Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed Review - Undress to kill
This review is based on the PS Vita version of Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed by ACQUIRE.
Despite the localized title, this game is actually the sequel to the original Japan-only Akiba's Trip, which was released back in June 2012, for the PSP. Unfortunately, the first game never saw the light of a western release due to the number of licensing and collaborations with Japanese anime & manga, as well as Japanese stores and brands.
Fortunately for us, XSEED Games managed to license and localize it's sequel, Akiba's Trip 2. The game has been released as Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed for the PS3, Vita and a PS4 version coming this October.
A clever play on words, the game's title can be pronounced as "Akiba Strip", and stripping is the main focus in combat. No.. Seriously! Why, you ask?
Bare with me on this one. Still here? Ok, here goes.
Vampires. Or in Akiba's Trip (AT), they're called Synthisters. Man-made vampires who are created to harvest life energy from Akihabara's citizens. These vampires are protected from sunlight by the very clothes that cover them and when exposed, they disintegrate. Hence, the stripping.
Perverted! Indecent! Immoral! But a whole lot of fun! And hey, finally a new mechanic to make combat interesting rather than button mashing to no end. Relax, its just a game (see: Grand Theft Auto, Postal, Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat etc).
More on komba- err.. combat in a moment. Lets talk about the story and setting of AT.
STORY & SETTING
Akihabara (or Akiba for short) is a district in Tokyo city and is also the mecca of all things otaku. As mentioned earlier - Synthisters, under the guise of normal inhabitants, roam the streets of Akihabara to harvest life force for their own evil purposes.
You play as Nanashi, an average joe in the wrong place and the wrong time. Believing that he signed up for a normal part-time job, but instead was dragged into a dodgy organization to be converted into a Synthister drone. Fortunately, a mysterious girl named Shizuku, a Synthister Hunter, barged in time to stop that from happening. Suffering from a fatal attack while saving Shizuku, Nanashi's life was saved yet again by forming a pact with Shizuku by becoming her familiar. Get where this is going? Good.
Later on, we are introduced to the characters of the Akiba Freedom Fighters who'll help our two protagonists throughout the story. One character to note is Nana, who is the protagonist's little sister. Her snarky remarks, cute attitude and her various ways to refer to her brother (Brotagonist, Brotector, Brotographer, Brobocop etc) is one of her major charms.
To go along with the Freedom Fighters are the wonderful cast of characters and the citizens of Akiba to enrich the virtual experience of the district. Though some are cliched and far-fetched, but they fit so well with the theme and silliness of the game. Yes, the game wont take itself seriously but thats all part of the fun.
AT is explored in a semi-open world system restricted to only the locations in Akiba. The district itself is divided into smaller individual parts for in-game exploration. Think a lighter take of the Yakuza series minus the testosterone filled manliness and gangsters. Each part of the district have their own charms - from the type of inhabitants to the different stores you'll encounter. These locations are based on their real-life counterparts and a good number of stores collaborated with ACQUIRE to have their likeliness and mascots to be included in the game. Travelers who've actually been to Akiba will most likely familiarize themselves with the in-game locations as ACQUIRE did a good job creating a virtual version of the district. My only gripe is that NPCs take a while to be loaded/appear everytime you enter a location.
HOW DO I SHOT WEB?
Aside from the virtual tour of Akiba, the game is full of rich pop-culture references and memes. Those familiar with the references will instantaneously have a good laugh or have a smile on their faces. While the original japanese release was full of 2chan (a popular Japanese imageboard) memes, the localization by XSEED Games did an excellent job of incorporating western (read: english spoken) pop-culture references and memes from 4chan, Reddit and 9gag instead. I've no problem with this, and I see that only the weebs get butt-hurt for the exclusion of the original 2chan memes. See what I did there?
These references can be found throughout the game. From the in-game encyclopedia, events, emails dialogues and a fictional amalgam of twitter and 2chan called Pitter.
The game progresses by completing key missions tasked to Nanashi in order to dispose of the Synthister threat in Akiba. Players are also given optional side missions from Akiba's citizens and also from Nana - how can I say no to my dear little sister?
Side missions are rewarded with money and some rare items and clothing. Nana's missions, should it be completed properly, will unlock an additional ending for the game. There are multiple endings in AT as it encourages replayability by giving different routes (read: girls) to complete.
All previous achievements, items and cash are carried forward to New Game+ after each succession. Worry not, there are plenty to collect and unlock in this game to make it worthwhile.
Combat consist of attacking three parts of the body: head, torso and legs. The Triangle button will attack head, Circle will attack body and X will attack legs. These attacks can be stringed for combos or used separately on its own. These are for weakening the clothes on the enemy's body so it will be easier to strip it off them. Attempting to strip off lightly damaged clothes part will activate a button mashing mini-game to forcefully pull it off. Once you've obtained a good weapon or level-ed up enough, the button mashing and attacking will be a breeze. Unblockable special attacks are also available. These will damage every body part but are executed slowly and can be interrupted by normal attacks.
Defense consists of dodging and counter-attacking/stripping. Dodging is assigned to the R1 button. By holding down R1, you're able to dodge incoming attacks and can dodge in any direction the left thumbstick points to. After successfully dodging, you can immediately counter your enemy with an attack or strip their clothes off if already weakened. Remember, special attacks cannot be dodged when you're standing still.
Don't forget, these things go against your character as well. You get stripped, game over. Thankfully, "healing" in combat is just by holding down the L1 button so your character will readjust his clothing and thus, restores health completely. Not easy as it sounds since you need to steer clear from attackers as you attempt to heal. Although, at times, the game will overwhelm you with multiple aggressive attackers that could instantaneously wipe you out. Its not game breaking, but it will be impossible to those who have not familiarized themselves with the combat mechanics.
Fret not, at most times, you'll be exploring and fighting with one of the girls from the Akiba Freedom Fighters. You can issue commands by using the D-Pad and you can perform a Unison Strip combo attack together once their Unison Gauge fills up. Be warned, if they're overwhelmed by enemies, they will be kicked out of battle until it is over.
Weapons in AT are whacky. They range from various items such as plastic baseball bats, toy guns, keyboards, monitors to even Maid Cafe signs. Most of them are unique as they come with individual moveset combos and special attacks.
BE THE ULTIMATE HIPSTER
Character customization is by the motherlode in this game. You can customize Nanashi with different head accessories, shirts and pants. And yes, you can crossdress later on in the game. Fabulous~! Clothes have different defense stats and can be obtained from stripping your enemies, as rewards from missions or purchased from stores.
Other than clothing, you can equip other interesting items such as different idle/walking/running motions (walk like a yakuza thug!) and new stripping techniques (pro-wrestling style!). However, these tweaks are merely cosmetic and does not add any advantages in combat. It does make you look ridiculously cool or silly in combat.
Later, once unlocked, you'll be able to customize your partner with better clothes and accessories that you've obtained throughout the game.
Nanashi can also level up after gaining experience from every battle. Stats like defense and offense will rank up the more you fight. Stripping skills for every type of clothing can be leveled up if you've stripped a good number of these respective clothes or by buying clothing guides (don't ask) from shops. The lower your strip skill, the most likely the clothes will be ripped apart rather than pulled off. So on and so forth.
It's a different type of game and it might not appeal to everyone. A must buy? It depends really. Those who are looking for deep story telling and an expansive world to explore might not like what AT has to offer. The combat can be infuriating if not practiced properly.
The graphics are still pretty to look at but don't expect much for a handheld release (aside from the dynamic shadows, you won't get much out of the PS3 and PS4 versions either by the way).
Loading times between locations and events can be slow. A playthrough with little exploration and side missions could last around 8 hours or so.
Overall, I liked this game very much and had lots of fun playing it. The story and whacky yet lovable characters got me replaying AT again to get the other endings and obtaining other items I've been missing out. It also got me interested to visit Akiba if I travel to Japan sometime.
WHY VITA BTW?
The main reason I got AT on the Vita is because - lets face it - we need more games for the Vita. The only difference I see comparing the PS3 and PS4 versions versus the Vita is a higher resolution and dynamic shadows which is not present on the handheld version.
Aside from that, everything else looks and works well on the Vita. It was originally made for it in the first place. Sure, there are some framerate drops here and there during intense battles but it never actually bothered me.
This game has got me returning back to my Vita from time and time again. I actually forgot to charge my 3DS at times. As a Vita user, it has been a worthwhile purchase.