My experience with the Akiba’s Trip series has been fairly limited, with the only entry I’ve played being the second title, Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed on the PlayStation Vita. Whilst a quirky game that might not be to everyone’s taste, I had a lot of fun playing it; so much so that I completed EVERYTHING the game had to offer when it first released. Maybe it was the vampires that did it for me? Or maybe it was the undressing? Either way, my positive experience with the game made me excited to check out Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed – the remastered release of the original PSP game that has now made its way to modern consoles.
Unfortunately, I’ve been left a bit underwhelmed by the title. Whilst the same charming kookiness found in the sequel is present, the core gameplay mechanics were too clunky and dated to keep me fully invested in the experience. It just wasn’t particularly fun to play.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed’s plot was one of the highlights of the experience for me, with players taking on the role of Nanashi – a young man who finds himself in a perilous state after getting attacked by a vampire. Fortunately, he gets saved by a woman named Rui; the only caveat is, she did so by giving him some of her blood. Oh, and she ALSO just so happens to be a vampire, with her blood giving Nanashi some vampiric capabilities (which unfortunately includes a weakness to sunlight).
Following this, Nanashi finds himself recruited by NIRO – an organisation that looks to vanquish the streets of the more villainous roaming vampires. They all blend in with humans perfectly, but fortunately he gets armed with a handy camera than can help identify them. Best start exploring the streets of Akihabara and snapping some shots, then…
The narrative is weird and wacky throughout, but I enjoyed seeing it unravel and learning more about the shady going-ons occurring behind the scenes. Nothing is ever quite black and white in Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed, with plenty of choices to be made throughout the story that can affect how events play out. It is guilty of being a little bit predictable in places, but the plot itself is so unusual that it’s hard not to find yourself invested in the world.
“The narrative is weird and wacky throughout, but I enjoyed seeing it unravel and learning more about the shady going-ons occurring behind the scenes.”
The general gameplay of Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed sees players exploring Akihabara, interacting with its citizens, and completing missions to progress through the game. Anyone who associates themselves with geek culture will appreciate a lot of the sights they’ll get to see, whilst it feels like a semi-authentic take on the city itself.
There are plenty of side-missions to complete to earn some extra dosh, players can use their camera to identify enemies to beat up (more on that soon), whilst there’s also a heavy emphasis placed on fashion and dressing up Nanashi. Some missions even demand that he’s wearing a specific set of clothes, so I hope your eye for fashion is on point. There’s even a mini-game based around dressing up a female companion and taking photos, which I’m sure will appeal to SOME players. It is worth nothing that the character you’re dressing is actually your younger sister though, so yeah, it can certainly be weird. It’s probably not as bad as bathing with your sister in the sequel, mind…
“There are plenty of side-missions to complete to earn some extra dosh, players can use their camera to identify enemies to beat up (more on that soon), whilst there’s also a heavy emphasis placed on fashion and dressing up Nanashi.”
Combat in Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed sees players unleashing combos made up of one of three attacks: a low-attack, a mid-attack, and a high-attack. You know how I mentioned that vampires are damaged by sunlight? Well, that plays an important role when beating them up, with players not actively damaging their enemies, but stripping them of their clothing. Once enough damage has been done to each item of clothing, players can tear it off – once all clothing is removed, they get vanquished by the good ol’ rays of the sun.
It’s a weird (and sometimes seedy) way of fighting enemies, but there’s no doubting that it’s certainly unique. However, the execution in-game feels really clunky, with no lock-on mechanic in place to make it easy to target enemies. This isn’t such a problem when facing one or two foes, but when facing a group, it makes it difficult to switch targets and often leaves players vulnerable to incoming attacks. Enemies are quick to punish you when you’re caught off-guard too, making some battles overwhelming and frustrating early on.
Thankfully, you do unlock more moves as you progress through the game, whilst certain gear you equip can be more effective against different enemy types. Unfortunately, these still don’t really make the combat feel particularly fun – they only make it a little bit easier, with the combos you unleash still lacking any substance. It’s a real shame, because the idea of fighting vampires on the streets of Akihabara is certainly appealing. Putting it into practice, though? It’s just clunky and unsatisfying.
“Enemies are quick to punish you when you’re caught off-guard too, making some battles overwhelming and frustrating early on.”
Visually, Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed doesn’t look great, with some dated environment designs and plain character models leaving it feeling a bit unimpressive. It’s probably to be expected given that it was originally a PSP game, but I had still hoped that some effort would have been made to make some aspects of the world feel a bit more slcik. To the game’s defence, the setting is intriguing to explore and it does manage to capture the vibe of Akihabara perfectly – it just never looks particularly pretty.
Want to know what doesn’t help? The fact that the game also has some performance hitches. You’d think that the Nintendo Switch wouldn’t have an issue running a PSP game, but I noticed the frame rate would stutter quite regularly. Pair that up with the dull combat and lacking visuals, and you’ll quickly find that Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed has more than its fair share of issues.
I do feel like I’ve been a little harsh in this review, especially since Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed is a ten-year-old PSP game. Still, with better remastered releases of even older games hitting over the last few years, it’s hard not to feel disappointed by this offering. Everything about the game feels dated in design, whilst the combat hasn’t been refined to fix some of the more clunkier aspects either. I mean, no lock-on targeting? That’s a crime, especially in a game that’s guilty of sending so many groups of enemies the player’s way. It just needed to do a little bit more to help modernise the experience, with this feeling like a bit of a lazy effort from the developer.
I was looking forward to playing Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed, but it’s just a bit too clunky and dated in design to really enjoy. I was a fan of the narrative and how weird it gets, but everything else about the game just felt unsatisfying and not a lot of fun to play.
With the awkward combat, poor visuals, and technical issues, it really is difficult to recommend the game. To Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed’s defence, it did start life as a PSP game. However, with so many better remastered titles releasing these days, there’s no excuse for it not to have made some refinements to make the game more fun to play. It’s certainly not the worst game I’ve ever played, but it’s hard not to see Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed as anything other than a disappointment.
Publisher: Marvelous, XSEED Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC