This year, we’ve seen our fair share of downright bizarre video games. None, however, even come close to matching Acquire’s latest action RPG, Akiba’s Trip. Exclusive to PlayStation Vita with a PlayStation 4 release on the cards, it’s definitely a change in direction for the developer, best known for creating Tenchu and Way of the Samurai.
Akiba’s Trip, as the name suggests, takes place in the iconic Akihabara district of Tokyo. Dubbed the otaku capital of the world, it has enjoyed a storied history as Japan’s hotspot for consumer electronics, ever since the second World War. With so much vibrancy and life, Akihabara serves as an ideal feeding ground for Akiba’s “Synthisters”.
These fabled beings are the game’s analogue for vampires: sinister parasites that sustain themselves on the social capability and vibrancy of their prey. Enter Nanashi, a fully customisable protagonist turned Synthister by the evil Magaimono corporation. Refusing to accept their supernatural “gift” you manage to escape, returning to your ragtag crew of friends who occupy a gaming bar. Together, you set about exposing the legion of Synthisters who roam the strip, ultimately taking the fight to Magaimono itself.
It’s an oddly enticing premise, though one let down by bland characters and the usual dose of anime melodrama. Trundling along at pedestrian speed, Akiba’s Trip crowbars in otaku references wherever it can and is drenched from top to bottom in whimsical, over-the-top dialogue. Even some of the in-game emails require a second take, many of them written in Shakespearean English.
That’s not the weirdest thing though. As touched on already, Akiba’s Trip is centred around hunting these vampire-like cronies terrorising Akihabara. Given the districts technological affluence, Synthisters are able to walk in pure daylight thanks to the special garments they wear. This means – if you haven’t already figured it out yet – that the only way to defeat them is to… you know, strip them to their undies.
This is all done through the game’s brawler-style combat which, aside from navigating the streets of Akihabara, is the only other form of activity on offer when playing Akiba’s Trip. Using high, mid, and low attacks you can weaken an enemies’ clothing before disrobing them completely, exposing them to the harsh rays of the sun.
Aside from being completely bonkers, this system is flawed by an unshaken sense of grinding repetition. Though a few advanced mechanics, such as countering and co-op attacks, are gradually filtered in they do little to keep combat fresh and exciting. It basically comes down to continuously buttons of button bashing with the occasional block or dodge thrown in for good measure.
From toasters and kebab skewers, to posters and parasols, you can deck your character out with a vast array of zany items. Each has its own stats that help to determine your fighting prowess, boosting both attack damage and defence. The trouble with sourcing equipment is that there are so many shops within Akihabara. Though authentic, I often found myself lost and unsure whether I my gear was up to scratch or if I needed to scour the street for something slightly better. Then there’s the game’s sluggish pace. If you don’t manage to engage with the story and its cast of characters, Akiba’s Trip soon devolves into a series of fetch quests, punctuated with frequent battles.
Although there’s a niche that will no doubt revel in the game’s eccentricity, those who cringe at otaku culture will find very little value here. Even looking past its more tasteless tendencies, the game’s combat is average and its design is repetitive. Still, it’s a complete write-off by any means, in part thanks to its vibrant depiction of Akihabara and the surprise inclusion of English voiceover.