There’s something ironic about going all the way to Akihabara to play a video game set in Akihabara and then leaving immediately after. Well, that’s exactly what I did, on a Sunday no less. Acquire’s Akiba’s Beat was set up in front of the large Sofmap store right in the heart of the famous electric town. So upon Sal’s tip about the hands-on event, of course I was willing to go walk by real maid cafes, arcades, and electronic goods stores to play a video game about it. Surprisingly there weren’t a lot of people playing. Maybe they were camera shy, as NHK was there to film people playing. They filmed me as well, and even interviewed me after playing.
They set me free in a back alley and directed me to a specific location, but I wanted to run around the town a bit. The game looks exactly as it does in trailers and screenshots. I like the art style, but modeled NPCs have been replaced with ghostly-looking colored silhouettes that you can’t interact with. In Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed, you could bump into NPCs, make them run off, fight some, or take photos of them. Mission- or story-related characters and shop owners are the only ones that are modeled and you can talk to, but of course you can’t physically interact with them and there isn’t a camera this time around. There might be a canon explanation for everyone being silhouettes, but it makes the city feel lifeless, which isn’t great even if intentional.
Some people have said it looks like they reused assets from Akiba’s Trip and the environment does feel familiar besides the change from real businesses to fake ones, but it’s hard to avoid such comparisons when the game is based in the same setting. The area I started in seemed new, but in an area on the main street there were the same invisible walls keeping you from going out on the street. With this new title taking the series in a new direction, supposedly being a bigger and longer game in the RPG format, I was hoping the city would be more open and seamless than Akiba’s Trip. I only got to see a small section of it, but like the previous game small areas full of invisible walls are divided by loading zones.
The main protagonist is Asahi, but you can switch and play as any of the four characters in your party, and like in Akiba’s Strip you can collect and change clothes on each of the characters. Unlike the previous games however, you cannot strip anyone down to their underwear. So if you were hoping for another panty game you’ll have to look elsewhere. One small improvement I felt but am not scientifically certain about is movement. It’s just my gut feeling, but I felt that the player movement, camera control, and jumping all felt a bit smoother than in the previous game.
I decided to finally enter the door they kept pushing me towards. I was transported to another dimension, to one of those “Delusionscapes” where battles take place. It’s a maze of narrow paths and enemies patrolling their small areas. You can hit them from behind to get an advantage in battle (one free attack and enemies facing away from you), or conversely get hit to start at a disadvantage (you take one attack and start facing away from the enemies). The battles take place not on the map you traverse, but in a special area beyond a load much like in Persona. I know it’s trite to compare to Persona as a lot of these elements exist in many games, but this dungeon section just screamed Tartarus or TV World to me.
After my first battle, I ran right back out of the world when I thought I was progressing forward. All the doors are modeled the same, but I should have taken a look at the map. You can pull up a map with square and it will show you the loaded area you are in. Usually your destination is marked with a red sign but at one point I was presented with three doors to choose from, having to guess which is the right way.
On the map enemies are faster than you, so you can’t outrun them and jumping slows you even more. However, despite the narrow pathways you can trick the silly AI quite easily. They patrol in a small box typically, and once you cross the diving line between the square and one of the paths leading to it, they give up pursuit instantly. So if you just wait at the edge until the patrol far enough away from the path you’ll take, you can potentially run past all enemies. If you happen to enter a battle and want to leave, its easy to select escape from the menu and you’ll be back on that map with that enemy de-spawned within seconds.
If you do enter battle, you may as well do it though. I don’t know if there are any difficulty levels and this is likely early on in the game, but no matter what collection of baddies I fought, they all went down pretty quickly to my masterful button mashing. Every battle was over in less than 10 seconds. In the battle arena you are automatically locked on to an enemy and your movement is tied to that enemy, so you either move towards it or away from it. To move freely, you have to hold L1. Doing so will let you change targets or attack from another angle. Square is used to dodge and can be held down to dodge en masse by flicking the left control stick in which ever direction you like. In battle you can actively change to any of your four combatants as you please, but they seem to all play identically.
With regards to movement, dodging, and blocking there was no difference at all. The difference arises in their attacks. Of the seven reported playable characters, the four available to me in this session was Asahi, Saki, Riyu, and Yamato (Mizuki, Reiji and Kotomi were absent). Square does a normal or light attack whereas Triangle performs a heavy attack. You can chain these into combos and use skills. Some characters had ranged attacks, but at close range they all fight similarly with chained melee attacks that have a similar length and number of hits despite different animations. There are a lot of skills you can mix and match but I didn’t have the chance to experiment with those. I tried to perform tag team combos by switching character mid-combo like in a fighting game, but there does not appear to be any such moves.
Once during my button spam, I entering into a special overdrive mode called “Imagine Mode,” but it did not appear to give me any sort of advantage. There is a “EX Skill” you can pull off while in Imagine Mode, but I was unable to activate it.
Before the boss finale, I ran into a few characters. First was Shareko Ube, a cat-mask wearing merchant, and later the Akihabara Vigilance Committee (Leader and Akari Hoozuki) who were fighting the boss. Both started conversations featuring 2D illustrations of the characters. This time our main protagonist, Asahi, gets shown as well unlike the player in Akiba’s Strip. The character art is more animate, with their heads and other extremities waving back and forth. Unlike in the previous game, however, you can not press a button to make the text box and / or character art disappear.
The boss battle wasn’t too eventful, falling just as easily as the other enemies albeit taking a bit longer. That’s where my play-time came to an end. Akiba’s Beat isn’t as open and full of content like bigger names games are. Judging it for what it is, I enjoyed it. It seems like it will be simple and bare-bones, but not every game has to be the most content-rich odyssey.
As a bonus from my experience with the game, here are the game’s controls:
Field and Dungeon Controls
- Options Button – Pause
- Square Button – Map Display
- Triangle Button – Menu Display
- Circle Button – Attack / Talk / Confirm
- X Button – Jump / Cancel
- Right Stick – Camera Movement
- Left Stick – Character Movement
- Options Button – Pause
- Square Button – Forward Defense
- Square Button + Left Stick (Towards the Enemy) – Front Step
- Square Button + Left Stick (Away from the Enemy) – Back Step
- Square Button + Left Stick (Up or Down) – Side Step
- Square Button + X Button – Jump
- Square Button (When Blown Back) – Air Recovery
- Triangle Button – Battle Menu Display
- Circle Button – Standard Attack
- Left Stick (Left or Right) + Circle Button – Standard Attack (Movement)
- Left Stick (Up) + Circle Button – Standard Attack (Upper)
- Left Stick (Down) + Circle Button – Standard Attack (Lower)
- X Button – Skill Attack #1
- Left Stick (Up) + X Button – Skill Attack #2
- Left Stick (Left or Right) + X Button – Skill Attack #3
- Left Stick (Down) + X Button – Skill Attack #4
- Right Stick (Up) – Skill Attack #5
- Right Stick (Left) – Skill Attack #6
- Right Stick (Right) – Skill Attack #7
- Right Stick (Down) – Skill Attack #8
- Circle Button (After Headphone Mark is Displayed) – Activate Imagine Mode
- Circle Button (When Your Imagine Gauge is Filled Once, and the Headphone Mark is Displayed) – Activate Imagine Field
- Circle Button (After Activating a Special Skill During Imagine Mode / Imagine Field) – Activate Special Skill
- Left Stick – Character Movement (Lock-On Movement)
- L1 Button + Left Stick – Free Run
- D-Pad (Up, Down, Left, or Right) – Switch Between Characters
- R1 Button or R1 Button + Right Stick – Switch Between Locked-On Enemies
In Japan, the PlayStation 4 version of Akiba’s Beat will launch on December 15, with the PS Vita version’s release date still to be announced. In the west, Akiba’s Beat is due out across both platforms in North America and Europe in Q1 2017.