Akihabara is a unique place. Located in Tokyo’s Chiyoda prefecture, what was once nicknamed Electric Town after its prevalence of electronic goods shops is now a hive for otaku culture quite unlike anywhere else on Earth. It’s the place to get everything geeky that you ever wanted, as well as soaking up a unique atmosphere from another world not quite like ours.
Akiba’s Trip is an unabashed love letter to this fantastical district, giving you free reign to explore and take in the sights. Many of the popular venues in town have been recreated and are hugely evocative of the real thing – seeing the towering Club Sega arcade over the road really took me back to the last time I visited. Developers Acquire have pushed the boat out and licensed a number of Akihabara’s most famous shopping venues to appear in game – the aforementioned Club Sega, Yodobashi Camera, Sofmap, Trader… it’s reminiscent of that first glance at Crazy Taxi and how strange it was to see Tower Records or Pizza Hut, brands that provide a sense that this is actually a real place.
Many of the stores sell merchandise to outfit your character in, and while it takes a special kind of idiot to get excited by a Go! Go! Curry shirt, on this occasion I’m happy for that to be me. Even the load screens have something of interest as each one displays a flyer for a real Akihabara store, a recent anime release, other upcoming games from Acquire…
Speaking of which, there is also a game attached to Akiba’s trip.
You play as Nanashi, a teenager who learns of a plot to turn the citizens of Akihabara into vampires when he is himself turned undead. A mysterious girl comes to his aid and together they escape, and upon discovering Nanashi’s new-found superhuman strength they work on a plot to eradicate the new vampiric epidemic. The enemy’s weakness? Sunlight on their exposed skin.
Naturally the only way to exploit this weakness is by mauling them with whatever weaponry you can lay your hands on before tearing their clothes off with your bare hands. Clothes can only be torn off after that part of the body has taken enough damage; if you weaken the clothing of enough enemies at once, you can dash between them, stripping them one after the other like a proper dribbling pervert. If clothes are not ready to be removed, a button-mashing minigame replete with Nanashi tugging at someone’s clothing while gurning can get you the desired results. I get the impression that the stripping mechanic is supposed to be bizarre and comedic, but it comes across as cold and sinister as you methodically prowl the streets for bad guys to undress.
Combat revolves around dodging your opponents attacks and timing your counter appropriately. This can be a little difficult at times as enemies are often reticent to attack at all, leading to you squaring off against a mob of six enemies with all of you just stood there bobbing around and blocking for long periods. Weapons are usually goofy – I settled on a baseball bat but was often attacked with monitors, keyboards, rolled-up posters, leeks and in one instance a giant doner kebab, still on the spit.
Side missions are where things get the most alarming. While your main enemies have a paper-thin plot-related reason for requiring their disrobing, a lot of side missions deal with regular, non-vampiric people and their ridiculous problems. Man taking candid pictures? Rough him up and rend his clothes from his flesh! Two disagreeing families? Get sixteen of them together and disrobe the lot of them at once! Girl watching too much gay porn? Punch her in the face repeatedly until she is subdued, then forcibly undress her! While I’ve cherry-picked those three, many others involve choosing ridiculous options from a dialogue tree and, when it turns out you are not eloquent, clever or persuasive, instead resort to ripping someone’s clothes off to “teach them a lesson”.
Back at base, in between her devastating collection of “bro” puns, your sister will also give you the odd mission. The first one involved taking pictures of maids. I tried taking a photo of one, she kept walking off so I didn’t bother with the rest. The main story’s progression is no more inspiring, as you routinely visit a location, fight some dudes, go back to base, before doing the same thing again and again until the final curtain.
There are few consequences for your public disturbance. It appears to be possible to get arrested during the game, but I’ve seen plenty of police cars drive past with nary a worry while the Akiba Sex Pest Brigade have been doing their thing, so I’m not sure what it would take for them to get involved. Tellingly, the in-game social network picks up on your activities and treats them with the same bafflement you would expect if a group of vigilante teenagers were travelling your city and tearing people’s trousers off.
If you take away all the stripping, Akiba’s Trip could have been a goofy brawler that knew its audience. It’s already filled with gags and set-pieces specifically aimed at an otaku crowd, and the recreation of Akihabara is a decent facsimile that is clearly put together with a lot of love and care.
Sadly this is overshadowed by the fact that this is a game about subduing people with violence and then stripping them naked, which isn’t how you want any love letter to end.