I get to talk about nekkid people? YAAAAAAY!!!
Typically when I’m sent a game for review, it’s with a brief overview of what the game is, like “it’s based on an anime” or “it’s an FPS.&rdquo But Akiba’s Trip was different—I was told that it was understandable if I didn’t want to play it, as it could be deemed offensive. Both made me further curious, and made the teenage boy in my head giggle maniacally (as he is one to do). And when I really started playing the game, I started to see why the “easy out” option was on the table.
So here’s the game in a nutshell: You beat up people on the street—only certain people, the bad guys and gals—and you rip their clothes off. And in turn, they’ll attack you and try to rip your clothes off. That’s a thing. Which means, depending on your view of that sort of thing and it’s appropriateness or in-appropriateness, you may find this game a bit too much for you.
But with that said, let’s get into the actual game. Akiba’s Trip (or “Akiba Strip” depending on your enunciation, har, har) is the story of a young man who responded to the wrong job post and was altered into what is called a “Synthister”: a sort of synthetic vampire, feeding on the energy and lust for material possessions of human beings. In the middle of Tokyo’s neon district Akihabara, there’s plenty to feed off, meaning the Synthisters have been growing in numbers and making a meal out of Japan’s massive nerd population. Your character was interrupted before they could become a fully-fledged Synthister by the mysterious (and some might say “weird”) Shizuku. And she’s even more powerful than those nerd-suckers are!
The only way to end a Synthister is similar to any other vampire—unless you count the sparkly ones, which you shouldn't—and that’s to expose them to the sun. And what better way to do that than to rip off their clothes and expose as much skin as possible? There’s apparently not an SPF high enough for anybody, so both you and they need to be as covered by clothing as possible. It’s a classic-style system, where armor can only take so much punishment before it’s completely useless; the only difference here is, instead of simply falling off or no longer defending like many other titles, here it’s actually physically, visually ripped from the characters. And there are three levels of clothing: tops, bottoms, and head gear. Against bosses there are also the overtly-fan-services ab/boob/panty shots that remind us all that some people don’t bother living in the real world. (Not that there’s anything wro-... actually yeah, that’s kinda wrong.)
Adventuring around the real-life neon district will constantly involve picking fights with single or collectives of Synthisters, and fighting is relatively simple, as all four buttons of the diamond formation as used but in logical progression: one to attack each of the three areas, from head gear to trousers/skirts, and a jump button. Beyond that, you can hold an attack button to attempt to rip off that associated clothing, dodge by holding R1, and even smooth out your clothes again (so they can’t be ripped off) by holding L1. Often, if you’re able to strip a piece of clothing or defeat an enemy, you can pick up one of its dropped items, which is usually either a weapon or some clothing for yourself. It can get pretty frustrating at times within hectic battles—it’s easy to get caught on some awkwardly-placed sidewalk posts and between a collection of baddies all striking at once—but as your character can be decked out with any kind of weaponry you choose, there’s some freedom in getting through each fight in your own fighting style, and that’s nice.
Where it gets really uncomfortable is any fight above, say, six opponents at a time. If enough damage is done to enough characters and their protected spaces, and you successfully relieve someone of a piece of clothing, one of the attack buttons will appear on the screen; if tapped in time, you can strip another piece of clothing, possibly from another character. This can be continued a bunch of times if enough opponents are weak, and if you strip enough, you’ll get to see your character to an additional pose, then possibly press one more button. THAT button won’t just clear those baddies from the screen, it’ll actually remove their underwear. Not to worry, the people are covered with a shining light (because as teenagers know, that’s what happens under a stranger’s naughty undies), but still… you’re actually taking their underwear. And you can... wear it later. On an entirely personal note, let me add an elongated “eeewwwww...”.
Seriously, what sick bastard thought this would be anything but uncomfortable to any normal, sane person!? *sigh*
Shaking that off for just a moment, this game is totally designed for the true otaku: authentic Akihabara shops, including collectible advertising fliers strewn throughout; “subtle” ads for other games (like Disgaea, a personal favorite); and more low-key references and nods to games past (I love that, during a conversation where I beat up an otaku, the first hit had him scream “BARF!” within the text window) are littered across the digital landscape. If you pay close attention to the map, you can even use it as a basic reference if you’re able to visit the real Akihabara. And I know this for a fact; not only have I been to some of these locales, like GAMERS and Yodobashi Camera, but it’s essentially how I got writing here at GR in the first place!
The main story of the game is short, just about five to six hours if you’re dedicated to blowing straight through, but it’s short because it’s meant to be played multiple times. After one playthrough, there’s a lot that becomes unlocked… playing as other character models, reliving the conversations that dictate your finale, unlocking the ability to wear women’s clothes (it’s all equal here!), and collection of all the weapons, clothing, and ways your in-game younger sister can call you Bro (even if you’re playing as a female character, be ready for “Bronado," “Brotato,” “The Brosen One," among others). This game is trying to be as otaku as it possibly can be, which is part of its charm.
But it’s not all hunky-dory. The fighting is limited to those three buttons, which I guess is enough, but makes each battle feel exactly the same, even against the few “boss fights” throughout. And trying to get one of the girls to like you (yup, it’s almost part dating-sim, surprised?) with how rushed the story can feel becomes boring. There’s a difference in being brief, only being as long as necessary, and being short while lacking substance. Akiba’s Trip straddles that specific line.
Honestly, if you can get past the idea that Akihabara nerds are coming off just a little too rape-y for the average player (and Japanese tentacle monster), the game itself isn’t bad at all. The streets are always teeming with foreign tourists, maids from maid cafes, shy fanboys, and Synthisters. The shops have a plethora of items for sale. And the whole thing feels like a perverted walk through the capital of the otaku world, with some recognizable Japanese flavor drizzled on top. It’s best to have an idea of what you’re getting into here before giving it a try, because there’s a good likelihood that this game can make a person uncomfortable, but if kept in the “so weird it’s interesting” category of your brain, this can be some fun.
And when people see you playing it—if you allow them, or they catch it by accident—just tell them “it’s just… you know, Japan.”
Review based on PS3 copy provided by publisher. Also available on PS4 and PS Vita.