The first two things I did when I turned on Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed were to take off my character’s trousers and giggle. I knew right then this was a game for me. The town of Akihabara is being slowly infiltrated by Synthisters, energy sucking, antisocial, greedy vampires. The only way to defeat these horrifying foes is to beat them up with an ordinary household object, strip off their clothes and watch them dissolve in the sunlight. Now that’s what I call a hook. Twilight would have been a lot more interesting had it involved poking Edward with a plastic umbrella and stripping off all his … urgh, scrap that. What an image.
Akiba’s Trip (or Akiba Strip, as you are encouraged to notice) is an odd mix of open world RPG, beat ‘em up and visual novel. You are a freedom fighter but you are also a total nerd who signed away his life to the Synthisters for the chance of some rare figurines. As someone who once spent a week’s wages on a rare Final Fantasy VII collector’s box set of all the characters plus chocobo, I can relate. I would have sold my own grandfather for that set. Actually, I would have sold him for a bag of crisps but that’s not the point. A mysterious girl named Shizuku rescues you from your terrifying predicament, and you spend the rest of the game fighting the evil Synthisters and learning about your condition (and no, it’s not going to go way with an over-the-counter cream).
As Nanashi, an Akiba Freedom Fighter, your base of operations is the MOGRA Game Bar, run by an old guy called Pops. Your friends and co-fighters are actually an interesting bunch and you’ll want to talk to them and know more about them very early on. You’ll even get the chance to romance some of them. The story part of the game functions very much like a visual novel. It’s a great little story, well-written and acted, and incredibly funny, setting the game’s tone as a tongue-and-cheek comedy very well. These scenes are a good length, entertaining and they didn’t once lose my attention. Throughout these story sections you get the chance to respond with dialogue options. These options and the way you interact with the people around you affect the route you take and your relationships with the girls. I chose to schmooze Shizuku because I dig purple hair and found her umbrella very attractive. I’m sure those reasons sound quite flimsy, but I’ve dated guys for flimsier. You also have an annoying little sister, Nana, who will get the better of you every time, but actually she’s pretty cool and is also a cosplay expert, so go to her with your stolen shirts and trousers and she’ll do something funky with a sewing machine and somehow upgrade them, allowing you to take more damage in a fight. During the story, you’ll be sent out on missions and patrols where you’ll encounter plenty of opportunities to nick the enemy’s clobber, money and dropped weapons. Horde, upgrade and sell. Your weapon is particularly important. Swapping a football for a three-pronged Double Triple Psyllium (whatever the holy hell that actually is) certainly made a huge difference to me. Weapons can also be upgraded courtesy of little sis.
You can follow the very amusing main story straight through or allow yourself to be distracted by the plentiful side missions that will pop up on Nanashi’s smartphone. My first side mission was to find a girl utterly obsessed with Yaoi (homoerotic manga) and convince her to calm her hormones by slapping her about and relieving her of her clothes. Not completely sure of the logic there and on occasion enjoying a little Yaoi myself, I did feel a little guilty. Not guilty enough to resist shouting “Ha, naked!” when the deed was done, though. Combat is odd and fun. Use the Triangle, circle and X button to target head, body or legs and start bashing them with your chosen household object. When you’ve damaged the other person’s clothes enough you can attempt to rip them off, one piece at a time. You’ll often face-off several enemies at once so go crazy with your brolly or thing-that-looks-like-a-giant-kebab, and when you think you’ve damaged a wardrobe’s worth of clothes, start ripping. If your timing is right you can score combos. You will be presented with one of your enemies and a particular button – quickly hold it down to rip off a shirt, then another button to go for the trousers, again for the hairband or hat; it will then automatically switch the next person and you can strip their damaged attire too. Time it right and you can strip an entire group of Synthisters in seconds. I hate to sound like a perv, but I found the stripping combos to be very satisfying, although I do wish my co-worker, a middle-aged lady with huge glasses and a 1970’s cardigan, hadn’t leaned over my shoulder with a “ooh, is that Mario?” at the very moment I finally pulled off the coveted stripping finisher.
Most missions, be they part of the main game or a bit on the side, follow the same formula. Story, dialogue, fight, strip. It’s a formula that works weirdly well. Between the missions you can upgrade your gear and explore the town of Akihabara at your leisure. And, wow, what an incredible town it is. Akiba’s Trip presents some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen on the Vita. It’s absolutely beautiful. Akihabara is a colourful city environment full of people, traffic, bright lights, electronic billboards and shops you can actually visit. I held my Vita to my lips and whispered “How are you doing this?” because although the Vita is a kicking little piece of tech, Akiba’s Trip contains an astonishing amount of detail and not once did I experience framerate issues. I felt like I was witnessing a shiny black miracle. I always give gameplay more importance than graphics but good lord isn’t it nice to have both? I want to thrust my Vita and Akiba’s Trip in Sony’s face and plead with them not to give up on her, because look what can be achieved.
Akiba’s Trip boasts one of the most spectacular and detailed environments I have ever seen on the Vita. Entertaining, original and smutty, this game is meant to be played with a smile on your face. It’s colourful fun that feels a lot less pervy than the title and description suggests. Yes, it mainly involves punching people in the face and disrobing them, but it’s not all about women in their underwear. It’s men too!
S J Hollis Rating 8/10