Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed
Publisher: XSEED Games
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PS3, PS Vita
Release Date: November 25, 2014
Price: US$49.99 – Available Here AUD $59.95 – Available Here
The PlayStation family of consoles has always been home to some of the wackiest games from Japan. While hundreds of titles remain within the Land of the Rising Sun, some, inexplicably, manage to make it across the Pacific to our store shelves. Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is one such title. In fact, it was released earlier on the older PS3 and PS Vita consoles and was deemed successful enough in the West to warrant a PS4 port. Is this shiny new release worth picking up for Sony’s latest machine?
Let’s get this out of the way first. The story is absolutely ridiculous. You play as an otaku who has accepted a random job offer promising a payment in rare anime figures. Unfortunately for you, your would-be employer straps you to a table and turns you into a vampiric “Synthister”, making you susceptible to sunlight and needed life energy from other people.
You escape with the help of a mysterious, umbrella-wielding girl named Shizuku who is your quiet-but-super-strong archetype with a sense of a dry humour. Before long you’re back with your friends, a vigilante organisation called the Freedom Fighters of Akiba. This mismatch of otaku has tasked itself to protect the streets of Tokyo’s famous electronic geek district.
Except this time the streets are threatened by other Synthisters who are incapable of controlling their urge to attack innocent people. You must use your powers, along with Shizuku’s unnatural strength, to counter the vampires who blend into society. The plot progresses via plenty of dialogue and sophisticated character portraits while you do side missions and story missions. The mouths actually move, which is rare in these kinds of games.
Like a lot of haphazard Japanese games, humour is the biggest draw here. Humour and pop culture references. If you’re interested in this game then chances are you’re an otaku yourself, so you’ll recognise not only the hub of Akihabara but plenty of witty references to major franchises and Japanese memes. The localisation is almost as good as it could be, with none of the original intonations lost in translation.
Don’t go expecting Final Fantasy levels of story though, as everything is presented at surface level only. Character development is limited in simply raising affection levels with the four heroines of the game rather than any real emotional progression. The plot does pick up, however lacking, and there is replay value to be found thanks to the affection level component.
Akiba’s Trip plays a little like Yakuza during combat and exploration, albeit cut down. Players level up and equip stronger clothes and weapons. Once you’re set upon by a group of ordinary-looking Synthisters, the aim of the game is to whittle down the enemy’s clothing until it can be stripped off. Once their headgear, shirt or pants are damaged enough they flash purple indicating that the time is ripe for a strip. Once all their clothes, or your clothes, are stripped to underwear the game is over as the sun is too strong for your vampiric bodies.
Strips can be chained together, allowing you take out multiple opponents at once via quick time events. Blocking is essential as it’s easy to get overwhelmed on the higher difficulties and you can also “straighten up” your clothes to restore its durability mid-fight. It’s all very simple, even a little dodgy, but rambunctious fun at the same time.
Players walk around the fairly limited streets of Akiba. Some stores can be approached to purchase gear but you rarely enter and explore indoor locations other than your home base. Each section of the map is split into alleys or main streets with plenty of loading screens in between. NPCs offer little more than a few unvoiced lines of dialogue and most of them serve as filler where you just bump into them.
There are loads of little side quests though, clever in their execution. For instance buying expensive pieces of clothing for your dear little sister or defeating rabid fans and stalkers. The main storyline is fairly short and doesn’t offer a great deal of narrative, so these side quests are probably the main attraction for otaku gamers who can relate to the tasks.
Surprisingly, the PS4 version does have a couple of extra features including a Visual Editor that lets players customise how the city looks like and an interesting chat command system while you live stream the game, allowing spectators to mess around with your game as you play.
Akiba’s Trip falls into the increasingly-common realm of sub-par Japanese game graphics. The city of Akiba is awesomely replicated, make no mistake, with authentic shop fronts, buildings and streets and the CG art is crisp, vibrant and fun especially on a HD TV. But the game’s engine has more shortcomings than what should be acceptable on the PlayStation 4.
Unfortunately the game is a direct port of the PS3 and PS Vita versions, with known bugs and issues still present on the PS4 code. Unnecessary loading screens around every corner, aliased character models despite being low quality and, shockingly, low frame rates especially when you pan the camera plague what is an otherwise very cool-looking game.
XSEED included both English and Japanese audio for the game. While the English is more than acceptable (other than the little sister), most players playing a game set in a Japanese city about Japanese pop culture would probably stick to the latter option. The music is catchy while the sound effects are probably the weakest aspect of the audio since there is little variety. You do get realistic crowd and street noise though.
I’ve had a lot of sound issues and glitches in my playthrough. At one point all voices and music cut out and wouldn’t return until I deleted and downloaded the game all over again.
Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is a unique little game. It’s a package of love for the hardcore otaku, the ones familiar with Akihabara and for those who know their dakimakura from their eroge. It can be a boatload of fun at times but like I mentioned, it is a little lacklustre in the quality department. It’s even a little depressing that nothing has been done to make the PS4 version better than the previous iterations, making it seem like a rushed cash grab. It’s still glitchy, a little laggy and the game’s code simply isn’t designed for the PS4 in mind.
If you’re a fan of dialogue-centric Japanese games like visual novels, anime and Eastern pop culture then this is a special homage for you. But if you can find the game a little cheaper on PS3 or PS Vita then go for those versions as the PS4 version has very little extra to offer when you consider the broad scope of options Acquire had with the new hardware.
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