Experience true freedom in Akiba...

Right, allow me to just get one thing out of the way. It’s going to be very hard for me to review Akiba’s Trip. Why? Well, because I’m basically about to admit that I love a game where your primary objective is getting into fights with Japanese teenagers and relieving them of their clothes. As a grown man, I am fully aware of the implications of this, but regardless, I’ll do my best to plead my case and convince you that there’s more to Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed than it’s corny subtitle suggests, because at the end of the day, it’s simply one of the most unique games I’ve ever played.

Now, I know that “unique” does not necessarily mean “good.” Hohokum is certainly unique, though its worth as a game can be called into question. It’s the same deal with killer7, a game belonging to a genre all of its own, yet an entirely divisive one nonetheless. I feel Akiba’s Trip also falls into this category, but if you look past the game’s cheeky surface, and I mean that in more ways than one, you’ll find a bizarrely compelling experience that’s honestly tough to put down.

Male or female, no one is safe from Nanashi's steely grip.

Male or female, no one is safe from Nanashi’s steely grip.

The Full Akiba

You are Nanashi, a young otaku duped into testing an experimental drug on the premise of receiving rare, out-of-print figurines. Of course, the scheme is nothing but a scam, and Nanashi soon finds himself at the mercy of the evil Synthisters, a faction looking to take Akihabara for their own. As one of their captives, Nanashi inherits the strengths and weaknesses of the Synthisters; he now has incredible strength and the ability to tear off peoples’ clothes with very little effort, but that also comes with the fact that sunlight will dissolve his body should it not be covered. Basically, Nanashi becomes a very Japanese vampire, except with less bloodsucking and more garment pilfering.

Nanashi is rescued by a young girl named Shizuku, who also shares his Synthister powers. Together, they reunite with Nanashi’s eclectic friends at MOGRA, the headquarters of the Akiba Freedom Fighters, in order to save the town from the Synthister menace. A simple plot, to be sure, but the writing in Akiba’s Trip is superb, and delightfully self-aware. Not once does the game take itself even an inch seriously, which is evident when you read through the fictional social network Pitter. On here, residents of Akiba post messages about the Freedom Fighters’ endeavours, including their sudden interest in stealing the clothes of others. Needless to say, users on Pitter are shocked, others baffled, and some still impressed by your trouser taking antics.

There's plenty to see in Akiba, though sadly, some of the more interesting stores are off-limits.

There’s plenty to see in Akiba, though sadly, some of the more interesting stores are off-limits.

Caught With Your Trousers Down

What’s immediately striking about Akiba’s Trip is the faithful recreation of Akihabara. There’s a ton of detail here, from big screen displays showing off other games such as Conception II, right down to the individual shops and storefronts Akiba is famous for. Explore even further and you’ll find Vocaloids, flyers advertising real life Akiba businesses, and even Club Sega. Though sadly, the latter is off limits for exploration. Sad face! The closest comparison I can make to Akiba’s Trip would have to be Yakuza, with its focus on exploring a true-to-life environment, as well as the ability to get into street fights and solve side missions for passers-by.

And street fighting is what you’ll be spending a good chunk of your time doing. Early on in the story, you’ll unlock the ability to scan others with your smartphone, in hopes of revealing Synthisters hiding among the general public. One this happens, you may talk to the suspect, suggest you’re going to steal their clothes and thus initiate a fight with them (and possibly their friends). Combat in Akiba’s Trip is quite simple, though charming and humourous all the same. By using the Triangle, Circle and X buttons you can target your opponent’s head, torso and legs respectively. Once enough damage has been done to a specific body part, their clothes will flash and show signs of untidiness. One this happens, you can hold down the respective button to perform a strip, and once the enemy has been stripped of the main three areas, they are embarrassingly defeated.

Akiba’s Trip is not your typical action RPG. You won’t be wielding swords, axes or bows.

There are three things I especially love about Akiba’s Trip’s combat. The first is the super light-hearted nature of the act of stealing your opponent’s clothes. While it’s the focus of the game, the feature is not overtly sexualised to serve as a cheap excuse to see people half-naked. Instead, developer Acquire have taken a thankfully comical approach. Nanashi tears off his enemies’ apparel with nary a hint of prejudice or remorse. In addition, depending on your stats, you have a chance of stealing clothes for yourself as dropped loot, and you can even unlock additional movesets that change the animations of your cloth rending shenanigans.

For god's sakes man, put that thing down! You don't know where it's been!

For god’s sakes man, put that thing down! You don’t know where it’s been!

The second thing I adore are the weapons you take into battle. Akiba’s Trip is not your typical action RPG. You won’t be wielding swords, axes or bows. Say hello to computer monitors, glowsticks, foam bats, advertising banners and anything you can get your hands on lying around Akihabara. This also ties into the third thing I particularly love about combat in Akiba’s Trip: other citizens are affected by your fighting. Some will join the battle, perhaps keeping patrolling policemen at bay while you focus on the mob. Others still may join the side of your enemies, and soon the battlefield becomes an ocean of makeshift weapons and airborne clothing. It’s an absolute joy and each fight feels like a huge event, clearly a testament to Akihabara’s enjoyably hectic culture.

The Unwanted Wedgie

While Akiba’s Trip is certainly a lot of fun, there are sadly a few hiccups that hold the game back from being truly brilliant. For one, the framerate simply does not do the game justice. Most of the time running at sub 30fps, and with bouts of lag during large scale fights, playing the game can occasionally become sluggish. It’s not a problem that completely destroys the game’s appeal, but it does nonetheless hurt it a great deal. The combat itself can also be fairly choppy at times; power attacks simply do not work half the time, and there are plenty of moves that lock you into a long animation. This can make you look like a bit of a berk when you’re swiping in the opposite direction to where the enemy is standing.

Graphically, the game is not overly impressive, but the cel-shaded style and high quality anime portraits for the characters allow the game to really pop out, making up for its graphical shortcomings. The interface and menus are also stylishly designed and are quite reminiscent of the ones found in Atlus’s Persona series. It’s also worth noting that Akiba’s Trip has a pretty damn good soundtrack, with some songs reaching Jet Set Radio levels of catchiness.

Otherwise, Akiba’s Trip is an absolutely delightful game. If you’re willing to accept its flaws, there’s an oddly compelling game to be found here. I know there are some people who get bent out of shape when they see a woman in a video game show even an inch of their cleavage, but don’t let that put you off. Akiba’s Trip strips regardless of gender, as well as what people think of it. It’s a truly unique game with a whole heap of charm.

A review copy of Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed was provided courtesy of NIS America. The game was reviewed on PS3.

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