To describe Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed as a simple action role-playing game would do it a disservice – a bit like describing a vampire as a mere blood gulper. The aforementioned nocturnal beast has gone through several iterations over the years, ranging from fear inducing monsters through to promiscuous teenagers – but if this scale is to represent the spectrum on which Japanese developer Acquire’s latest sits, it would definitely land on the more seductive side of things. Indeed, this is a game in which you must undress your foes in order to defeat them – a premise which, when combined with a hearty helping of Eastern culture and electro music, is hard to resist.
This love affair begins in a recreation of Tokyo’s technology district Akihabara, which is filled with busy streets and back alleys. You assume the role of an ordinary 17-year-old boy in search of a job, which alone sounds pretty mundane – until you turn into a vampirish character known as a ‘Synthister’. From there, it becomes abundantly clear that all is not right in Akiba, with rumours spreading that there may be some beasts on the prowl – and you are living proof that the speculation is actually fact.
It’s here that the title’s marriage between plot and gameplay comes into effect. Everyone knows that vampires and the sunshine don’t get along, and those rules apply here – sort of. Synthisters are able to go about their daily business, but must remain covered up with clothing in order to stay alive. As such, in order to take out these foes, you must damage their garments just enough to slip them off. Of course, seeing as you’re also negatively impacted by the great ball of fire in the sky, you must ensure that you remain dressed at all times. It’s an absolutely ludicrous take on an otherwise quite simple health system, but it’s silly enough to raise a smile.
The combat itself plays out like a traditional beat-‘em-up, but there are some RPG elements thrown in to add a little more depth to both the gameplay and your character. With all of your attack options mapped to the face buttons, there’s not an enormous learning curve: anyone can jump in and start stripping clothes off – in the game, of course.
There’s more to the title than that, though, as every extraordinary occurrence requires an extraordinarily clichéd group of friends. This title consists of the usual suspects: the intelligent one, the less intelligent one, the love interest, the male buddies, and, of course, the smart-ass blackmailing younger sister. Despite graduating from stereotype city, there’s some superb voice acting in the game – both in Japanese and English – and the personalities are so well written that it’s possible to forgive the typecasting.
Outside of the combat, you’ll shape the tale through the dialogue choices that you make. These decisions not only affect your relationships, but will also adapt the outcome of your final trip into Akiba, and for the most part these moving parts are all surprisingly cohesive.
Unfortunately, the package is let down on a technical level. For starters, walking around Akiba is an enjoyable experience, until the frame rate begins to chug – and we mean really chug. It doesn’t help that the game takes an eternity to load each time that you move from one part of the city to another – despite the map being relatively small in size. Fast travel does alleviate some of these issues, but there are plenty of missions that are simple fetch quests which will require you to spend more time staring at black screens than completing any real objectives.
If you can get past these issues, then there is plenty to do in the world of Akiba that doesn’t involve tearing a civillian’s clothes off or waiting for a loading screen. Being a member of some kind of neighbourhood watch, you can accept missions from inhabitants in the city to make some extra money, which can be transferred for additional items to improve your character. There’s also the simple matter of the location itself, which is brimming with eye-catching things to consume your attention.
Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is far from a perfect package, but it’s certainly a charming one. It never takes itself too seriously, which makes its wacky subject matter all the more entertaining. Yes, some people may find the sexual innuendo and straight-up silliness a turn-off, but it’s unapologetic about its stupidity, and that’s appealing. As a result, this trip is worth taking despite its sizeable technical shortcomings – just make sure that you pack enough clothes.