Akiba’s Beat is a follow-up to the 2014 release Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed, which was more or less a beat ‘em up set in Akihabara. Akiba’s Beat, however, is diving more into the realm of being an actual roleplaying game, with many of the concepts and mechanics fans have come to expect from this genre. Acquire definitely saw the need to expand the series into the RPG genre though, as the two Akiba’s Trip games which came before it didn’t really perform as well as they wanted them to. I’ve been following the game closely since it released, and have been slowly chipping away at it throughout the weeks and months. It was weird seeing all this negative press and low review scores for the game, because I found myself really enjoying the battle system and the story. But we’ll get to all of that in greater detail soon. Read on for our full Akiba’s Beat review.
Title: Akiba’s Beat
Publisher: XSEED Games
Available On: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Game Provided by the Publisher for the Sake of This Review
Much like the prior games, Akiba’s Beat takes place in Akihabara and stars NEET (which stands for Not in Employment, Education, or Training) protagonist Asahi Tachibana. When the game first begins, he seems more or less like a lazy college drop out that doesn’t want to wake up before noon and be productive. Which fits, because that’s exactly what he is and he knows it. His childhood best friend, Mizuki Aihara, basically acts like his guardian, making sure that Asahi never really falls into trouble. Asahi can’t even keep a simple promise such as meeting Mizuki on Junk Street at 2:00pm to catch up and grab some lunch.
But this leads directly into the elements that you’ll be exploring for over fifty hours of main story content. You see, after disappointing his friend once again and heading back toward his room, Asahi notices something is a bit off in Akihabara, and begins seeing some sort of delusion. It’s here that we are introduced to transfer student Saki Hoshino, who becomes your partner in crime in investigating these delusions and what the true meaning is behind them. Other main party members you’ll slowly become friends with are Riyu Momose, Yamato Hongo, Kotomi Sanada, and Reiji Shinomiya.
At this point, the flow of Akiba’s Beat follows a pattern similar to the following. Upon discovering the first delusion, which is just another term for the dungeons in the game, you head inside and begin progressing toward the end to do battle with the main enemy in each one. After that, check your map for yellow sub-quest markers, because these only pop up at certain times, and if you skip any, you won’t be able to catch up until the very end of the game. After there aren’t anymore sub-quests, proceed on with the red main story quest markers, and then repeat the process for each of the sixteen chapters in the game.
Let’s start discussing the story for a bit. I completed all of the sub-quests to completion, including the secondary characters because I wanted to learn more about these people and find out as much as I could about this world. I wouldn’t have done that if I hadn’t been so invested in the story. Going back to what I said earlier about critics hitting the game hard, one of the several complaints I saw regarded the story. I can confidently say that if you are a fan of anime tropes and general Japanese culture, there’s a lot to enjoy in Akiba’s Beat. If you pay attention and really explore the lives of these characters and partake in the various sub-quests and side missions, you’ll see that this is a deep story attempting to dive into the serious concept of reality vs. delusions, and what’s real and what isn’t. Sure, it’s not amazing all the time, and when it misses, it tends to miss hard, but for the most part, I really enjoyed the narrative that was being told to me throughout the game.
The battle system is somewhat unique and extremely fun. It’s an action roleplaying at heart, with players being able to control one of four characters in your party at a time. You can freely move around the battle field, and how many actions you can perform at once is determined by your currently equipped Personal Pumputer (PP for short). By the end of the game, you’ll be able to perform 14 actions before having to wait a few seconds for it to recharge back up. There’s a button dedicated to standard attacks, and a button that unleashes special skills which includes magical attacks and healing/support skills. You can equip a skill to each cardinal direction of the left and right sticks, for a total of eight skills to unleash on the fly. The battle system was definitely a strong improvement over the previous entries in this franchise, and hopefully it’s one they stick with for future games.
The delusions, or dungeons, themselves are very reminiscent of what can be found in games such as Persona 4 and Tokyo Mirage Sessions. There isn’t a whole lot to them, with each floor being a set of corridors littered with enemies just waiting to be pummeled for experience and yen. The backdrops for each of the different themed delusions were fairly well done, but again, there isn’t a whole lot to them. Some of the later delusions in Akiba’s Beat get fairly complex, requiring you to perform different actions. For example, you may need to activate objects which in turn open and close specific curtains on the floor. Finding the right combination to get all of the treasure chests and proceed on to the next floor can be a bit challenging at first. Another dungeon even later requires Asahi and friends to warp between points, and there isn’t any reasonable way to determine where you’ll end up except for doing some old-fashioned trial and error work. I thought the dungeons were fun to run through the first time, and completely explored them, stripping them of items and doing battle with every enemy I came across.
But here lies another one of the problems with Akiba’s Beat that it seems like a lot of people had. The repetitiveness of continually having to backtrack to the same areas over and over again. As you progress in the main story and get into the later chapters, you’ll constantly need to go back to previously visited dungeons and run through them again to the end for either the main story or individual sub-quests. At the same time, you might start a sub-quest in the corner of Station Plaza, then have to run clear across the map for the next step to Junk Street, then back to Station Plaza for the third step, and finally over to the Side Streets for the last step. I can see why this might bother some people when other modern JRPG’s have done things a lot more smoothly and frankly better. But it’s honestly not that big of a deal, as you can easily warp to any district in Akihabara from the map, which cuts down the run time by about 80%. And secondly, once you clear a dungeon the first time, there really isn’t a need to do so again unless you are severely under leveled and need the experience. It’s here that items such as Perfuma come in handy, which allows you to walk right past enemies without getting attacked for a specific amount of time. Utilizing this item and warping around the map, I didn’t get as bothered by the backtracking as others appeared to.
There is a layer of customization to explore as well. Each character in your party can equip several pieces of clothing, including a hat, coat, and accessory. Don’t worry, as these items don’t physically show up on the character models in the game, so it doesn’t matter how silly they sound or what they actually look like. Besides clothing, you can customize each characters Personal Pumputer which will ultimately affect their attack damage, strength, and how often they can perform actions. Music can be selected for each character which will be unleashed whenever the Imagine Gauge gets filled up completely. And then there’s the trading card system, which unlocks after a few chapters into the story, and provides benefits to your attack, health, mana, and other useful things. There’s a lot to explore for those interested in fine tuning even the smallest details.
I’ve got to hand it to XSEED on the excellent localization job they did with Akiba’s Beat. Everything about the game is so baked with Japanese culture, and it would be easy to see why people that live elsewhere might get lost or not understand certain things going on. But the team did such a good job explaining everything and making everything make sense to anyone reading and watching that I honestly felt as if I was exploring Akihabara myself. Their usage of humor in their translated text never fails to disappoint me as well. This is definitely a strong localization on their part.
At the same time, the voice cast really fit each character that was being portrayed, and I was definitely excited to hear some of my favorites in the business. People like Cherami Leigh, Robbie Daymond, Alexis Tipton, and Cristina Vee help to bring these characters to life, and it just worked for me.
Akiba’s Beat is a strong entry in the series, and one that I absolutely prefer over the previous ones. It’s a shame that the game received such poor critical reception, because I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for an addicting battle system, fun and engaging story, and interesting characters. There are some negatives that can’t be ignored though, such as the amount of backtracking required, the times when the story just falls flat and isn’t as interesting as other portions, and not streamlining other features. All of that aside though, I still found enough enjoyable with Akiba’s Beat, and hopefully the series will continue on and continue to get even better!