Full disclosure: I have a seriously soft spot for this game. I played Akiba’s Trip quite a lot on the filthy filthy Vita, and it’s very much a popcorn game, in that it’s never particularly filling but it’s extraordinarily more-ish. I like it quite a lot, despite myself.
Still, it’s not the sort of game I’d think would make a particularly smooth transition over to the PC. For one thing, it’s a relatively niche Japanese title, which isn’t the sort of thing that normally makes for fantastic porting jobs. For another, it’s a third-person 3D beat-’em-up. That genre can certainly work on PC, but it usually takes a fair bit of adjusting to get it to feel natural. But you never know.
For the uninitiated: Akiba’s Trip is a tremendously silly beat-’em-up in a pseudo-open world. Actually, “tremendously silly” might be an understatement. This is a game in which you fight against vampires by punching them until their clothes are weakened enough that you can strip them, exposing their skin to sunlight, the most well-known vampire slayer this side of Buffy. You also do this to humans, but they just run away in shame instead of exploding into purple mist – and yes, everyone’s also trying to strip you.
With the exception of a few fan-service CG images, the stripping is played for comedy rather than sexuality, and the game knows how ridiculous it is, playing up pretty much every aspect of this in the dialogue. It’s light-hearted, fun, and silly. It’s also set in a rather lovely digital version of Akihabara (supposedly pretty accurate to real-world Akihabara at that point in time, complete with real stores and the like), and has plenty of posts on its fake Twitter and fake email accounts to add yet more character to the game and the world.
It’s freely explorable, has an RPG-like levelling system and equipment, and plenty of side-quests to complete and characters to chat with. And yes, you also strip men, and regularly get fanservice-y pictures of under-dressed male characters.
With the svelte 2GB download out of the way, let’s fire it up and have a look.
First up is the obligatory launcher, which fills me with both joy and terror. The good: we’ve got English and Japanese options for text and voice; we’ve got resolution options (up to 1920×1200, assuming it’s not locking anything off for me); we’ve got anti-aliasing; and the game lets us use sliders to determine how many characters we want to appear in the world. We can even customise pretty much every control option imaginable, right down to how to access the in-game menu.
Also, the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the controls include “Unison Strip.” Yup. I was serious about the clothing removal thing.
In terms of more middling stuff, those character sliders only have three settings each so it’s not really something you can fine-tune, and the anti-aliasing option is literally a checkbox rather than the ability to choose 16x MSAA or whatever.
On the side of abject horror we have the fact that a launcher like this makes me immediately suspect that the game is a direct port with no PC-specific options within the game itself, and that’s usually a pretty worrying sign for ports. Then there are the keyboard controls. Yes, we can customise them, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not mildly horrifying.
Looking at them in more detail, it looks suspiciously like the default controls are a clumsy attempt to directly map a controller to the keyboard. WASD to move, with Q and E mapped to what would be the shoulder buttons, and then the spellcheck-annoying PL;, to act as Triangle, Square, Circle, and X buttons. Except that three of those are also mapped to the three mouse buttons, which I guess is something. I will offer a genuine salute for making sure that every function can be mapped individually, though, and not just directly mapping gamepad buttons with all of their possible functions.
So let’s actually try playing it, with keyboard and mouse. After the world’s best anti-piracy message, FRAPS tells me we’re hard-locked to 30FPS (spoilers: this goes for every single part of the game, not just the cutscenes and/or menus) which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. So let’s hit New Game, and, uh…
Sorry, I’m having problems hitting New Game. Um.
Right, okay. So the mouse cursor appears on screen, but can’t actually be used to select anything. You have to use WASD to select things instead, and then the left mouse button to confirm. Except that occasionally didn’t work, and I had to use Return. And this gets really confusing when pop-ups asking “Are you sure? Yes/No” appear on screen, which are the sort of occasion when the mouse is basically perfect for quickly hitting one or the other, and you mouse over “No” and left-click and you just selected Yes because the mouse position doesn’t change the options.
Also, every key pop-up in the game shows gamepad controls, and yes, I unplugged mine and restarted the game to see if that would change this. It didn’t. I’m vaguely impressed that it showed me controls for an Xbox 360 controller, considering that the game has never been released on a Microsoft system, but that’s still bloody awful. Press “Back” to change character? Which key is that mapped to, again?
But we’ll persevere. I don’t know what key Back is mapped to, so I’m going to have to just change my protagonist’s name (the “Change Character” options let you select the other major characters and rename/re-dress them) and then continue onwards.
One of the things I love about Akiba’s Trip is the dialogue. It’s a very, very knowing game, and it doesn’t take itself even remotely seriously. Your character has been lured into a medical lab for “tests” in exchange for rare collectible figurines, because your character is kind of an idiot. Surprise! They’re not quite on the level and he’s been turned into a Synthister – a super-strong, super-fast human with a serious weakness to direct sunlight, so essentially a man-made vampire. Exposing too much skin directly to the light is very dangerous, and the chap behind it wants you to harvest life energy from people in Akihabara for Reasons.
You can, naturally, respond to every line of dialogue with GIVE ME MY FIGURINES ALREADY.
You’re suddenly rescued by a mysterious girl who gives you a brief tutorial in punching and blocking, and it’s at this point you discover that holy shit the mouse and keyboard controls are bad.
It doesn’t look so bad on paper. You move with WASD, and that makes sense. You use your three mouse buttons to attack high/mid/low, and that makes sense. You block with E. Not ideal, but workable, surely?
Well, the mouse movement and camera rotation is unbelievably sluggish and imprecise, making targeting a pain in the ass, and you can’t change mouse sensitivity without quitting out of the game, opening up the launcher, and adjusting a slider that gives no indication of values. WASD isn’t ideal for a game with a full range of analogue movement, with particular attacks relying on “pressing the left stick away from the enemy”. And – in that nebulous way that’s impossible to describe – it just feels a bit horrible.
If you’ve played around with emulators before, you’ve probably experienced the joy of mapping a control pad to a keyboard before. With slower-paced games – RPGs, say – it’s bearable. With others, like fast-paced fighting games, it’s kind of painful. And as analogue sticks and four shoulder buttons became the standard for controllers, it got more and more of a nightmare to map things properly.
That’s basically the problem here: control-wise, this feels like trying to run an emulated game and mapping everything that matters to the keyboard, and maybe shonkily mapping a few keys to the mouse. It just feels wrong. It might be possible to configure everything to work “properly” on mouse and keyboard, and I suspect most of us could get used to even the worst controls, but it’s something that’s really crying out for a gamepad.
So, after the initial fight, I save and quit, sigh as the game crashes on exit, plug in the 360 pad, and get back to it.
Suddenly, everything is infinitely better. The game is playable! Flowers are blooming around me! Birds are singing in harmony with me! I can see a rainbow! All of which might actually indicate a serious neurological condition because it’s night and the curtains are shut, but I’m suddenly having fun, so let’s ignore that.
The camera is still a bit sluggish (which I do actually remember from the Vita version) and it’s a game that could really do with a proper lock-on mechanic, but I don’t remember that bothering me too much originally so I’m fairly sure I’ll get used to it again here.
What may or may not bother you is that this is a really basic PC port. Its stylised appearance means it looks fine, but it’s not exactly impressive, and it’s really not a game built for a high-end PC rig. 30 FPS lock, borderline mandatory gamepad controls, a miniscule set of options, and basically no PC-specific options within the game itself mark this out as a port, rather than a super-specific PC version.
But! There are a few bonuses which I don’t remember from the Vita version (but which may have been on the PS3 or PS4 equivalents), like the frankly amazing ability to really screw with the graphics. You can adjust the fog colour and distance, the colour of characters and their shading, the thickness and colour of the cel-shading lines around everything, and plenty more. As an example, here’s the game by default:
And here it is after I’ve horribly fucked with the character colours and shading:
And again after I’ve played with the edge thickness and colour, thus proving that I will never be an art director on a game:
This is the sort of silly little thing I love. It’s also the sort of thing I pretty much expect from this game, ridiculous as it is. It’s sad you can’t mess with a few other things to make it look a lot less washed out – post-processing, say – but I’m happy to see options like this to begin with.
Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed isn’t going to win awards for what is a seriously bare-bones port. You may want to be careful with purchases: while my computer’s capable of running this and another game at the same time, it does claim to require DirectX 11, and its specs aren’t the lowest I’ve seen (presumably because this is a not-particularly-optimised port of the PS4 version). By the same token, there are a few reports of crashes and graphical issues, although I encountered none of this except when quitting. The advantage it has, mind you, is that areas load rather quickly on PC so traversing Akihabara doesn’t take long, and in the little bit I’ve played, NPCs didn’t take forever to spawn in, which was a bit of a problem on the Vita version.
It’s also not likely to win any awards for its gameplay, which is a tad repetitive, but is buoyed up nicely by the sheer character and ludicrousness that infuses pretty much every moment of it. For me, that’s enough: I’m happy to have the opportunity to play this on PC, and I can run it in a window or fullscreen, plug in a gamepad, and lose myself to an hour of stripping pseudo-vampires in modern-day Japan while reading insane posts on fake Twitter. It’s really not a good port, and – honestly – it’s not even a particularly great game, but it’s the sort of thing I really, really like, despite its flaws, and I’d happily pay £18 for it again. Buyer beware, but if you want something that’s as quirky as it is light-hearted, this might just fit the bill.