013 PS3 game, there is reason to expect some problems, but when there are aliasing issues all over your game and moments of incredible slowdown, all with little to no video options in your PC port… don’t expect to get off scot-free.
Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed is just as I explained. Fascinating. It features an incredibly original concept, but a horribly dull story. An extremely satisfying stripping mechanic (feels so wrong to write that,) but an endlessly repetitive core combat system. A great reproduction of the anime art style, but tons of technical issues that get in the way of that art style.
For everything it does right, it does something equally as bad to overshadow itself. It’s a game that if played in doses can be fun and interesting but is barely worth recommending for the full 20 or so hours it takes to beat it in full. There will undoubtedly be a number of people who love this game. Those who chase that elusive 100 percent mark when playing games will find hours upon hours of things to do. Those who love generic anime and goofy fan service. But for everyone else, Akiba’s Trip is a fun afternoon and nothing more.
Publisher: XSEED Games
Release Date: 5/26/2015 (PC)
- Anime art style is replicated well.
- Soundtrack is a solid mix.
- Core fighting system is solid and there’s lots to do but…
- … grows to be repetitive after a few hours.
- Story is convuluted and cliched, should have relied more on the humor of the situation.
- Technical issues mar the experience.
Disclaimer: A copy of Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed for the PC was provided to BentoByte by the publisher for the purpose of review.Tweet