Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed
Nominally a satire of otaku culture, Akiba’s Trip is more like a celebration tempered by a warning of the dangers of immersing yourself too fully. In the busy Tokyo district of Akihabara, a few patrons have become consumed by materialism, and these obsessive shut-ins (clumsily named Synthisters) prey on the vitality of their more sociable peers. “They steal life energy from people,” says one character, “effectively killing all enthusiasm and zeal.” In light of recent online activity, it’s a particularly timely observation, such that you could be forgiven for breaking into a wry smile.
It opens with our protagonist having succumbed to a shady organisation’s irresistible offer on some rare figurines, whereupon you’re rescued and recruited by a friendly bunch determined to rid Akihabara of these parasitic irritants. To denude is to destroy: deliver enough damage and you can strip away their clothing, causing them to disintegrate in the sunlight as per vampiric tradition. If it sounds sleazy, there’s a laudable equality in its shows of flesh, and it’s not so much for titillative as comedic effect. The rudimentary art style means there isn’t much to see anyway, but there’s no leering nor any puerile sniggering. Acquire displays an uncommonly mature attitude towards nudity.
Equipped with a smartphone that can access social networks, emails and a map from which you can fasttravel, you’ll find yourself distracted regularly by sharply scripted interruptions. If the game doesn’t capture the hubbub of its setting as well as Yakuza, it’s recognisably Akihabara – though Super Potato, like other stores, is disappointingly a flat background to a list of wares. The district is split into several fragments, but loading transitions are minimal, and side missions are brief enough that you’ll accomplish much in little time. Its outlook is generally good-natured, too, and while dialogue options allow you to play as a sexist jerk, most characters will think less of you as a result.
It’s a shame, then, that it collapses entirely when it comes to combat. You’re encouraged to damage multiple items of clothing on enemies’ heads, torsos and legs before removing them in a series of flourishes, yet with no sense of physical connection, plus the lottery that is targeting individual enemies and blows inexplicably failing to land, fights devolve into button-mashing. At least the laughable ease of recovery compensates for a camera that struggles in narrow streets, though without warning you’ll find apparent onlookers diving into the fray, leading to brawls that can last upwards of 20 minutes. At which point, your mind will wander, and you’ll ponder whether so much exposed skin has ever resulted in anything so thuddingly dull.
You can ask your partner to help out in attacking an enemy to weaken their clothes, or to dodge and keep you healed instead. In the latter mode, they’ll act as a defensive barrier when you need to straighten yourself out