Akihabara, Japan’s Electric Town and the setting of Akiba’s Beat, is a pretty iconic place in the world of Japanese nerd culture. Its streets are lined with neon lights and signs, theme cafes, anime emporiums, electronic stores, and much more. It’s a nerd’s dream, so to be stuck in an ever repeating Sunday in amongst this iconic district sounds like a dream, right? Well, be careful what you wish for.
Akiba’s Beat takes this dream and turns it into a reality as you assume the role of Asahi Tachiban who finds himself stuck in a Sunday which continually repeats itself. Before you go assuming that this is anything like the 1993 comedy starring Bill Murray, I can assure you Akiba’s Beat is as far as you can get.
Akiba’s Beat is a direct sequel, yet officially standalone to Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undress. In fact, aside from being set within Akihabara, the two games couldn’t be more different.
You begin the game by being introduced to Asahi who is probably one of the most unlikable protagonists you’ll ever have the displeasure of playing as. You see, this kid is a self proclaimed NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) and basically spends his time sleeping and playing video games. Any time before midday is considered “early”, and throughout the entirety of the game you’re constantly reminded about how much of a NEED Asahi really is. Pair that with his quick-witted sarcasm and humour, and you have a painfully self aware character who just doesn’t want to be a part of this game at all.
But hey, just like Asahi is stuck in a forever repeating Sunday, you’re stuck with him too as the events of the game quickly unfold and you’re introduced into even more characters which seem to have a bit of an identity crisis.
In Akiba’s Beat, there seems to be something wrong with the world as peoples dreams, or “Delusions” as the game keeps calling them, manifest themselves in the real world causing complete chaos. These “Delusionscapes” start appearing all over town and it’s up to Asahi and a colourful cast of characters to enter these dungeons and take down the Grand Phantasm.
However, this game isn’t as simple as entering an array of colourful dungeons, killing some bad guys, and taking down the boss. Players have to sit through hours of monotonous conversations between these characters before they see any real action, not only that they often have to come to the inevitably obvious conclusion as to who is the “Deluser” the person behind these Delusions.
Akiba’s Beat often tries to offer some kind of mystery behind its dialogue, but the solutions, or the person behind certain events, are so glaringly obvious that you figure them out a while before the characters come to the conclusion leaving you shouting at the TV for them to get a grip and actually put two and two together.
The game is set to last players around thirty to forty hours depending on whether they take on the game’s various side missions, however in reality the game could easily conclude within ten to twenty hours but the game’s dialogue drags this out so much more than it should. Sure, you can skip through the visual-novel-style dialogue and jump right to the gameplay, but then you’re just playing a fairly repetitive hack and slash game.
Once you’ve battled your way through the dialogue and found your way into a Delusionscape, you’ll be introduced to the game’s hack and slash gameplay, but there’s something about it that just feels like it’s tacked onto a visual novel as most if not all of these encounters can either be completely avoided, or left to your AI team mates to battle it out, only really unleashing the occasional attack. What’s more, each character in battle continuously yells out various catchphrases for each attack creating an incredibly noisy mess.
This of course is no good, especially when certain aspects of this combat relies on you keeping up with the beat of the music in order to accumulate a huge combo.
Like I said, it’s a part of the game which feels tacked onto a visual novel to make it somewhat more interesting. What’s more, unlike visual novels players have no real choice over the direction the dialogue goes and I often found myself leaving it to auto play and putting down my controller watching the characters gabble one while I play on my phone.
Akiba’s Beat seems to have stripped everything great away from Akiba’s Trip and turned it into an incredibly uninteresting video game. While I wanted to love this game like Akiba’s Trip, I’m actually incredibly disappointed. I can’t even say that the game’s faithful recreation of Akihabara is fantastic because it’s really not. It feels like any other generic Japanese city. For some reason the game has also stripped back the various NPCs around the city with weird coloured silhouettes which bark out random sentences as you pass by.
Overall Akiba’s Beat can easily be an overlooked title in the Akiba’s Trip universe. Even if you’re a fan of the anime, the game feels like a dragged-out version of the anime with a handful of gameplay mechanics just thrown in for good measure.