Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed Review: An enjoyable trip back to where it all began
Not too long ago, I wrote up a little preview of Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed. At the time, I was having fun with it, but was a little worried that it was going to essentially turn out to be a watered-down, albeit definitely still very much enjoyable, version of its sequel, Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed. I don’t disagree with how I was feeling those few short weeks ago—because it really did look like this game was going to end up that way—and, in a way, I still kind of feel that way right now, but I don’t think that I was being quite fair when it came to a few specific things. Fortunately, I have a second chance to go through things in this Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed review!
To be fair, Hellbound & Debriefed is never going to beat out Undead & Undressed, but I didn’t expect it to; and I don’t think that anyone who expects it to is being fair on it. You should know what you’re getting into isn’t going to be quite as good, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s going to be exactly the same—because it isn’t. I mean, sure, you still run around Akiba and rip the clothing off of people, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t its own game!
A Very Polite Vampire
Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed follows the story of Nanashi, an otaku who gained miraculous superpowers after nearly being beaten to death in a dark alley by a man in punk-rock attire and then subsequently forced to kiss and drink the blood of a girl afterward. Pretty weird, huh? Well, it gets weirder. Following this beatdown/makeout session, Nanashi is then abducted by a government agency known as NIRO. Upon waking up in one of NIRO’s facilities (naked and tied to a chair, might I add), he is informed that the blood that he drank has turned him into something known as a “Shadow Soul”—a superhuman creature whose only true weakness is sunlight—and that if he doesn’t start helping NIRO get rid of other Shadow Souls lurking around Akiba, then they’ll kill him. And, yes, all of this literally happens before you can even play the game.
If I can be completely candid, here, I’ve got to admit that Hellbound & Debrifed‘s story is the one part about this game that it has over its sequel. I had expected it to take the same “pick your waifu” route as Undead & Undressed. And, while there are some romantic elements, they’re weaved much more naturally into this game’s story. The whole “sketchy government organization vs. human-like monster people” plot is really cool, too. While I’m aware that Undead & Undressed has something similar with its Synthisters, the way the Shadow Souls are implemented in Hell Bound & Debriefed is much more engaging.
The Sights! The Sounds! The Otaku!
One of the biggest pulls of the Akiba’s Trip series is the fact that you get to explore what essentially amounts to a realistic Akihabara (aside from the rampant demonic activity and the whole “strip everyone naked” thing). Naturally, Hellbound & Debriefed, as the game that started this trend, has a faithfully recreated Akihabara to explore. Players are able to peruse the main street, Junk Street UD+, and more. Were this the first instance of a game doing this, this would have been absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, we Westerners got the Akiba’s Trip games in reverse order. And, while Hellbound & Debriefed‘s recreation of Akiba is still cool, it’s completely outdone by Undead & Undressed.
When comparing the two games against one another, there are fewer places to explore, the streets fairly sparse, and the complete lack of realistic advertisements in Hellbound & Debriefed makes it entirely unable to stand up to the realism presented within Undead & Undressed. And, yes, I’m saying that a game about stripping vampires’ clothing off had realism. Again, this isn’t exactly Hellbound & Debriefed‘s fault. This is the first game, so it’s obviously not going to be as fleshed out as its sequel, and it would be kind of weird to expect that. However, after having spent so much time with Undead & Undressed previously, it’s hard not to notice when all of the little things that made it so wonderful are missing entirely from its predecessor. On the bright side, it certainly makes you appreciate all of the hard work that Acquiredid when creating the second Akiba’s Trip game!
Fortunately, while Akihabara itself isn’t as lively as I would have liked, its citizens certainly are. As with its sequel, a lot of the fun in Hellbound & Debriefed comes from meandering around and completing quests for people. And, with this being Akihabara and all, you can bet that a lot of the people you’ll be helping out are kind of weird. Sure, it might just be helping otaku and maids ait first, but it won’t be long before you’re squaring off with Super Sentai Rangers and men in soccer ball uniforms, and finding that oh-so-perfect cat girl outfit so some bloody nosed random girl can try to force it on one of your friends. Money’s money, after all, right?
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Embarrass ‘Em (And Then Beat ‘Em)
As far as I’m aware, there’s very little—if any at all—difference between the combat mechanics in Hellbound & Debriefed and Undead & Undressed. If you’ve played the second game, then that should be more than enough information. I’m aware that not everyone has, however, so let’s dig into things a little more. Hellbound & Debriefed is essentially an action/RPG with fighting mechanics. Characters are able to equip up to three pieces of clothing (headgear, shirt, and pants), and while characters, including the player themselves, don’t have HP, their clothing does. By attacking various parts of an enemy, you damage their clothes, and, once the clothing is damaged enough, you can rip it right off—and, once a character’s left in nothing but their skivvies, they’re down and out.
Hellbound & Debriefed‘s combat is very simple, surprisingly addictive, and it isn’t hard to get the hang of at all. Unfortunately, it also isn’t the most polished combat around. A total lack of manual targeting means that you can accidentally end up targeting the wrong person or, in some cases, even hit someone who you aren’t actively engaged in combat in. The game also doesn’t let you start beating up people who aren’t actively hostile toward you. While this makes sense from the point of public decency, it’s really annoying when you’re trying to go after people with rare clothing.
Shaky, but Sound
Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed is a lot of fun, but it also leaves something to be desired given the fact that we’ve had its sequel for almost a decade at this point. If you’ve never gotten into the series and want to start, or are like me and love Undead & Undressed so much that you just want to know what came before it, then Hellbound & Debriefed is absolutely worth your time. It’s a charming title with a good amount of replayability, and gameplay that, in all likelihood, you probably won’t find anywhere else. Do be warned, however, that its age is showing at this point.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC; Publisher: XSEED Games; Developer: Acquire; Players: 1; Released: July 20, 2021; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.