Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed Review
For the record, I don't mind sexual innuendo in video games. I don't even mind if an entire video game is based around an overtly sexual premise. I do, however, feel my intelligence has been insulted when I'm playing a game that gives players a flimsy excuse to undress everyone on the screen. Granted, there's originality to consider and the tongue-in-cheek nature of the presentation is amusing. You're not really supposed to take this seriously and besides, the unique style of combat and advancement is worth noting. But forgive me if it still makes me decidedly uncomfortable.
If you weren't aware, Akiba's Trip has already landed on PS3 and Vita; now that it's on the PlayStation 4, one would like to assume that it features upgraded visuals. For a $50 PS4 title, shouldn't we anticipate a shinier, glossier iteration? Unfortunately, Undead & Undressed looks like a barely average PS3 game, as the visuals are often blurry and the textures are terrible. There's also a serious lack of detail and design implements; after playing real PS4 games, it's kind of jarring to see a mostly empty, uninspired atmosphere. The only upside is the special effects, which light up the screen during battle.
The sound is a little better thanks to a kooky soundtrack that fits the bizarre theme. The voice performances range from solid to flat-out irritating; it really depends on your reaction to anime-style acting. It's always exaggerated and over-the-top and this can be interpreted as childish or amateurish. The audio effects try to stand out - like their graphical counterparts - but the outdated nature of the game results in significant sound balancing issues. In all respects, to the eye and to the ear, the latest version of Undead & Undressed doesn't appear to be a legitimate PS4 production. But, maybe you don't care.
Maybe all you want to do is hit the busy streets of Tokyo, seeking nasty vampires to strip and destroy. You play as a 17-year-old boy who has a penchant for geeky collectibles and one day, you head out on a job interview. As it turns out, the job interview doesn't go so well ‘cuz you end up getting turned into a vampire. Known as a "Synthister," you suddenly find yourself in some strange alternate reality version of Tokyo. Something strange is happening; vampires roam the streets and as sunlight is the only way to kill them, battles consist of damaging clothing to the point where they can be torn off. Yeah, it's an adolescent concept.
In some ways, though, it kinda works. And while the graphics aren't up to par, the PS4 version does offer some upgrades. For instance, the frame rate is better than it has ever been and the animations are better, too. While this is mostly cosmetic, the frame rate upgrade means the gameplay is slightly smoother, even though you can still lose frames during chaotic confrontations. As for the combat basics, you basically focus on a few button commands that can be strung together in a series of combos. Actually, this is more of a brawler than anything else, but the other elements of the bizarre adventure make it difficult to categorize.
The biggest problem is that despite the odd originality of the combat, it's still just plain uncomfortable. Not only are you trying to unclothe your enemies but they're trying to do the same thing to you. On top of which, you have to deal with a somewhat awkward and clunky mechanic that tends to lag. There seems to be a serious pacing issue with every encounter and your initial amusement quickly wanes, which makes the game feel like more of a grind. On the plus side, you get to utilize a bunch of wacky weapons, like keyboards and guitars. There's actually quite a bit of imagination infused into this innuendo-laden game; I just think that creativity could've been put to better use.
As for additions, there's the new Toy Box Mode, which unlocks every item in the game right at the start. It does, however, disable Trophies, so you can't collect any hardware within this fresh mode. It's a decision you'll have to make: Do you care more about diving right in and seeing everything the game has to offer, or do you want to up your Trophy count? For those of us who couldn't give two figs about Trophies, Toy Box Mode is quite the welcome inclusion. Then there's the Visual Editor that lets you alter the look and tone of the graphics display; you can darken the outlines of objects or fiddle with the color scheme. It's another decent addition even if it doesn't drastically improve the experience.
Last but not least are the live streaming features. The developers opted to embrace the Share button on the Dual Shock 4 controller, so you can stream your game via Twich and Ustream. There are even a few secret chat commands that have a direct impact on the gameplay (try "PantyDrop," for instance). Again, it's a feature that will only appeal to certain gamers and if you're not into streaming, you probably won't care. We probably shouldn't deduct points from a game for making such an addition, though; it's not a bad thing. It just appeals to niche audience, which is fine, because the game in question only appeals to a niche audience anyway.
Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed is a strange game that might satisfy the anime faithful. The technical elements are mediocre at best (even worse when compared with the best the PlayStation 4 has to offer), the story is absurd, and the gameplay mechanic is original yet flawed. I'd say the game was only about a 5 on PS3 or Vita and the better frame rate and new features in the PS4 version are worth another point. I just can't get past the adolescent nature of the concept and the unimpressive mechanical and design aspects. If you can look past these flaws, though, and you're a confirmed Japanese fanatic, I guess you'll enjoy it.
The Good: Better frame rate and more animations when compared to previous series entries. Some decent music. A unique, oddly imaginative idea and corresponding mechanic. New features are appreciated.
The Bad: Severely outdated visuals. Audio balancing issues. Somewhat clunky and awkward gameplay. Story is a waste of time. ...really uncomfortable.
The Ugly: "Graphically, a step back in time."
12/9/2014 Ben Dutka