What’s a vampire game without some vampire-hunting?
Well, technically Kageyashi aren’t vampires, but that’s besides the point. As an agent of NIRO (see previous article), you — the main character — have to learn the art of stripping from the Master and FIGHT FOR THE GOOD OF AKIHABARA!
The Kageyashi mingle among the street people. The only reliable way to find them is to use your phone camera to take a picture of them using a special setting, and if they appear missing in the photo, you have them. Approaching them initiates a short conversation, in which you can either try to surprise them and get the upper hand in a battle or be a lecherous jerk and demand their clothes.
The battle system is fairly simple. Battles are more a matter of strategic button-mashing and knowing when to block and when to run than they are about combos. At least until you get magazines that teach you new techniques. Three buttons correspond to three body parts: head, torso, and legs. Once you damage a part of the body enough (read: rumple their clothes up), you can hold the corresponding button, initiating a grab. If you’ve damaged the clothing such that it flashes red, you immediately rip the clothes off, and they go “Aan!” leaving you an opening to attack more.
If you haven’t, you initiate a sort of tug-of-war as you grapple with the enemy. May the faster button masher win, in that case. Luckily, you can’t get attacked during this epic struggle.
Of course, you can forgo all this and just bash the opponent with whatever item you’re using until his clothes rip apart from the sheer force of the blows, but as the Strip Master puts it, it’s “inelegant and brutish”.
What she — yes, she — means is, you can’t get the clothes off whole if you go the inelegant route. That’s the fun part. When you start buying books that teach you how to rip certain types of clothes off efficiently, you can preserve them whole instead of shredding them to tatters. Depending on what you do, it’s either time to make big bucks by selling them, or…it’s cosplay time.
(And yes, the protagonist does learn how to crossdress after a certain point in the game. Yes, it’s required for one of the main missions.)
In addition, the opponents always drop their weapon and sometimes a food item, so you’ll find your inventory filling up quickly despite having never visited a shop. This saves you the trouble of combing through horribly expensive items. I swear, it’s like the city is conspiring against you to drain your wallet empty.
If you’re really good, then you can initiate Strip Combos. Sometimes, this is the only way to handle large groups of enemies, but basically the main character zips around stripping anything with low health. There’s…no other satisfaction quite like it.
Despite this seeming simplicity, the battles are actually fairly hard. In one sense, you are on a completely equal standing with your opponents. You have as much health as they do, and you have as much, if not slightly more defense as they do (on the first playthrough, at least). However you’re often facing two, three, sometimes even five opponents at a time. And they like to gang up.
To even things out a little, you have the option of running away and pressing the L button, which allows you to pat your clothes down, returning your “HP” to max. (There really isn’t a proper term for this, since each article of clothing has HP, which is denoted by a number and is called “defense” in the game.) The only problem then is that if you’re interrupted, you’re left defenseless, and still at low health.
What makes things especially difficult has nothing to do with the actual battle, though. It’s the camera control, which is horrible during battles. Or rather, the lack thereof. Usually, Akiba’s Trip lets you use L/R controls for the camera, but in battle…well, you have the guard command (holding R), which turns the camera so that it’s behind you. This doesn’t work very well because there’s no way to lock on to enemies. Centering the camera with the guard command focuses it entirely on you, which makes it hard to tell what’s going on beyond your character.
If things go badly, the protagonist gets stripped himself. Being a temporary Kageyashi himself, he will also flinch and leave himself open when something is pulled off. Luckily, during main missions, the clothing that is removed is returned to you. If you’re really unlucky, you could vaporize under the sun’s rays, and it’s game over. However, you can choose to retry the last battle, taking you to the city map where you can re-equip and save before attempting to enter the same street you did last time. This makes for some quick restarts, making the deaths less annoying.
Akiba’s Trip has reasonable loading times (for the PSP) with data install. Actually, I highly recommend data install, no questions asked, because if you don’t, the game will freeze for a millisecond outside of loading screens, which can be alternatively very annoying and very dangerous, depending on if you’re in a battle or not.
Despite the faults I pointed, I still enjoyed the game. The battles feel like a free-for-all with no restrictions, and while camera controls can be a hassle, the freezing problems can be simply handled by saving a lot and using data install. Trust me, you don’t know how satisfying it is to whack someone over the head with a computer monitor or a daruma until you’ve tried it.
Food for thought:
I avoided mentioning the game’s greatest flaw in the main article because it didn’t happen often enough for me to affect my experience. The game freezes sometimes. Yes, it will freeze the PSP menu button that allows you to soft reset as well. The only way around it is to save often, and since saving is instantaneous in this game, you may as well just make a habit of it.