By Laura . July 4, 2011 . 3:02pm
The Kageyashi in Akiba’s Trip are no sparkling vampires. They’re a separate race of people (the characters go as far as to imply they’re a different species) who can only live with limited exposure to sunlight. They solve this problem by covering themselves up, dressing normally. This way, they can mingle with human society. If they’re stripped down to their undergarments in broad sunlight, though, they dissolve into ash and float away into the wind.
And now, you, as the protagonist, are now one of them.
Having been recently (and temporarily) turned by being made to drink the blood of a mysterious Kageyashi girl by the name of Rui Fumizuki, the protagonist is taken in by the secret organization NIRO — National Intelligence and Research Organization — to help fight the growing Kageyashi problem. While the drinking of the blood itself isn’t troubling, the after-effects of this act include lethargy and short-term sensitivity to sunlight, causing the victims to hole themselves up in their rooms.
Since the Kageyashi seem to be specifically targeting promising youngsters and productive people in companies while sneaking their own Kageyashi replacement workers in, NIRO is looking to put a halt to this “Hikkikomori Strategy” (the Kageyashi’s name for it, not theirs).
For a game taking place in a world of otaku and stalking cameramen, it’s a somewhat surprisingly serious story.
True to the title, Akiba’s Trip — or, alternatively, “Akiba Strip” — takes place in Akihabara. The heaviest impression I got of the game as a whole was the culture infused into the city. Everywhere you look, there are ads for everything from TV shows, anime, Famitsu, the idols “Double Bloody Princesses” and the game-specific anime “IT Witch Maria” to computer companies, blood donation centers, and websites. These are even included in the loading screens, with a little IT Witch Maria icon running in the corner. Everything is very thoroughly done, and I must admit, it impressed me. Scared me a bit, too, but I’ll eventually gather enough courage to visit Akibahara someday in Japan in real life.
Stores line the streets, filled with computer goods, clothes stores, discount goods, books, and there’s even a maid café you can visit. These goods serve as the weapons, armor, and useable items in Akiba’s Trip. You can buy a wide variety of clothes, each with a certain amount of defense, but they’re also highly customizable by using defense-enhancing items, so you’re free to design your character however you want.
Weapons, too, come in a wide variety of forms, ranging from umbrellas to computer monitors. Rice cookers to toy lightsabers. Electric guitars to cosplay items. Entering the café allows you to play minigames with the maid there to earn MP (Maid Points), which in turn earns you gifts after you reach different thresholds. And once you get bored of that, there’s the guy in the dark alley behind the police hideout that hands out side quests for some pocket change (in the millions).
The variety of things to do and see in this game, as well as the customization possible, is amazing.
On the streets, idiosyncratic people walk around. Despite the fact that there are only “classes” of people walking around rather than individual characters, each class is highly unique. For example, those shady-looking cameramen I was talking about earlier lurk around the streets and snap pictures of every maid, cosplayer, or business woman that walks by (see the top image). Musicians walk around carrying electric guitars, and sometimes will play on the streets.
Then there are the supporting characters, such as your little sister who absolutely hates your guts, but will play dress up for you if you pay her allowance money. Then there’s the…uh…dancer who teaches you about stripping and engages in questionable activities with your female superior. The four consultants who work with the police include an avid photographer who absolutely loves idols, a maid whose dream is to fill the city with maid cafés, an informant who seems friendly but definitely knows more than he’s letting on, and a man who has more faith in the 2D world than the 3D one. But they all love the city, and so they all work with you and the police.
I had a lot of fun playing around in Akiba. The game stresses doing what you want, completing your dreams, and this is stressed in both gameplay and story. It’s sort of a “You can do anything you want!!” feeling of freedom. Challenging random people on the street, avoiding arrest by the police, beating the crap out of Kageyashi, and all the while just kicking back and looking through the shops for something to buy. Short on cash? Then go to the roof top of one of the skyscrapers (one of the areas in the game) and you can take part in a series of three one-on-one battles to earn some ten thousand yen.
In addition, depending on the choices you make at crucial parts of the game, you can get multiple endings. Luckily, the pace of the game is very quick, and one playthrough can last as short as 10 hours.
This isn’t a game I’d mind playing again. True, it has many flaws (which I’ll mention in another follow-up playtest), but the pros outweighed the cons for me. The “New Game Plus” (not that it’s actually called that) allows you to transfer almost everything over, including your play record (the total amount of money you’ve earned, the total number of Kageyashi you’ve killed, etc.), money, and clothes, and also unlocks several character models that weren’t available the first playthrough. Originally, you could only play with the default character model, but now you can actually play as a girl. It also unlocks the Otaku difficulty, which I daren’t try.
Food for thought:
1. Despite being a silent protagonist, judging from his dialogue options, your character’s the kind of person who can either be very nice, very perverted, or just plain nasty and mean. There isn’t much middle ground. Also, he’s an avid cosplayer (although no one knows this). Maybe that’s why he’s so comfortable wearing clothes he just ripped off of someone else’s body…
2. In keeping with the atmosphere of the game, the menu system is the main character’s smartphone. There’s also an option called “Potsuri” (loosely translated as “drops,” like in raindrops) where people chat and you can read about it. The format is similar to that of the chatrooms in Durarara.
3. My record fastest game over ever: five minutes in.
4. Also, a quick word of warning: there is a LOT of text.