Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed was a title I was interested in as soon as its localization was announced purely due to its insane premise. Protect the city from vampires by ripping off their clothes and causing them to burn up in the sunlight? It’s weirdly brilliant in its own way. After reviewing the PS3 version himself, our own Mark B pitched it to me as “Yakuza with exploding panties.” Sold!
The actual execution of the plot takes the insanity one step further. As a resident otaku in Japan’s Akihibara (or Akiba), you volunteer to take part in a medical trial offered to you via e-mail in exchange for rare anime figurines. What happens to the protagonist is about what you’d expect from such a shady offer, as you awaken in a dark room strapped to a table. It turns out that you’ve been transformed into a man-made vampire known as a Synthister, and in the not-so-distant future you will begin to lose your mind and start attacking Akiba’s citizens. A mysterious woman busts you out and offers a sip of her blood to keep your reason intact, and from there begins a journey to unravel the mystery surrounding the group who kidnapped you.
The story is well paced, with each of the main story missions doling out important information about your quest and the characters involved at regular intervals. Speaking of characters, there’s a fairly sizable cast that help you along the way, many of whom will even join you in battle. The superb writing brings them all to life, particularly when they react to some of the more absurd dialogue options that can be chosen in response to them. These choices in turn will improve your standing with each character, potentially resulting in alternate endings involving those characters. The plot wouldn’t be nearly as endearing as it is if it weren’t for the humor injected into it, with such examples as the sister character Nana throwing fifty different renditions of “bro” at you as she says things incredibly bizarre, and at times, condescending. The quirks of the rest of the cast are just as hilarious, and one of the main reasons to stick through this until the end.
The flow of the game works a little something like this: you are given a mission back at home base, and you must travel your way towards the part of the city where the mission marker indicates and perform whatever task is asked of you (usually beating down Synthisters). When engaged in battle, you’re given three basic attacks, with each one focuses on a specific body part. There’s one assigned to the head, one to the body, and the last being for the lower extremities. If you inflict enough damage to a particular body part, you can then tear off the clothing covering that part by holding the button down. If there are multiple clothing items that are weak in your vicinity, regardless of who they belong to, you can do a strip combo and tear them all off at once by following the button prompts. String enough together, and a cinematic strip finisher is executed, ripping off their underwear for your taking. Having a teammate present will grant the ability to effectively double team a foe, with your protagonist holding them down as your comrade beats them up and tears off their clothes.
It sounds like total male fanservice on concept, but surprisingly it’s not presented as such. Men and women both can be stripped down (and it seemed almost as though there were more male enemies) and any exposed parts are covered up. Your protagonist can have your clothes stripped away just as easily, as each part of your body has its own durability rating. Once it’s down to zero, you are at risk of being reduced down to your skivvies and baked in the sun. Fortunately, if you can remain undamaged long enough, you can straighten your clothes and completely regenerate your durability. Also, enemy attacks can be countered while guarding if you press an attack button right before it’s about to hit, though it can be overwhelming when surrounded by foes.
Despite what difficulty level you choose, it’s being overwhelmed by pure numbers that will truly be a danger to you. Akiba’s Trip throws a ton of enemies at you simultaneously, and it can be difficult to manage at times, even when other characters are watching your back. Also, if you start a fight in the middle of a crowded area, you may accidentally knock out an innocent bystander, effectively making an enemy out of them too. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times a fight with one turned into a fight with eight because I would carelessly swing at the air. It doesn’t help that your character will sometimes swing in a completely different direction than originally intended, and the combat isn’t fluid such that it’s easy to stop an attack to begin another. As fun as the combat is, there’s a certain level of clunkiness to it that can be hard for some to overcome.
Early on in the game, you’ll get access to a phone that becomes a hub of sorts to an entire host of options. All clothing on your character and your fellow companions can be customized with stuff you find from enemies or purchased from shops, right down to your underwear. Your appearance will change as you make alterations, though some clothing will have higher defense than others. Weapons, such as baseball bats and computer monitors, can be equipped to help further the amount of damage done, as well as tweak your fighting style. Your status can be viewed at any time, as dispatching foes and reading manuals will increase your level as well as your aptitude for stripping certain types of clothing. If you’re looking for humorous reading, a host of e-mails will be sent to you during your adventure, plus you can read conversations on Pitter (effectively a knock off of 4chan). Since the phone is also a camera, taking pictures of strangers will reveal if they are Synthisters or not based on if their image flickers. If you have a companion along, pointing the camera at them and rubbing the PS4 touchpad will, um, do inappropriate things.
While the main story missions can be whipped through rather quickly, there’s a whole host of stuff to do outside of those. Side missions can be accepted through an app or by being given to you from NPC’s that will send you all over town to fetch things or rough people up. There’s a battle arena to test your mettle against tough opponents, plus various minigames are at your disposal, including karaoke. None of it has much depth to it, but they’re decent diversions when you’re not collecting flyers and unlocking endings.
The PS4 release of Akiba’s Trip comes with a few additional enhancements. A Toybox mode is available right from the start, granting the ability to start a new game with every weapon and clothing item in your inventory. The tradeoff, of course, is that this effectively locks out the ability to earn trophies and is more for you to play around with things that you may be too lazy to find on your own. An app was added for a visual editor that tinkers with with the look of the game. If you like things like Big Head Mode from Goldeneye, you’d likely get a kick out of the kinds of things this allows you to do. Also, you can livestream the game just as you could any other using the share button. However, participants can make things happen at will just by giving commands. I never tried doing this myself, but with such juvenile options as pantydrop (yanks off the underwear of female civilians), it’s probably just as well. Let’s not forget the improved loading times and enhanced visuals.
Since I’m on the topic of visuals, while the game is essentially an upscale of the PS3 version and definitely looks better (though without having played them both, it’s hard for me to say how drastically), don’t go in expecting PS4 level graphics. This isn’t to say the game looks bad. The anime stylized cel-shading has a nice aesthetic, but it was never a graphical powerhouse even compared to other PS3 games. So if you’re looking for a The Last of Us level remaster, this isn’t it. That said, it will be the best looking version of the game that you can possibly get, plus the level of detail that went into recreating Akiba is downright impressive. You’ll see various shops, advertisements for some of Acquire’s other games, plus crowds of people hustling and bustling from place to place. It definitely gets an “A” for effort.
Likewise, the sound really adds to the atmosphere. In most cases, you’ll just hear the chatter of people as you roll by, though when a fight starts, an upbeat tune kicks into gear. The English dub is really solid as well, with Nana being particularly noteworthy for the deadpan delivery of her lines. If this doesn’t appeal to you, the Japanese dialogue can be flipped on in its place.
As much as I enjoyed the experience, it’s not a game for everybody. The missions are generally very repetitive, and while the same complaint can be leveled against similar games, there seems to be even less variety here. Also, as I mentioned before, the combat can feel very stiff at times and would be incredibly forgettable if it weren’t for the stripping mechanics being so entertaining to mess with. At the end of the day, if you like playing games that are weird and different, you’ll find a lot to like with Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed. And if you can only pick one version, the PS4 is the way to go.
Short Attention Span Summary
Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed makes its way to the PlayStation 4 with some console exclusive features, includig Toybox mode and an app for tweaking visuals. It’s the best looking version of the lot, though don’t expect a major overhaul, especially when stacked up against other games on the system. The game’s concept is a bizarre one, focusing on shredding clothing of makeshift vampires in order to expose them to sunlight and burn them to a crisp. The stripping mechanics adds much needed variety to otherwise repetitive and somewhat clunky combat mechanics, though they’re incredibly enjoyable once you grow accustomed to them. The accompanying story and dialogue are quite entertaining and humorously written as well, to the point where it’s perhaps more appealing than the core experience. It’s not a game for everybody. But if you like what Yakuza tried to do and wouldn’t mind taking on a much weirder and anime driven approach to that idea, give Akiba’s Trip a look.