Akiba’s Trip wants to take players to Akihabara, but not quite the Akihabara we know. The PSP game blends fantasy and reality by putting vampire-like creatures into the streets of Tokyo’s electric town. Why vampires? That’s one of the questions I asked Luke Rideout, Associate Producer of Akiba’s Trip, at Acquire.
To get everyone all of our readers up to speed, can you tell us about the story in Akiba’s Trip? Who’s the lead character and how is he saved?
Luke Rideout, Associate Producer: To put it simply, the story takes place in present-day Akihabara, where there is an urban legend that something “Not human” is walking the streets. The main character is a regular guy who just graduated out of high-school, and is attending cram school to get into university. With a lot of time on his hands, he spends a lot of time in his favorite town, the eponymous Akiba.One day, a friend of his goes missing in Akihabara, and our hero – hoping to find out what happened to his friend – goes looking for him.
While he is searching for his friend, he is attacked by a man he’d never seen before, who turns out to be one of the “Kageyashi” – a vampiric monster race. Close to death from the attack, he is spared by his attacker due to the intervention of a young Kageyashi woman. Unfortunately for him, his unintentional involvement with the Kageyashi drags him into the middle of a silent war between humanity and the Kageyashi.
How did you come with the concept for the plot or in other words, what inspired Akiba’s Trip?
Luke Rideout, Associate Producer: It all started with the concept of an action game that doesn’t rely on just “beating up the enemy”. After coming up with an interesting action concept, we decided to go with something of a novella format for the story, as there is a strong market for games along that bent here in Japan. The decision to set it in Akihabara came quite a while afterward.
Why did Acquire pick vampires as the main enemy? Did you ever consider another iconic human-like creatures like werewolves or aliens?
Vampires look exactly like humans even though they are superhuman powerful monsters. However, they also have a simple and easily-accessible weakness (sunlight). It was the natural decision. Of course, traditional vampires would die outright being out in the daytime – in Akiba’s Trip, the monsters are also not quite “vampires”, but a vampiric, sunlight-weak race of Japanese “Youkai”, or monsters.
What makes Akihabara a fascinating setting for a video game?
Akihabara is unlike most other towns that you can experience in Japan. It’s its own modern, self-contained ecosystem with its own culture and people, but also has a fascinating and deep history. It’s as much like a contemporary “fantasy” world as places come, so we felt it was a natural choice. Also, Akihabara is a living, breathing entity that is constantly changing with the rise and fall of trends and counterculture, so we felt that to capture one specific moment in Akihabara’s “life” in the form of a game is also a valuable and interesting thing to do for the sake of entertainment.
Can you tell us about the process of recreating Tokyo’s electric town for a PSP game? What was the greatest challenge?
The hardest part of it is simply capturing the essence of Akiba’s streets, with its unique storefronts and buildings, which means translating everything into unique and easily recognizable textures, while being unable to reuse a lot of resources. The other difficult part is overcoming the limits of the PSP’s hardware to create a lively, populated Akihabara which, in real life, is overflowing with people.
We haven’t heard too much about the combat system, but it’s developed by the Way of the Samurai staff? Are there combos or new attacks you learn?
The game is, indeed, being made by the same team that built the Way of the Samurai games. We’ve tapped their well-honed skill in action-adventure game development to create a well-balanced and fun to play combat system. The combat itself relies on attacks to the head, upper and lower body, with some combo attacks and new techniques to learn in the game.
… And you have to strip vampires to expose them to sunlight?
As it’s their one major weakness, you have to use the power of the sun to take them down.
I’m not sure if I’m communicating this well, but Acquire titles like Gladiator Begins and Way of the Samurai have their own bits of quirky humor. Will Akiba’s Trip have those kinds of moments?
Well, we are known for a fair bit of “silliness” in our games – that’s how we roll, I guess you could say. In this game, though, we’re aiming for the level of humor that you find in contemporary Japanese novella.
Acquire is developing and publishing Akiba’s Trip. What’s it like to be a publisher and do you think we’ll see more self-published titles?
As our second foray into self-publishing, there’s not much we can say about it at the moment, but it’s very exciting for us. As far as other self-published titles, only time will tell, but I’m sure we’ll be able to comment on that one at a later time.
Do you think we’ll see Akiba’s Trip released overseas?
That one’s pretty tough to answer, honestly, but we do hope at least that people who come see Akiba, or want to experience it might consider Akiba’s Trip to be a special, new kind of memento of this amazing town.
Akiba’s Trip blends real life and fantasy by adding vampire-ish creatures to Akihabara. What other real life meets fantasy type settings would you like to work on?
Given the opportunity, we’d love to try a “Contemporary-meets-Science Fiction” setting along the lines of Yasutaka Tsutsui’s “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”.