By David Fernandes / November 12th, 2014
|Title||Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed
|Release Date||August 12, 2014|
|Genre||Adventure, Beat ’em up|
Akiba’s Strip was a PlayStation Portable game released back in 2011, with most of its gameplay borrowing elements from Acquire’s other franchise, Way of the Samurai. This time the game takes place in a more modern time and place: Akihabara: a Japanese geek paradise as some would call it. Akiba’s Strip was met with a mixed response, but was applauded for trying something different (and I mean quite different for a handheld title), with its being able to capture the authentic feel of the fabled district in Tokyo. Unfortunately for the West, it was never localized, and since the unique combat system raised some eyebrows, most assumed the decision made sense and its sequel would probably be the same. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, and XSEED Games (known to not shy away from publishing niche titles with a side of raunchy appeal) decided to localize and publish the title. So it’s different, yes, but does it warrant checking out?
The game begins with the main protagonist, default name “Nanashi”, strapped to a gurney being told he’s been accepted into his new job position after signing a contract, with the pay being all the rare figurines he could ever want and more to satiate his materialist habits. Unfortunately, the pay was too good to be true, and he got more than he bargained for when accepting the shady deal. He’s been turned into a Synthister: a makeshift vampire with all the strengths and weakness you would expect a vampire to have, all to drain the life energy of the people wandering the streets of Akiba. Since the main character doesn’t want to play ball, the game’s antagonist, Zenya, decides to simply dispose of him. Fortunately for our main character, a mysterious beauty named Shizuku saves him in time. After a scuffle which leaves him injured from saving his would-be savior after escaping the enemy’s grasp, Shizuku decides to save Nanashi and prevent him from eventually transforming into a mindless Synthister. So, she gives him her blood by mouth-to-mouth to enter a contract, making him her familiar.
The next day, after catching up with his emails after being gone for a few days without a word on his status, they head to MOGRA, a game bar that also acts as a hangout joint for the Akiba Freedom Fighters. After explaining his predicament, being chewed out by his little sister and chastised for his incompetence, they let Shizuku become a member and let her crash at MOGRA for as long as she needs. The other members also decide as part of the AFF to help their friend and new member deal with these invading Synthisters and the organization that’s creating them, and if possible, find a cure to turn him back to a normal human. Thus the story begins for our college students to learn the truth about the Synthisters, their connection to this evil organization and their plans to use the gathered life energy they take from their victims.
While it starts out okay, the game’s plot is largely uninteresting and it never takes itself seriously to begin with. Even when it tries to be emotionally touching, it’s usually just set up to be ruined by a gag. The main character, usually with a partner in hand, progress the story by going to locations throughout Akiba as part of reconnaissance, which is nothing more than activating a standard fight with a bunch of Synthisters or being ambushed by another group before going back to MOGRA. Then you’re told to go out again for another task that’s usually another fight, meeting up with a character for an exchange, or fetching an item; rinse and repeat. But then you get to the good parts that usually deal with a character conflict or events that further pushes the narrative. Like for example, when you go to an idol show of Rin’s and you get attacked by raging fans of hers that are Synthisters in disguise, or my favorite moment in the game when you enter a cosplay contest that only gets better with each scene. Moments like these are where the story shines, but it comes at a cost.
Yes, the crew of the AFF are fun and loveable, and the dialogue exchanges are entertaining in their own right, but they never seem to develop past their introductions. They act as nothing more than just one note anime archetypes, even if I found some to be endearing. Besides Shizuku becoming less of her ice queen persona and embracing her newfound love of anime and Nana’s own character arc, the rest of the characters stay largely the same throughout the game besides a girl falling for the MC. As for the VN-like dialogue structure, I strictly mean a visual novel-like choices; there’s no binary morality choices or any deep role-playing mechanics going on here to craft the MC’s personality. Most three choice dialogue sequences boil down to not even mattering since you will get the same response either way. There’s a third option that makes a joke out of the situation and leads to you being ridiculed, which is quite hilarious at times, and there are also some choices that gain you affinity to a specific female character.
Whichever character has the highest affinity will lock you in their route, and choosing enough dialogue options that favor that girl will earn you a true ending, which acts as one possible proper epilogue. Otherwise you get a normal ending. Nana’s is not so much of a route but more of a chain of sidequests, and the ending acts as a finale to that chain. By route, I mean the last hour of the game, with only one girl out of the four having anything interesting to offer and the rest being largely similar with very little differences to set them apart. Unlike Way of the Samurai, you’re on a linear path every time you go through New Game +. After you beat it once, getting the other endings felt like more of a chore since it stays largely the same no matter which girl you’re after, leaving me quite underwhelmed. Even without saying much on the endings, it goes full rush hour once the true big bad reveals himself, but it simply ends so abruptly that I left disappointed with the story. I still feel the plot could have offered so much more.
Keeping true to the title, the combat, which is very similar to Way of the Samurai, has one huge difference. Instead of the usual health bar, you instead have to contend with durability of clothing. It is exactly as it sounds: damage clothes enough to destroy or strip them completely off enemies, letting the sunlight deal with Synthisters, or embarrass foes who will run with their tails between their legs. Enemies will have upper body and lower body clothing, and at times head gear. The circle button attacks the upper body, the X button attacks the lower body, and the triangle button attacks head gear. Holding down the attack button of any of the three will allow you to grab hold of their clothing and commence a QTE, which allows you another way to wear that specific clothing down. When the enemy’s clothing is damaged enough, it will flash green or if nearly destroyed, purple. The more damage the clothing has, the easier it is to strip them when grabbing them, even avoiding the QTE altogether. Movesets are tied to the weapon you wield, and weapons are various objects like arcade motherboards, character pillows, daki, umbrellas, baseball bats, golf clubs, or fake swords. The clothing ranges from normal causal wear to business wear, school uniforms, and cosplay get-ups like maid, magical girl, gothic lolita, and military- the works. Find them all to fill up your phone’s sizable encyclopedia.
While Nanashi would be considered special, being that he is a mix of a Synthister and a familiar to a Nighteater, he is still susceptible to sunlight and enemies will try to destroy or strip your clothing as you try to do the same to them. Luckily, he’s not only a capable attacker but also great at defense, with the ability to dodge and/or counter. With timely placed inputs, you can essentially be invincible, and like I mentioned before, it’s easy to swipe clothing off the enemy in question if enough damage has been done, which is another quick way to strip them without even needing to try and grab them. If that isn’t enough, your character will also be able to strip enemies of their underwear, essentially leaving them naked thanks to the strip chain system. That fun happens depending on the number of enemies you have on screen, which is also dependent on how much you damaged their clothing. It usually needs to be flashing at least green.
You then proceed to strip an enemy like usual, but a button prompt will flash on screen, allowing you to start chain striping enemies in QTE fashion. Once you have done it about 7 times in succession, whatever enemies are left without any clothing (besides underwear) will be blasted away in a shower of light, stripping them completely. Once you progress enough through the story, you and your AI partner (one of the six girls) will have a meter that builds up after taking damage or dishing it out. Once filled, you can activate a team attack that will basically one-shot enemies. You’re even allowed to heal up any and all damage to your clothes with the L2 button, making the game pretty easy, even if you can’t restore already stripped clothing right away.
As a member of the AFF, you aren’t just tasked on look-out duty for any Synthister activities. A number of sidequests become available as you progress in the game. While this is public service, they are still your clients and clients don’t have all the time in the world to wait for you, so they will become unavailable or act as a failure on your part if you progress the story too fast. The reward is mostly yen, but with the high prices on items, equipment, and other assorted items from the shops peppered throughout the maps or from Fusion, it’s a good way to make some cash without having to grind and sell junk from enemies.
The game does have some light RPG elements, like leveling up. But besides raising your character’s potential for stripping specific clothing easier, or being able to obtain clothes without destroying them (which comes naturally from stripping enemies or buying magazines) it’s quite arbitrary since you will only see a real effect after going into the 50 range and above, and even then it’s quite miniscule. The real way to properly prepare yourself as the game gets more progressively harder with late game encounters, bosses and harder difficulties without the need to grind is through the process of Fusion. This is where the MC’s little sister comes in. After a certain point in the first few hours, Nana’s shop will be available for use, allowing you to reinforce your weapons and equipment.
You begin by selecting the base item, either a weapon or article of clothing, and then choosing the second item, which can be a weapon or defense equipment. Then you fuse the second item to the base item, allowing the base item to increase in proficiency in attack or defense, depending on the second item’s property in that field. Since the price is fixed at 1000 yen for each item no matter what, it’s always best to use the same item to get double the amount of points, and items that have the higher attack or defense number since it can quite pricey, but well worth it in the long run.
Akiba Freedom Fighters Continue on Page 2
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