Akiba's Beat Review
Despite its trouble1 history, the PlayStation Vita has gotten a lot of love around my house. Despite all the shoddy ports, delayed, cancelled and disastrous games (Resistance: Burning Skies, I'm looking at you), I have spent a lot of time with Sony's handheld, probably more than most. Out of all the games on the system, though, one caught my attention like no other, and it probably isn't one you'd expect: Akiba's Beat: Undead and Undressed. I spent tons of times with dozens of other Vita games, but when I think of the Vita, I think of Akiba's Trip. The wacky 3D beat-'em-up was tons of fun, had lots to unlock and was a game I played, beat, and immediately played again - five more times, if I remember correctly. So when I saw that Akiba's Beat, a semi-sequel or spiritual successor on PlayStation 4, come up for review, I jumped at it. How did my second trip to Akihabara turn out? It wasn't as bad as having some hipster kid rip of your shirt in the middle of a bustling metropolis, but... no, wait, that's what made the first game fun. Akiba's Beat is the exact opposite of that.
To be fair, Akiba's Beat doesn't really have much to do with the previous game, and doesn't pretend to. Whereas the first game was a fast-paced, semi-open world beat-'em-up that had the player pounding on crowds of vampires and tearing their clothes off as a kind of finishing move, Akiba's Beat is closer to a traditional JRPG with the protagonists fighting off mental issues made physical, which is a lot like another game series that has gotten a lot of press lately, SMT: Persona. Anyway, since we're on the topic, the story in Akiba's Beat is basically lifted from the Persona titles in every way. You, the titular Akiba, and his friends must battle delusions made real by people's problems and expectations, thus freeing them from Groundhog Day-style time loops. What was an interesting idea three Persona games ago seems recycled now (some would argue this even goes for Persona 5), and it doesn't help that the dialogue and characters in this game are the worst kind of off-putting. Akiba himself is obnoxious and unlikeable, and the dialog between the anime stereotypes that make up the cast reads like it came from the r/fellowkids subreddit. And without any dialogue options, you are basically just pressing X to advance bad, static back-and-forth between lame characters in a "been there, done that" plot situation. Not a great starting point.
But if Akiba's Trip was anything, it wasn't a masterpiece of storytelling; it was a fun, semi-open world action game centered around ripping off peoples', well, vampires' clothes. For Akiba's Beat, that fun gameplay and open world feeling is all but gone. The city of Akihabara is much smaller for this game, and far less populated. The streets are empty and boring, and even entering shops is a matter of River City Ransom-style choosing from a static menu, rather than an actual space to explore. The fighting in Akiba's Beat style has a slight action bent to it, kind of resembling a Tales game, but being pulled off the street into people's psyches, rather than just duking it out in your normal surroundings like in Akiba's Trip, still feels disorienting and is a huge step backwards. And for all the side quests and collection elements (gotta unlock and buy all them panties, for some reason!) that made Akiba's Trip so appealing to play and replay, Akiba's Beat's idea of side-quests is more boring dialog to cycle through, meaning the only feeling of accomplishment you get is being impressed that your hand doesn't fall asleep from hitting the advance dialog button over and over for 20 hours.
Akiba's Beat is, quite simply, the worst kind of disappointing. A great niche title like Akiba's Trip was weird and not for everyone, but what it did right should have been easy to replicate for a proper sequel. Instead, everything that was good about the original game was tossed right out the window. The gameplay, the world, the collection-frenzy and side quests, the bizarre plot and out-there interactions... all of it gone in favor of a dull Persona clone with next to no soul. Akiba's Trip was well worth taking (over and over again) but Akiba's Beat is just that - beat. Save your money on this one.
Final Rating: 32% - You should skip this beat.