|Platform: PS Vita|
Developed by Acquire, Akiba’s Beat is the spiritual successor to Akiba’s Trip (PSP, 2011) and Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed (PS Vita/PS3/PS4, 2013). While the first game Akiba’s Trip never was translated to English, only the 2nd title Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed was published by XSEED Games and NIS America in English in North America and Europe in 2014.
Akiba’s Beat is the third title in the Akiba’s Trip series and the first action role-playing game developed by Acquire. The game was localized and published by XSEED Games in North America and published in Europe by PQube. Akiba’s Beat features both English and Japanese audio as well as English and Japanese text.
Akiba’s Beat is set in a recreation of Akihabara, the mecca of Otaku culture, where nothing is what it seems anymore. Delusions have taken over the reality and the everyday life is stuck in a never-ending time loop. You take control of the main character Asahi Tachibana and together with his party members, you begin the investigation in Akihabara to find the origin of the delusions.
Throughout Akihabara, Delusionscapes have appeared which were manifested by people’s dreams and fantasies. These Delusionscapes are full of monsters and need to be battled by Asahi and his party to nullify the delusions. To be able to enter a Delusionscape, the originator has to be identified that an entrance to the Delusionscape opens.
The main story evolves around Akihabara where lots of traveling is needed between the different areas. There are also sub events for different characters which reveal more info on these characters and also grant extra items when completing them.
The game begins with a tutorial where you learn the basic controls in Delusionscapes and battles. After that, the main story begins in your appartment in Akihabara. From there you will begin exploring the town by meeting other characters to find clues about the delusions. At the beginning you have to walk to each location with the help of a map in the right corner. Unfortunately this map does not show a red marker where to go next which means that you always have to open the overview map for detailed information. This is very annoying as the map needs some time to show up. Later in the game, travel points show up on the overview map which lets you jump to different areas of Akihabara which speeds up traveling.
The first Deluscionscape opens up quite quickyl within the main story. In these Deluscionscapes, you encounter monsters called Deluseons which will begin to attack you when they see you or you can attack them to achieve a first strike bonus. The same happens when the monsters attack you first only with a bonus attack on their side. Unfortunately, the first strike does not always work very accurate and it happens that you attack first but it just get’s into a battle without a bonus attack.
When a battle begins, the game changes into Battle Mode. Normal Combo Attacks are unleashed by pressing the square button which fills up the SP bar which is needed for Skill Attacks. But Skill Attacks are done with the X button plus left stick but X is actually used to jump in normal mode. This is where the confusion begins. To jump in Battle Mode you have to press X and Circle at the same time which is not intuitive. As the triangle button opens the menu, it popped up quite often at the beginning as I accidentially pressed the triangle button as my subconscious thought this would cause an attack. Confusion at its best (not delusion).
At the beginning I couldn’t control the character well and I had the feeling the game is controlling me. What’s further annoying is that you have to press the right shoulder button to freely run around with your character. You also can not see which enemy you are attacking at the moment which leads to some attacks against the air. It seems Acquire wanted to achieve that battles are getting more complicated than they actually are.
At least you can change the settings of the buttons in the configuration menu but this I only found out later within the game as it’s not telling you this during the tutorial. The original button setting is terrible in my opinion and I strongly recommend to change free run to right shoulder button, evade to left shoulder button, and attacking an enemy to triangle button.
After defeating an enemy, you get experience points which will level up your character to become stronger. You also earn money and sometimes you get extra items and skills. The money can be used to buy new gear in the shops of Akihabara, to enhance the stats of your characters, to buy items and to upgrade skills and the Imagine Mode. You also can buy new clothes that increase physical and magic resistance.
The Imagine Mode is a special mode which can be activated when the Imagine Mode Gauge is filled. The gauge gets filled by attacking enemies and once the gauge has reached a point, you can activate the Imagine Mode by doing a Skill Attack and pressing the square button. In Imagine Mode, you can unleash stronger attacks to the rhythm of the music and the better you attack with the music, the more damage is dealt. Unfortunately the game does not show you if you are attacking with the beat, at least I could not see anything like that. But attacks are actually stronger in Imagine Mode and your characters are stronger against enemy attacks as well.
Besides the monsters, you also find chests in Delusionscapes which contain items for recovery or skill enhancements. Some Delusionscapes also contains doors which can be opened when you unlight candles or turn off lamps. The map design in the Delusionscapes has the same flaw like in Akihabara town: you don’t see in the top right corner map where to head next. You always have to open the overview map to find out the next direction. It’s also important to note that in Delusionscapes there are no travel points which means that you always have to walk through all dungeons again. This is annoying as some Delusionscapes have to be visited various times.
Enemies vary within the Delusionscapes, you encounter small or big teddy bear, black panthers, butterflies and more. Most of them are not difficult to fight, only when they appear in bigger groups, battles can become a challenge. Each of the Deluscionscape has several boss fights, which are more or less difficult. It helps when you upgrade or level up your characters or else these fights can become difficult.
After leaving the first Deluscionscape, one of the weak points of Akiba’s Beat becomes very obvious. The story develops very slowly and sometimes, the game seems to be more like a visual novel than an action role-playing game. Generally, there is lots of small talk in the conversations which is very tiring. For example, from leaving Deluscionscape one to entering Deluscionscape two, there are 2 1/2 hours of story.
More annoying is that you always have to switch between different areas of Akihabara, just to meet someone that tells you that he has no clue or any other information. The game is also inconsistent in the development of the story. Sometimes, you have to walk to your appartment at night while the other day the story develops just on its own. It also happens that you have to walk to the same places over and over again and the next time it just jumps there.
The bad map design also doesn’t help in that case. As already mentioned, the small map in the right corner is of no use while exploring Akihabara. You always have to use the overview map which needs some time to load. But even here the game has flaws. There are occasions within the story that gives you no red marker where to head next. Even Deluscionscapes are not mentioned by its names on the map, although the game is telling you that you have to go to the Audio Deluscionscape now. This is frustrating and bad game design.
The long loading times between areas don’t make it better, with even longer loading times when entering a Deluscionscape. It’s also important to note when you begin a new game, it needs over 1 minute to load. Another flaw is that you have so many save points throughout Akihabara, but actually I ask myself why one would save there so often as there are no monsters to fight. But in the Deluscionscapes where the monsters are and you might die, save points are rare.
Akiba’s Beat is strong in content with 16 chapters, lots of sub events that can be followed optionally, and also sub quests which gain extra items and rewards. But as I previously said, the story develops slowly and therefore it can become tiring.
The graphics of Akiba’s Beat are colorful and beautiful and each of the Delusionscape comes with a different setting. Some of the Delusionscapes reminded me of Alice in Wonderland and they look really gorgoues. The framerate is generally quite stable, but what is a big downside is the screen tearing which can be seen throughout the game.
It begins at the opening animation and even the story scenes contain screen tearing when the characters move into the screen. Also while moving around in Akihabara and in Delusionscapes, the screen tearing appears when you move the camera left or right. Actually, it does not disturb when playing the game, but it also does not look very nice.
The soundtrack of Akiba’s Beat is awesome and has an electronic vibe. Especially during Imagine Mode, it’s a pure joy to unleash attacks to the rhythm. The English voices are top-notch and leave no room for critism. You even can play with Japanese voices if you prefer the original experience.
Akiba’s Beat is not really a bad game but also not a really good one neither. While the game offers lots of content, it can become tiring to follow the slowly evolving story. The battle system is not very intuitive and needs some time to get used to it. Positive are the great soundtrack and the beautiful graphics, on the downside there are long loading times and screen tearing. If you are aware of these flaws, you still can have some fun with this game.
Check out the Akiba’s Beat PS Vita Gameplay:
The review was written and provided by Michael. All screenshots are from the PS Vita version. The review is based on a review copy which was provided by the publisher.