We're just following ancient history. If I strip for you, will you strip for me?
I’ve been playing video games for a very long time. I’ve killed monsters and demons in many different ways. And although I can’t (and wouldn’t want to) recall each method, I can say with certainty that Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound and Debriefed is the first time I’ve done so by stripping them.
If that’s the determining factor in whether you’d play this game, I’d understand. But it’s not just a gimmick in Akiba’s Trip, it’s the game’s entire vibe. There’s plenty of sexual innuendo, but mostly everything is left to your imagination; the game’s M rating is more for suggestion and language than outright naughtiness.
The premise is that the district of Akihabara has been infiltrated by vampire-like demons called shadow souls. Rather than suck blood, however, they suck away the residents’ motivation and joy, basically turning them into shut-ins. Your character is attacked while searching for a missing friend, but a friendly shadow soul shows up and “turns” you in order to save your life.
You’re then immediately recruited by a secret organization called NIRO that combats these shadow souls. Your contacts at NIRO teach you that to kill the shadow souls, you have to expose them to sunlight by ripping off their clothes. Never mind that their face and hands are also exposed—they heal faster, according to the game. The problem is that the shadow souls look human, so you’re given a camera that helps you identify the enemy as they don’t show up in photos.
Once you’ve identified the enemy, you can confront them to initiate combat. Akiba’s Trip becomes a brawler at that point, as you’ll need to fight enemies to wear them down. In easy mode, you can just spam whatever attack button you prefer to use. Otherwise, you’ll be targeting the head, torso, or legs with X, Y, and A. Wear one area down and enough, and you’ll be prompted to strip off that article of clothing.
Completely stripped enemies burn away in the sun. Completely stripped humans run away in embarrassment. And yes, there will be times when you’ll have to strip residents, too. It’s all part of being a shadow soul hunter. Of course, being a shadow soul yourself, you’re also susceptible to the elements, and enemies will target you the same way.
But there’s more to it than that. If you’ve been taught to properly remove the clothing, you get to keep what you’ve removed (otherwise, it just tears and disappears). This allows you to dress up in that outfit. Switching outfits can increase your defense, and it’s also required to get certain subquests, complete story missions, etc. More importantly, you can sell excess outfits to get the money to buy the books that teach you new combat moves and how to remove other types of clothing. Need to strip band members? Then you need to buy that book. Want to strip office workers or people dressed up as bears? Buy the books. Otherwise, you’re just shredding their outfits and losing the upgrades you get by keeping them intact.
And then there are the weapons. You can choose to specialize in bare, one, and two-handed combat. The weapons for each are dropped by enemies or purchased in stores, and they range from french bread to brass knuckles to laptops to rubber hammers.
I suppose when I think about it, getting hit with a moe body pillow and then being stripped is a better way to go than, say, getting shot in the face or falling onto spikes or other methods typical of action games.
It’s all pretty bonkers, yes, but Akiba’s Trip is not content to just be bonkers. It throws in a maid cafe where you can play mini-games for various rewards. You can dress up your sister or have her insult you for various power-ups. You will crossdress to get access to certain items. And oh boy, those sidequests. They range from fighting dozens of men in frog outfits to teaching Rui how to make hard boiled eggs to buying your strip-fighting instructor some rope, lotion, and a massager because she’s “bored.”
You’re not really alone in this, thankfully. In fact, that’s kind of the point of the game. Akiba’s Trip is very much about embracing pop culture and sharing it with others. You meet a group of otaku enthusiasts, and, of course, you’re going to grow close to Rui, the shadow soul who saved your life.
Along with NIRO, these become the factions for whom you’ll be performing missions, and the balance you strike between them affects how the game plays.
The whole affair has a slick and admittedly lewd sense of humor, and it’s simply impossible to take any of it seriously. Unfortunately, the craziness of it all is let down by certain gameplay elements and the overall presentation. Originally released for PSP in 2011, Akiba’s Trip definitely shows its age on the Nintendo Switch. Combat is clunky and frustrating at times, and the camera is not your friend. I guess I expected its orientation to interfere with combat, but it even makes it difficult to simply take pictures on the street. Also, the graphics are dated despite the HD update. They’re acceptable in handheld mode, which makes sense considering the game’s portable origins, but Akiba’s Trip just doesn’t look good on the TV.
The whole experience is also surprisingly short. You can complete the game in under 10 hours depending upon how many side quests you decide to pick up. And for a good chunk of that time, you’ll just be wandering around trying to trigger events or remember what store sells a frying pan. The different routes do allow for multiple playthroughs, however, and new game + perks provide additional incentive to visit Akihabara multiple times. I got what seemed like the happy ending, and was let down by it. The final boss confrontation was no different from any other fight, and it came and went with little fanfare.
A bigger problem is the asking price. $40 ($50 for the physical copy) is just too much to pay for a game this old and short.
Still, I had fun throughout Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound and Debriefed. Its upbeat, humorous, and ultimate optimism was effective even though I’m not particularly into otaku culture. It’s not a great game, but it’s different enough to be worth the playtime. I see that a sequel was released in 2013, and I’m kind of hoping that one gets a Switch port, too.
Review: Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound and Debriefed (Nintendo Switch)
Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound and Debriefed is a rudimentary port that certainly shows its age, but the stripping-based combat and crazy story/quests are unique enough to provide a refreshing experience for action gamers who are open to its mature content.