Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review Akiba's Beat

Acquire had a modest hit with Akiba's Trip a few years back, thanks to the whole stripping-vampires-in-battle thing. The idea was silly enough not to be offensive and it had a good run in Japan, with a western release of the sequel, aka Undead and Undressed.

Still, for the encore, Acquire went in a slightly different direction, and by that I mean they ripped off Persona 4 and Digimon Story wholesale. Yes, you still run around Akiba. Yes, you still fight things. But this time they are random blobby creatures behind doors that only a few unfortunate souls can see. Throw in a bit of Groundhog Day for the plot, yet another squeaky-voiced floating "guide" and there you go.

These "Delusions" and the "delusors" that create them, are a piss poor way of creating a plot, it feels like the developers had ten minutes to come up with something that wasn't nudie-vampires and this was the best they could come up with. The creatures, whatever their design are just totally random or generic but have no reason to exist, other than to be a pain in the ass.

Each delusion is a multi-level themed set of platforms to "explore" with a few cookie cutter real-time battles, some simple switch puzzles and the odd dash of treasure. At the end is a boss who usually requires a fair bit of grinding to overcome. All of which makes this a game I have played five or six times before in the last few years.

To make things worse, there's a rival team trying to sort out these timey-wimey problems haunting the town. They just add a few extra hours of pressing X to skip annoying chit-chat and even more combat that you don't want to be doing. What kind of design decision was that?

Talking of battles, you can pause the game to use items, set different skills up for your team, and choose their tactics, but the actual battles just look like a dumb mess. You have a range of skills and the usual set of elemental strengths or resistances (why, in a game set in someone's imagination is a pre-biblical set of forces still needed?) No one I've talked to has got beyond much of  a strategy other than rapid stabbing, and rushing off to heal from time to time.

Another bit of idea borrowing comes with the Imagine-beats combat system (which is why everyone wears headphones). It uses music tracks as a kind of beat keeper, building up to some special moves, but isn't actually rhythm based, so despite being part of the game's name is equally useless. Overall, combat itself is hectic, non-fun, non-tactical, poorly animated and horrendously repetitive.

Yes, there are lots of flashing lights, explosions and weapon effects, which don't look that much better on the PS4, although the big-screen version does get better textures and shadows. Outside the main game there are a few sidequests, and getting around the map is easy with quick-jump points, but even for the grindiest of trophy hunters, this will be a serious chore to wade through.

Anything good, such as weapon or character progression, mini games in the Pachinko parlours of Akihabara or a fun spot of dating has been ripped out or overlooked in an effort to get the game streamlined.

The sugar coating of vibrant graphics, otome and manga culture, even a little nod to transgender issues, is a very tempting wrapping. But, inside, Akiba's Beat is a hollow shell of a game. Vita owners are used to a bit of grinding, but with no love, subplot or filler content this is a soulless as filling in a medical insurance form.

I was wondering why the game did badly in Japan, and now I know. Given that Akiba's Trip is currently just £6.49 on PSN, I'd strongly recommend you go grab that one instead. It is far from perfect, but has loads more soul and feel to it.

Score: 4/10
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Price: £34.99 (Amazon)
Size: 3.1GB
Dev: Acquire/PQube
Progress: Bored shitless!

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