First Thoughts on Akiba’s Beat …

So, almost two years ago, I played a game called Akiba’s Trip, a little action/adventure/visual novel/RPG type game that I really liked, mostly because the combat was there but got out of the way pretty quickly, and the underlying story, while ridiculous, allowed you a lot of freedom to tolerate, embrace, or even further the madness through your character responses. I enjoyed it quite a bit for the small and relatively shallow game it was.

So when, recently, I was browsing and noticed Akiba’s Beat, I immediately picked it up. It’s not really a sequel to Akiba’s trip, but parodies JRPGs like Akiba’s Trip parodies … I think visual novels? Anyway, it builds in a dungeon/combat system similar to Conception II’s, with real-time instead of turn-based combat, packed around a ridiculous and yet formulaic JRPG story. So it has all the elements to really work in parodying JRPGs like Akiba’s Trip did for … whatever it was doing.

However, it pretty much falls flat.

The key to Akiba’s Trip was that it allowed you to set how you as player or you as character — or both — saw the world. Were you as goofy as everyone else? Just running with it? Or rolling your eyes at how nuts everything was? The game actually let you express that to some extent through your dialogue choices. Thus, your character wasn’t really defined, and was one that you could define as the game went along. And this was important for a parody game, because it allowed you to participate in the manner you preferred rather than being just an observer. Allowing you to participate meant that the story and game itself didn’t have to carry all of the humour or parody, by allowing the player to guide it in the direction that made sense and worked for them.

Akiba’s Beat, on the other hand, goes with a very set protagonist. About seven hours in, you have little dialogue or action choices worth mentioning. Thus, most of the time is spent watching the characters interact with each other without your input. Which means that that dialogue has to carry the humour and the parody. If it falls flat or gets repetitive — and it gets repetitive — you end up just wanting to skip what really looks like an interactive cutscene, with maybe a few times when you get to say something that doesn’t matter that much. By removing even pointless player interaction they end up putting a far greater burden on the existing story and characters, and they simply cannot lift that burden.

Don’t get me wrong; the existing characters aren’t bad, but as you might expect from a parody they’re pretty standard tropey characters. Which is fine. And the story itself is interestingly goofy. But it simply can’t carry what is supposedly about a 40+ hour game. For a game that long, you really need the player to buy into it, and by removing the personalization of the game they make it that much harder for the game to do that.

Another issue that contributes to this is that the combat is much more prominent, important, and takes up much more time than it did in Akiba’s Trip. The main story for each chapter is in the various dungeons, each of which are a few floors long and can contain various puzzles. The dungeons and combat aren’t bad, but they’re unspectacular, especially on “Easy” (which is how I always play games like this). Given that they are unspectacular and take up a large portion of the game, they turn into things that you have to do to get to the fun part, which is the story. And when the fun part drags, you wonder why you spent so much time in the okay part to get to another okay part.

I’ll probably pick this game up again and finish it, but for now it’s not on my top list of games to dedicate time to playing, and I have other games that I’d rather do that with than this one.

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