Stripping For Salvation
Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed manages to be many things, many of which are sometimes directly at odds with each other. Developer Acquire’s over-the-top brawling RPG somehow manages to be both simultaneously trashy and charming, exciting and repetitive, open and constricting. However, despite the game’s schizophrenic qualities, it’s somehow able to grab ahold of you and pull you into the wild and raunchy geek Mecca of Japan’s bustling Akihabara district on a quest unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced. Fusing equal parts role playing game and beat ’em up, with even a dash dating sim thrown into the mix to create a wholly unique and entertaining package simply bursting at the seams with Otaku eccentricities.
Undead & Undressed begins with our hero, Nanashi (who you’re free to name to your liking), waking up strapped to a rather uncomfortable looking operating table. Our drowsy hero was under the impression he was being interviewed to start a new job that paid in rare collectible figures, only now to find himself under the knife as a shadowy group of ‘Synthisters’ -artificial vampires with superhuman traits that feed off of the life essence of Otaku and have a serious weakness to sunlight- leering over him. Nanashi soon discovers the organization has turned him into one of these man-made monstrosities, and a chance encounter with a mysterious girl leads him on a mission to unmask the mysterious group responsible for the rash of vampire attacks that threaten Akihabara, and ultimately the fate of the world itself.
The story of Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed treads familiar RPG ground, venturing with the tried and true tropes of maniacal madmen bent on world domination, shadowy corporations vying for control of the population at all costs, a ragtag group of young heroes united to protect the innocent, and a hearty amount of fan service to keep the attention of even the most jaded Otaku. What sets Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed apart from the pack, however, is it’s unique ‘stripping’ approach to combat which is sure to both attract some with its absurdity, or offend others who are sure to see the thread-shredding shenanigans as a crude and cheap gimmick. Basically, as noted before, Synthisters have a natural weakness to the sun’s punishing light. When going toe-to-toe with these vampire-like foes you’ll have to attack each article of clothing until it is sufficiently damaged enough to be stripped from their body, exposing their supple flesh to the sun’s fiery light. Attacking high will damage an enemy’s hat or glasses, straight attacks will tear their shirts to shreds, and low will ultimately reduce their skivvies into a pile of mangled thread. Only after an opponent’s garments have been reduced to tatters will you then be victorious.
Of course, while you begin the game with just your fists to protect you, you’ll eventually strip and acquire clothing and weapons from your fallen foes, augmenting your character’s outfits and stacking the odds in your favor against the game’s rather large encounters, which often have you shedding the clothing from dozens of foes, making the well-realized streets of Japan’s Electric Town look akin to a block party hosted by Hugh Hefner during some of the more heated melees. As a Synthister yourself, you’re also vulnerable to the sun, meaning you’ll also have to keep your quarry from reducing you to ash in a zipper-ripping, button-popping fury. Thankfully, if your threads get a little too well-worn you can simply retreat from the fray and straighten them with the press of a button, fully repairing their durability so you can get back to business.
While the combat in Akiba’s Trip: Undread & Undressed is largely satisfying throughout the game’s roughly 10 hour adventure, a bit more enemy variety would have gone a long way towards spicing up the game’s encounters. You’ll trade blows with a slew of Otaku stereotypes, from murderous cosplaying gothic lolitas deceptively cute pop idols as you progress through the main quest. However virtually every opponent behaves the same manner, even bosses, making the otherwise fast and fluid combat begin to wear thin after awhile. Thankfully, the wealth of items you can collect, including model guns, fists full of glowsticks, radioactive leek’s, and even arcade PCBs all have their own unique attack animations and help to keep the strip-based street fighting interesting up to the game’s conclusion.
While charging through the bustling and vibrant streets of Akihabara, manhandling scantily-clad creatures of the night and stripping them down like a ramen-powered Ben Roethlisberger is equally satisfying and disturbing, the lighthearted banter between the game’s main fighting force, the Akiba Freedom Fighters, is what keeps the game flowing. Publisher Xseed’s localization team did a top notch job bringing the game’s character’s to life. The game features tons of clever writing, full of self-aware snark and charm, and a surprisingly competent English dub full of well thought out lines and witty puns. Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is even a dual-audio title, so diehard purists who demand the original Japanese audio track will still be able to enjoy the game’s original, high-quality Japanese voice work if they choose to.
Akihabara is a bustling district, and when you’re not embarking on the main quest there’s still plenty to see and do. While trekking through Tokyo’s famed Electric Town in Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed you can see the sights, scouring the city for notable landmarks such as the legendary gaming store Super Potato, the electronics shop Sofmap, Club Sega’s arcades, and dozens of other entertainment hubs and eateries. You can even collect fliers from various store employees which you can view in the game’s encyclopedia to see images and info on the actual location. Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed also features a plentiful amount of side quests you can accept which have you taking on such missions as scouring for the best maid cafe applicants, recovering a rare cosplay grament for a collector, and even a slightly ironic mission that has you roughing up hooligans who’ve been making a schoolgirl feel uncomfortable on her walks home. While they aren’t the deepest, these quests are still entertaining, and can easily add several more hours to the game’s 10-hour adventure.
Unfortunately, Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed does suffer from several technical hiccups that start to detract from the overall experience. The single most egregious offense being the game’s staggeringly frequent loading screens. Remember during my introduction when I said the game is both open and constricting? Well, here’s the thing; The city of Akihabara is broken down into small, bite-sized zones, with loading screens set between crosswalks, alleys, etc. Simply navigating from one quest to another can sometimes mean sitting through four or five loading screens which can make the experience feel needlessly disjointed. Thankfully, the game features a quick travel option which can alleviate much of the fuss, but in turn that means you’ll miss out on potential random encounters, new gear, and other goodies. In any case, you’ll be seeing plenty of loading screens if you plan to get the most out of Akiba’s Quest: Undead & Undressed. The game also suffers from some pretty serious pop-in issues in terms of generating NPCs, which can sometimes make locating quest-related characters a hassle. Lastly, the frame rate drops frequently, especially in crowded areas. Sometimes it can slow to such a crawl that it even affects the gameplay during some of the game’s more frantic slugfests, causing you to suddenly appear several feet away from your last position.
While the technical gaffes can be maddening at times, Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed completely blindsided me with its tremendous charm and fast and unique approach to combat. While the fan service can be a bit overbearing at times, it’s easy to overlook due to the game’s superb and witty writing, entertaining story, and a fully stocked creepy panty vending machine’s wealth of content to explore. Toss in a new game plus mode, extra characters to take control of, and multiple endings and you’ve got a game that’s well worth the $39.99 price tag. If you’re a fan of quirky Japanese RPGs, or classic beat ’em ups, Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed is a very worthy addition to your PS3 or Vita collection.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PS3, Vita (Reviewed) (PS4 Winter 2014) Publisher: XSEED; Developer: Acquire; Players: 1; Released: August 12th, 2014; ESRB: M; MSRP: $39.99
This review was based on Playstation Vita review code provided by Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed’s publisher, XSEED