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Sometimes you just gotta eat some trash food like McDonald’s. You know it’s not well-prepared and you know it’s not good for your health. But there’s just something about it that will sate a specific appetite that other meals will not.

Video games can be the same.

I do not recommend Akiba’s Trip to anyone but folks that like quirky and experimental Japanese RPG’s. The narrative isn’t particularly impressive or ambitious, nor are the mechanics in any way polished. They are distinctly lacking in polish. In fact, I’m pretty sure they aren’t painted, let alone polished. They’ve just got the primer on them.

Despite this, I cannot condemn the game, either. While many in my circle dismissed Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed as a game for undersexed man children stripping the clothing off of underage girls, I decided to see for myself just what sort of title this was.

Also, a College buddy of mine asked me to write about it years ago when I tried doing “Stretch Goals” for my Extra Life streams. The immense delay is pretty much why I don’t do those anymore.

It turns out the concept isn’t quite as bad as everyone believes. You’re actually stripping the clothes off a lot of dudes as well. In fact, the game is front-loaded with dudes to be stripped of their garments. By the end I’d say the game establishes a pretty evenly split ratio of pseudo-vampires to pummel and relieve of their garments. While the clothing can be viewed as an excuse for ridiculous fan-service, it’s not really meticulously rendered nor is the player given time to appreciate any bouncing bustiers that happen to become exposed to sunlight.

Which isn’t to say this game is absent of fan-service. The game contains different romantic “routes” that impact many of the latter missions and ending based on who you romance. Responses to inquiries, most common patrol buddy, and training partner will all determine which girl you’ll ultimately be romancing. It is during a training mission, in fact, that the game will act as advertised and grant the player an optional cellphone wallpaper – background to the in-game menu – featuring the girl in her skivvies.

While there are also two male characters whose briefs-clad bodies can grace your cellphone, the target demographic is quite clearly leaning male. Despite the option to play as a female avatar on a second playthrough, the game and story will progress forward as if you are playing a male character. No new romance options, and characters will still refer to you as a “he”.

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Gender representation and demographics aside, the game’s characters and narrative neither adhere too strictly nor defy common tropes. There’s the tomboy childhood-friend, the quiet Rei imitation, the busty Christmas Cake, the maybe-tsundere-I’m-still-not-sure, and the foreign blonde. Oh, and I suppose the sister? Though fortunately the game never goes there with the sister.

See, it’s shit like that which makes it tough to recommend this game. “Wait, Chris, what the Hell do you mean by ‘goes there’?” Well, at some point the devoted sibling became a thing in anime and manga, and Akiba’s Trip plays to both sides of the ...obsession? Fascination? You must be the devoted older brother, treating your sister kindly, letting her win at video games, and… taking a bath with her… like when you were kids…

Or you could crush her at video games and tell her it’s weird to bathe together. Both options are, fortunately, viable. In turn, you get a sister that keeps reminding you of how adorable she is and counting on you to help her out. Despite her rude attitude, she clearly admires her brother the protagonist, and has a variety of portmanteau pseudonyms beginning with “Bro”. Terms like “Brotagonist” and “Brotaku”, for example.

Her character and the entire relationship is a fantasy for both male and female Otaku in Japan. It is absolute devotion and unconditional love from a member of the opposite sex. It’s also purely emotional, or “safe”. While sex can be a part of the fantasy, it does not always cross that line.

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In what other game can I turn my head and see a giant ad for Genshiken Nidaime? None, that’s what.

This is the nature of Akiba’s Trip. It is an alternate reality for nerds, geeks, and Otaku to project themselves and enjoy an escapist fantasy where they get to beat people up, strip them of their clothes, and collect a crap ton of computer monitors and anime posters to wield as weaponry. It is not a game intended to be taken seriously. Not in the manner in which Western developers take their games seriously, at least. It manages to walk the line between silly humor and dramatic narrative better than DOOM, which is constantly trying to remind you how dumb dramatic narratives can be while forcing you to listen to a villain’s monologue.

Of course, DOOM has Akiba’s Trip beat by remembering that the most important aspect of a game is the gameplay. I’d say the mechanics were a secondary consideration for Akiba’s Trip, only I’m not sure the developers bothered to put together a list of priorities at all. The story itself is nothing to write home about, and while the various characters are comfortable, they certainly aren’t interesting or memorable. The writing is adequate enough that the cast feels like a group of bantering friends, but it never surpasses “sufficient”. I do not hate the characters, and that is about the best I can say of it.

The combat is less sufficient, and I have to wonder if only a handful of weapons are really worth using. Most of the tools at your disposal are unwieldy, cumbersome, and slow. A bit fitting, as you’re largely dealing with impromptu computer and fandom equipment scattered throughout Akihabara. Appropriate realism rarely makes for good gameplay, however. Shotguns are strictly close-range weapons in shooters because they’d be mechanically unbalanced otherwise.

So there’s a whole metagame of swapping and experimenting with different weapons until you find one that you like. For me, it was the boxing gloves. They were quick enough to interrupt some attacks, which allowed me to learn a simple truth about Akiba’s Trip: enemies know precisely which attacks they need to execute to prevent flinching.

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A classy game for classy people.

Like flawed NES games of old, it seems like the mechanics to Akiba’s Trip rely more on a meta-game of discovering the system’s flaws and exploits in order to succeed. Not to develop any actual real skill or to understand the mechanics themselves, but to work around them in order to succeed. That Akiba’s Trip is an RPG means this becomes an easier task with increased leveling and upgraded equipment, sharply boosting the player’s combat prowess.

If there’s anything positive I can say about the combat, it’s that I’ve not played an action RPG like it. There’s no title I can compare it to, be it to indicate how it could be improved or a game with a similar flavor.

Which is basically the charm of Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed. You play it because there’s nothing else like it to play. A bit anime, a bit visual novel, and a wholly unique action-RPG combat system; everything about Akiba’s Trip was put together because the developers wanted to create a game about being an Otaku in Akihabara fighting pseudo-vampires.

For this reason I love the game. I can’t recommend it, and not a single aspect of it hasn’t been done better in other games, but there’s nothing quite like it. Sometimes, that alone is enough reason to play a game.


 

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