Often we hear about strange and unique titles being developed and released in Japan never to see the light of day outside of the country exactly because of their unique focus. That is why when Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed, a game about stripping enemies down to their underwear in broad daylight, was released in the West it came as quite a surprise. This was especially true as that game was in fact a sequel to a PSP release years prior that never saw the light of day in the West. Now ten years after the release of the original, Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed is finally being released on a number of platforms in English, giving everyone a chance to see where this stripping story begins.
Rumors have been circulating about strange blood drinking creatures in Akihabara and when the Main Character’s friend suddenly becomes a shut-in after experiencing a traumatic event, they travel to the city to learn the truth. Shortly after doing so they find such a creature, a vampiric being known as a Shadow Soul and end up being beaten down in an alley. At the brink of death, a young woman shares some of her blood with a kiss to try and revive you, essentially turning the player into a Shadow Soul as well. It doesn’t take long before the mysterious government organization tracking the Shadow Souls appears to bring the player in and offer them a choice, either work for NIRO or burn in the sunlight.
With the Shadow Souls bites draining their victims of all motivation, essentially turning them into lifeless shut-ins, the group seeks to take over as much of Japan as possible with their own members and it is NIRO’s mission to put a stop to them. Now, infused with their near invulnerability to normal damage and heightened strength, it is time for the player to join the ranks of NIRO and learn how to capitalize on their greatest weakness, being stripped naked in the sunlight. However, with there being discontent among the ranks of the Shadow Souls and mysteries remaining around NIRO, will the player eventually choose a side in this war for Akihabara?
The foundation of the plot works well and moves at a fairly brisk pace as players are initially limited to working with NIRO before being let off the leash and learning more about the various aspects of both factions. This eventually leads to players being able to make a number of choices that can lead to a few different endings, some of which have additional variants as well to give players some incentive to run through the story a second time to see how things can play out differently.
It is clear almost from the onset that the writers for Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed knew just how ridiculous the concept of the game is and ran with it, allowing multiple playthroughs for the story alone to be worthwhile. The characters, most of which are entirely based around decade old archetypes are taken to such an extreme that they are almost endearing, are handled well with a number of the main characters being rather great as a whole. That being said, while these characters are rather fun on their own, those expecting the same level of quality and content found in the sequel will be disappointed here as not only are there fewer choices and options as a whole but the characters are also not fleshed out nearly as much.
The same thing can be said about the various side quests that players can take on. While a few of them do give players extra insight into the world and some background on the characters they are interacting with, especially in one case, most of them have nothing to do with the story and simply serve as busywork that grows extra tiresome due to the fact that many revolve around beating a certain character only for the target to not spawn properly.
At its core Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed is a fairly slow brawler with players having to do battle against other residents of Akihabara, either Shadow Soul or human, and strip them to win. This is done through a clunky combat system that allows for players to target the head, body, and feet of their opponents though until players purchase skill books that allow them to actually use combo attacks, not only are they limited to targeting a single point at a time but even then they are limited to a slow four hit combo. Once an enemy is damaged enough, their clothing will begin flashing and can be stripped off with a long press of the proper face button though it is also possible to grab slightly weakened clothing and try and strip it off by mashing buttons or simply doing enough damage to shred the clothing.
Players will also be at the mercy of this system as their clothing can be both stripped and shredded if they aren’t careful. Unfortunately thanks to the complete lack of a lock on system and a flimsy targeting system, fighting more than one enemy at a time can be rather annoying in this game and even worse when taking on multiple foes at a time. While it is possible to “chain-strip” enemies when multiple pieces of clothing are weakened, groups of foes will often have the QTE button prompts either change mid-motion or wildly swing the camera to a distant foe when closer targets are available. This has nothing to do with the fact that the game loves to give enemies the ability to juggle the player, allowing larger groups to deal out a lot of damage when they otherwise shouldn’t have a chance.
This can be mitigated a bit by, as mentioned before, purchasing skill books that make attacks flow a bit better, equipping and buffing the strength of various weapons that range from computers and otaku goods to straight brass knuckles, and of course equipping clothing that most likely you have taken off of another unfortunate soul and buffing it to increase its durability. As a result there is something extremely addictive about gathering some unique clothing, of which there are hundreds, and strengthening it as much as possible to take on the next challenge. Even then though players should be prepared for some frustration at the game’s aged combat system, especially when long fights end up turning into failures due to a bug.
As mentioned before, a large number of side-quests are available in the game and while most of them focus on delivering certain items or tracking down a certain target and beating them, others can rely entirely around defeating a large number of foes at a time. These group battles often are a great source of money but also frustration as on more than three occasions the fights ended with the need to reset the area entirely due to an enemy either getting stuck fleeing from the area not allowing the next foe to spawn as a result or an enemy spawning under the ground preventing them from being targeted.
Outside of taking on side-quests to improve your standing with NIRO, the Shadow Souls, or the people of Akihabara, players will be spending the rest of their time simply exploring the relatively small areas of Akihabara. These were likely designed as such due to the limitations of the PSP at the time and it really shows here as many locations are limited to such a small scope that it is possible to get knocked out of an area and to the map in combat with ease. It is also worth noting, likely once again due to the aforementioned limitations, that players can only change their equipment on the map screen.
Many of these areas have a few odd activities to take part in such as claw games, mini-games that are odd little time wasters, and of course a maid cafe where players can play some simple games with the maids. In fact, players can even spend a bit of time with their little sister by dropping plenty of money on her so she can dress up for them in what feels like quite a step even for this game that freely explores a variety of other otaku aspects such as crossplaying, animal girls, maids, and more.
Visuals & Audio
Being the tenth anniversary of a game released on the PSP, there is really only so much that even a high definition upgrade can do and Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed is proof of that. The few anime cutscenes, CGs, and character portraits look as crisp as possible but that is basically where the upgrades seem to stop. While there is some improvement on the character models they remain quite rough looking to the point that they are still worse looking than those found in the sequel. It is also worth noting that while there are a great number of pieces of clothing in the game including plenty of wacky outfits, the actual fan-service is a bit of a miss for the most part. This is due to the fact that any time a Shadow Soul is stripped the character model turns blue, obscuring the smaller designs of the model as a whole.
As for the voice work, XSEED has done an outstanding job making sure that the English voice cast for the game is as fitting as possible and the voice actors do a great job here. This is especially true when players pick some of the more outlandish dialogue choices as the way some characters react is outstanding. Of course the Japanese voice track is there for those who prefer it and the soundtrack is fairly standard for a game such as this though it is nice to note that there is a solid insert song as well as a great opening song from ClariS.
Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed is like junk food, not great for you but addicting. The game is completely unabashed in being a bit of a pervy game focused around fighting people in the streets and stripping them to their underwear but despite this lack of shame the actual combat and fan service is barely serviceable as the age of the mechanics and design choices hurt both aspects. As a result, the witty writing helps the strong story in serving as the best aspect of the game, well that and being able to dress up as a knock-off Sentai character and beat down vampiric maids and businessmen in the streets.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.