- Developer: Acquire
- Publisher: Marvelous Games
- Release Date: 23/07/2021
- Price: £34.99 / $49.99
- Review code provided by Marvelous Games
Introducing: Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound and Debriefed
There was a time when games of a certain nature wouldn’t make it onto a Nintendo console. With repeated challenges on censorship, more recently popularised during the releases of Fire Emblem titles for both 3DS and Switch. It seems now those days are behind us as a slew of titles seem to be being released, re-released or remastered for the western audience. Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound and Debriefed for Nintendo Switch is one of these such titles as you’ll see in our review.
Originally released in Japan as Akiba’s Trip 2, Hellbound and Debriefed is a self described “strip ’em down” brawler game set in the famous district of Akihabara. The game has been entirely remastered for modern consoles in order to provide not only a localised version for western audiences, but an enhanced one. With a combination of english subs and voice acting there is certainly a lot more on offer than with many titles ported to the West. But considering the nature of the game, how does it look when stripped bare? Best we have a look!
Vampires in Tokyo?!
Akihabara is plagued with vampires! That’s the basic premise to Akiba’s Trip. Demons called Shadow Souls have taken their grip on Japan and are turning their victims into shut ins. Unable to venture outside, the story both predicts a bleak future for Japan while also beginning to hint at the games mechanical undertones.
You quickly discover that you have developed the Shadow Soul’s powers, essentially making you one of them. This sets in motion a classic tale of double agentry the likes of which would make Alec Trevelyan proud. Teaming up with a group of Akihabara’s finest you set out to combat the vampiric menace and try to restore peace to the district and by extension, Tokyo itself!
You are tasked with identifying and eliminating the vampire threat. Identifying is the easier of the two, with a handy tech gadget that shows up vampires as invisible, enabling you to confront potential targets. Although fighting them is more difficult when other humans are around, you might just find yourself battling those you are trying to save. For the skills to eliminate, well that’s another section entirely…
Combat is a little revealing
The game sets out its main combat mechanic early on. The aim of each encounter is to remove the clothing of your opponent. Doing so will expose their skin to the cleansing power of the sun. But only when ALL of their outermost garments are removed are they damaged to the point in which they disintegrate. The same, however, can be said of you. Your clothes can be removed to the point your existence is jeopardised.
Combat focuses on the head, torso and abdomen. With attacks designed to reach high, mid and low points. Hitting an opponent in one area repeatedly causes it to flash at you (no not like that, be patient!) This triggers the second part of combat where holding down the relevant attack button will lurch you forward to remove the article of clothing. These attacks can be chained until you are left with an underwear clad reject from the blue man group fading away on the pavement.
Combat is enhanced with your choice of weapons and combat. These can range from the mundane to the outright crazy. Items purchased within the huge variety of shops in the district give you an increase to your attack. These can include obvious weapons such as katana or brass knuckles but don’t be surprised if you are picking up paper fans, traffic cones or other random paraphernalia. I’m leaving the best choices for you to find by yourself.
Cover yourself up!
Clothing is surprisingly important for a game that relies on your stripping off your opponents. At the start of the game you are given a very basic outfit. Shorty after this you gain some simple items of clothing, which you can equip to increase the amount of damage you take.
These are a welcome addition as very quickly on you find yourself struggling to keep up with the combat unless these are equipped. Early on in the game I found myself struggling to defeat a cluster of enemies before realising I hadn’t changed my equipment loadout. Lo and behold I was carving my way through enemies again like fabric sheers through … well… fabric!
The good thing about the clothing mechanic is its ability to be customised and personalised. Yes the outfits, items and accessories give you various RPG stats. But each combination has associated with it a unique code. So an outfit essentially becomes unlocked with every combination you make. With the many different shout outs to Japanese culture embedded within the game, many players will simply enjoy fighting bad guys as their albeit slightly dated, pop culture trope.
Aside from the main story there are plenty of side quests, this is an RPG after all. Side quests can be collected for both sides of the warring factions as well as completing tasks for the inhabitants of Akihabara, such as helping a local vintage clothing salesman. These side quests obviously generate funds for your spending habit, which can go on weapons / collectibles, outfits / cosplay or visiting one of the maid cafes.
The main story has a lot of emphasis on choice later on. With a branching timeline to give players a selection of possible endings. This does not just link to who’s side you choose however, and provides a great deal of replay value for what is a relatively short RPG. One playthrough will set you back around 8-10 hours, possibly a little more but I did not spend much of my time on side quests. But with that kind of play through time, playing out multiple endings is an easy choice.
The gameplay itself is a fun take on the brawler RPG. It felt at times like a cross between Shin Megami Tensei style exploation of worlds combined with a much reduced “warriors” format. The combat is a bit sluggish at times and it is very easy to get caught up battling friends rather than enemies but overall it wasn’t the worst for what is an enhanced PSVita game, itself an enhanced PSP game.
It’s clear who the target market for games like this are. From the references to Otaku humour, cosplaying and maid cafes alone it is clear that this is a niche title. Because of this, Akiba’s Trip won’t be for everyone. The stripping mechanic would put a lot of people off to begin with, but the humour and tone is often reminiscent of teen comedies also.
One thing in the game’s favour is that, for an RPG, it is relatively easy to pick up and play. Not every RPG has to have a deep crafting system or points based stat mechanics. In Akiba’s we have a game that doesn’t require hours of mental demand but still gives RPG fans a fun experience.
My biggest complaint with playing the game however is the mapping system. To access each area within Akihabara you have to exit your current one, choose where to go next and then wait for it to load. This isn’t my issue though! This is also the only time you are able to save or alter your character’s attributes. The first time I played through this I panicked about not knowing how to save. Clearly missing some instruction somewhere (I hope) and assuming there was an auto save feature. Only to have my playthrough wiped clean when I tried to start the game again. Considering the smartphone feature feels underused at times, would it have been so difficult to include a save feature?
So how does it look?
Aesthetically, it’s hard not to be reminded that this is an upscale of an upscale. The developers are quick to point out that this has been remodelled in an entirely new engine, and to some extent this hard work shows. Character models appear at times to be a bit less blocky and in cut scenes the work is obviously more evident. But the animations seem jerky, particularly in combat and the responses to attacks don’t always seem to register I found.
One area the game can take pride in though is in its detail of the Akihabara district. Whilst not having the pleasure to visit the area myself yet, its not hard to see the effort. The district has remained faithful to the layout from 2011/12 and has included the designs of some of the more prominent local outlets in the area. Granted, there are a lot of misspelled brand names for obvious reasons. But the attention to detail was a nice touch and its great to see that this was kept. Maybe updating it to 2020 would have been nice, but I imagine even in a new engine this could have been problematic.
Whilst it is clear this isn’t a game for everyone and in fact, the audience is probably more niche than most games I review. Akiba’s Trip is, for the most part, a fun distraction for a few hours. The combat is simplistic, the story, while fairly superficial, does have some twists and enough to keep you engaged. Where it lets itself down is in it’s age. With a few quality of life issues that quickly remind you that the game has been around a while. A great pick up for fans who want to round off a collection. Indeed, a great pick up for fans of the… genre? But there’s not enough here for most Switch owners
- A fun, yet risque take on the “beat em up” RPG
- Customisable outfits and equipment are fun
- A story that is interesting without asking too much of the player
- Controls feel a little sluggish at times
- Lack of targeting and other quality of life improvements