Playing through Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed, the last feeling I expected to experience was nostalgia. Having once visited Akihabra — the Japanese nerd center of the nation, situated in the heart of Tokyo — walking through the digitally recreated streets of that same place, brought back vivid memories of my time abroad. Visiting the same buildings, sticking my head into the same cutouts, and hanging out at the same park in Akiba’s Trip as I did in real life was a truly surreal experience. I can affirm that the game is a faithful recreation of that colorful and zany land, where the island nation’s otaku congregate to find the latest releases of their obsessive desires: video games, action figures, love pillows and everything in-between. This is where the story of Akiba’s Trip takes place, and its tale is centered around those very obsessions.
The famous Akihabara district has been faithfully recreated for Akiba’s Trip, down to the most minute details.
The plot of the game revolves around you, the protagonist, being kidnapped by a mysterious group of super-nerds and taken to a dark room. Lead by the pretty-boy Zenya, the group straps you down to a table and prepares to transform you into a “Synthister”, a type of vampiric otaku who feeds off the obsessions of those around him, turning his victims into even more pitiful geeks. Just before the procedure begins, a female synthister hunter by the name of Shizuku Tokikaze storms into the room and springs you from your predicament. As you try to escape, you shield the girl from a fatal wound, leaving you grievously injured. Left with only one option, she plants a blood-soaked kiss on your lips to heal your wounds; the girl essentially reveals herself to be a vampire, and she makes you her familiar. Going forward from this point, you follow her on a crusade to liberate Akihabara from the synthister menace by exploiting their one critical weakness, sunlight. To do this, you battle the creatures not by killing them through physical trauma, but by tearing apart and removing their clothing.
Such is the goofy premise of Akiba’s Trip, which acts as little more than an excuse to hit the streets of Japan and tear the pants off random passersby. The plot is an intentionally cliched parody of the most shonen anime and manga, and the humor leaks into the dialogue choices made available to you as the story progresses. Silly objectives, like whacking some sense into mid-lifers trying to cosplay as magical girls, or trying to convince a yaoi enthusiast that not all boys are gay certainly gave me more than a few giggles. Starting a fight in the streets can have a hilariously chaotic chain reaction, resulting in a mob of citizens, synthisters and even cops engaging you (and each other) in a hectic brawl.
The plot progresses with wanton 4th wall breaking and constant self-awareness.
Though enjoyable as the story and its farcical shenanigans are, the fun takes a few hiccups once it comes time to engage in the game’s central activity: combat. Playing like a budget Yakuza title, the fighting in Akiba’s Trip is decent at best and aggravating at worst. With a forced lock-on and very few options to utilize in combat, most of the work boils down to walking in the general vicinity of your target and mashing buttons until his or her clothing starts flashing; whereupon, you hold down the corresponding attack button to reach out and tear it away. You can use a multitude of weapons in the game, ranging from laptop computers to demonic samurai swords, swiping at the head, torso or legs of an enemy.
Removing every item of clothing from an enemy essentially “kills” them, but the same goes for you and your duds. Weapon move-sets tend to be extremely limited, with samey combos that get old almost immediately upon using them. Most of the fun to be had with the combat is trying to rack up as many consecutive strips as you can. There is a technique in the game that allows you to immediately strip every piece of broken clothing on every single enemy in the area, one article at a time. Zipping between enemy to enemy, shirt to shirt, the battle turns into one massive QTE that, when performed correctly, could leave every enemy in the field stark naked.
Combat is clunky and rather unsatisfying, but stripping down a group of 100 celebrity idols almost makes up for it.
While some of the side-quests are funny in concept, they usually boil down to just fetch-quests or short bursts of combat. Sometimes you may need to take on a horde of enemies instead of a handful, which just means more time spent mashing buttons until the baddies disappear. It’s unfortunate that Akiba’s Trip didn’t take more notes from Yakuza in terms of having a variety of things to do; it seems the budget was mostly spent on creating an accurate portrayal of Akihabara, rather than on making the core game-play particularly fun; however, New Game + offers a slew of features that can help spice up the tedium, such as being able to swap out the basic in-game character model with others you have unlocked in the previous play-through. On top of that, replaying the game allows you romance one of several female companions who tag along with you during the campaign; if you have a particular waifu in mind, that might be the incentive you need to keep coming back for more.
One interesting feature in this game is the ability to turn any weapon of your choosing into the ultimate killing machine. Visiting your adorable little imouto at the arcade you live at gives you the opportunity to upgrade any item of your choosing by melting down the gear you pick up during your fights around town. Eventually, you can make a paper fan even more deadly than a pistol, and a dakimakura more viable than a magic sword. There is an insane amount of customization in the game; you can be a boy or a girl; a boy wearing girls clothes; a girl wearing boy’s clothes; a gothic lolita fighting with water pistols; and a yakuza hoodlum who swings around a leak. The list is nearly endless. There are also a fair number of cheats to unlock, some that allow you to alter the color scheme until it becomes an unintelligible mess of psychedelic colors, and others that perform classic model alterations like “big head mode”. The game-play may still be kind of a drag even when messing around with the cheats and customization, but the options do add a bit of a superficial spice to the experience.
Finishing off bosses provides you with an objectifying view of your fallen enemy.
Overall, while there are certainly faults to be taken with Akiba’s Trip’s lackluster game-play, it’s still a title I find myself going back to for just some quick, dumb button-mashing. The thumping club-themed soundtrack definitely gets me into the groove of stripping people bare, and I find myself getting pretty hype when I get a strip combo going up into the hundreds. The game might be good for someone who wants a quick, dumb action romp with a silly story to go along with it, or a small taste of the wacky Akihabara scene over in Japan. The game’s strongest point is its faithful recreation of the legendary electronics district. It’s just a shame that the dull game-play might not be enough to stick around.
Lastly, if you do intend on checking this game out, do yourself a favor and switch the spoken audio to Japanese. Trust me.