Alien Isolation

THE FUTURE! (circa 1980)

THE FUTURE! (circa 1980)

   The Alien franchise has a rocky history outside of the movie theater. Game developers usually go to James Cameron’s 1986 Aliens for inspirational sourcing and go full tilt invincible space marine shoot the acid blooding bastards in the face power fantasy. Ridley Scott’s original 1979 film has stood apart from the mayhem. Maybe devs are too reverent of it. Maybe those behind the previous games didn’t know how to approach Scott’s weak human prey vs unstoppable stealth killing machine in a way that would make the experience worthwhile for their audience. There’s no easy hook to swing a power fantasy from, there’s no affirmation that you are the biggest badass in the immediate galactic region. Alien has always been about terror, claustrophobia and waiting for death around the next turn in the ventilation shaft.

    Many big gun developers have take runs at the franchise. Fox Video Games took the first swing at an Alien title in 1982 for the Atari 2600, making it a Pac-Man clone. In 1984 UK companies Amsoft and Argus Press Software teamed up to deliver an early and brilliant strategy title for Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum that is tragically overlooked. Aliens launched into theaters with a couple tie-in games attached to it. These would forge the basic concept of every game in the franchise from here on out. Shoot  Xenomorphs, Win! All the way up to 2012’s massively disappointing, but undeniably ambitious, Gearbox effort Colonial Marines.

    So what could we possibly expect from Alien Isolation. First, notice there is no “s” on the Alien there. Developer The Creative Assembly. best known for the Total War strategy series, boldly goes back the the first film for inspiration. They capture the low-fi esthetic of late 70s sci-fi perfectly and give a world that ol Ridley should be proud of.

It's coming to get you, Amanda... it's coming to get you.

It’s coming to get you, Amanda… it’s coming to get you.

    Taking place in the 57 years between the loss of the Nostromo at the end of Alien and before the Marines are sent to LV-426 to investigate what’s happening. We are placed in the shoes of Alien film heroine Ellen Ripley’s daughter, Amanda Ripley. Amanda has been taking all the jobs available out in the area of space where The Company, Weyland-Yutani, think her mother’s ship went missing. Eventually she is told that the flight recorder from her mother’s fateful last trip has been recovered on Sevastopol Station, a remote space station owned by the Seegson Corporation, orbiting a gas giant. Amanda jumps at the opportunity to be a part of the team going to retrieve the recorder, unfortunately they’re not the only new visitors to this cold and mostly forgotten outpost.

    Alien Isolation looks amazing. The look and feel is consistent and lifted perfectly from the 1979 film. Creative Assembly makes Sevastopol Station a wonderful environment to explore. Using it’s age and soon to be decommissioned rotting nature to great effect for player navigation and environmental puzzles. The station tells its own story separate from that of ultimate predator stalking poor orphan girl, it’s an interesting layer places just under the main action. Making Alien Isolation a first person horror game was a fantastic move, it makes everything feel that much more immediate. There’s no way to cheat the camera around a corner and it makes the environment that much more threatening.

The motion tracker is your best friend... of course that's assuming that things are, you know, moving.

The motion tracker is your best friend… of course that’s assuming that things are, you know, moving.

    Character models are all solid. They move in ways that are naturalistic for the character. Humans move fairly smoothly, WY synthetics slightly more stiffly, Seegson’s synthetics robotically. It’s nice to see this kind of detail given proper attention. The Xenomorph moves unlike anything else. Also the variations in AI for each of the different character types in welcome. It slides to accommodate that specific character in that specific room. Though, just like movement, there is more attention given to the Alien’s. It’s a smart, fast, insistent and determined predator. It’s a foe that you’ve never encountered before.

    Not up to the rest of the game though is the poor voice acting for the new characters. Far too many of them are simply bland and lifeless. It’s an even more glaring issue as you progress and find voice records left by the crew of The Nostromo with the majority of the original film’s cast returning, the sole exception being John Hurt and his character, Kane. They all give solid performances to characters they brought to life over 30 years ago without missing a step. The old cast bring their A game and remind us that it was a film stuffed with talent in front of the camera just as much as behind it.

    Alien Isolation isn’t just the best horror title this year, it’s not just the best science fiction game. It’s not just the best first person game this year. It’s easily a runner for the best game this year full stop. Get it. No excuses.

Alien Isolation- 9.5/10 Not perfect but close. The best game in the Alien franchise by a wide margin and one of the best experiences in gaming this year.

 

Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments

Holmes! Incredible! How could you tell she was a victim of domestic abuse?

Holmes! Incredible! How could you tell she was a victim of domestic abuse?

    Independent Ukrainian and Irish development studio, Frogwares, tenth Adventures of Sherlock Holmes adventure in twelve years is going to be tragically overlooked. Starting with Sherlock Holmes: Mystery of the Mummy in 2002 Frogwares have continually shown a strong understanding of Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal sleuth. The series gets stronger with each title and even that is a rarity in modern gaming. While no one could ever accuse any of the entries to be perfect, the series stands against giving into trends and showing that the point and click adventure genre still has life and ways to grow.

    Forgoing their usual set up of one large case per title, Crimes and Punishments is an anthology of six short unconnected cases. It’s the closest to cracking open a volume of the canon and a celebration of the source material. The first case is an adaption of Doyle’s The Adventure of Black Peter. Holmes doesn’t just solve a murders this time around, there are also thefts and disappearances and catacomb or two. The cases range from mundane to brilliantly planned. Each case clocks in between one and two hours to complete and takes advantage of the short nature to take on a wide range of topics and trapping, from Ancient Roman ruins to domestic violence.

    The voice cast is, as to be expected, a mixed bag. While Sherlock’s voice is great and Watson’s voice is fine, many of the bit players sound a bit too “We picked them up walking out of an amatur production of Shakespear rehersal”. None are deal breakers but they can take a moment to accept.

Watson's Creepy Factor was toned down a bit as well.

Watson’s Creepy Factor was toned down a bit as well.

The character models are also mixed. Holmes’ model looks fantastic, and again distinctly inspired by Jeremy Brett’s decade long run in the role. Lestrade and every other single case character look rushed and fairly generic. All the environments are nicely detailed and feel authentic enough. 221 B Baker Street looks like the one Brett’s Holmes occupied, though far messier and cramped, and simply feels right. Unfortunately there are a fair number of graphic glitches, the characters occasionally slightly ghost and the video clips.
The game allows for both third and first person view. On occasion you’ll find yourself switching between them as it’s simply impossible to get the camera to highlight some examinables in the environment. It’s annoying but a minor quibble.

    Gameplay is your usual point and click style. Holmes parades around the environment collecting clues that will form impressions you must connect that will allow you to finally form a conclusion and make an accusation or absolve the culprit. Holmes gets a Batman Arkham series detective mode to highlight things that would otherwise be overlooked and can in, some situations, reconstruct in his imagination what happened from found clues. Holmes can size up a character with an interactive spin around the model. Suspect interrogation which is little more than playing out the dialog tree with the occasional interjection that can be thrown in if you have a contrary piece of information. Found items can be brought back to Baker Street for analysis. There are several mini games tossed in but none are all that interesting or very fun. Though the experience of finding clues, thinking out how they fit, the freedom to draw your own conclusion and the moral choice dilemmas at the end of each chapter easily balance out the awkward minigames.

221 B Baker Street... Home of a master detective or just your common type of hoarder?

221 B Baker Street… Home of a master detective or just your common type of hoarder?

    Crimes and Punishments has one fantastic new element and a couple of tragic problems. Load times are simply too long and too often. Going to a location and waiting through the 30 second screen of Holmes reading Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is fine, except often there’s another 15 seconds of black screen loading once that’s finish and there’s a noticeable load pause whenever Holmes interacts with anything. The puzzles are simply too easy and simple. Holmes’ cases really should be a bit more challenging in all honesty. Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments does bring one fantastic new element to the genre. It allows you to be wrong. Incredibly wrong. That alone makes the trip worth taking. You can be wrong and that is such a great breath of fresh air in the medium that I can’t overemphasize how great that is.

    As you’ve probably guessed… I’m an unabashed fan of this series and I love the genre as a whole. I still often lament how there’s so few of these making it to consoles and how no major publisher even bothers with them but have no problems regurgitating identical shooters on the market every year. No, it’s definitely not for everyone but for those who enjoyed the previous entries, fans of either current TV updating of the great detective, those who took a chance on the disappointing Murdered Soul Suspect earlier this year or those just looking for something different I highly recommend Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments and eagerly await Frogwares’ next entry in this stand out series. It’s simply one of the best experiences I’ve had in gaming this year.

Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments- 8/10

Assassin’s Creed Rouge

Abstergo Media sure is stuffed with ads for Ubisoft stuff. They're being all meta and shit!

Abstergo Media sure is stuffed with ads for Ubisoft stuff. They’re being all meta and shit!

The eighth installment in Ubisoft’s historic franchise, nineteenth overall, takes us back for a third round of good old Assassin and Templer violence in the 18th century. Tragically it doesn’t reach past any of the shortcomings of the last two entries. Bringing nothing new to the table isn’t necessarily a bad thing if they’d used the old elements to present something good but charging premium price for what’s basically a standalone expansion pack is regardless of quality.

    Trying to still make up for the blunder of Assassin’s Creed 3 abandoning the fascinating Assassin turned Templar Haythem Kenway after the opening missions to force his boring and painfully stupid son Ratonhnhaké:ton (or Connor) into the lead role. Ubisoft gives us Shay Cormac a young apprentice Assassin who is given an insanely important mission after we’re told several times that he’s still learning and not really ready for something this serious. Shay quickly gets himself a ship, the Morrigan, and sets off to recover two artifacts of dire importance from those evil nasty Templars. When he succeeds he accidentally triggers an event that kills hundreds of innocent people and disillusioned finds himself with those nasty Templars against his former brothers… the really just as fucking bad Assassins.
The voice cast is mostly terrible. All their accents are amped up to 11. Did you forget for a moment that a character is, say, French? That’s ok because soon a voice actor channeling Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau will be insulting you. It’s lazy and annoying. These are keywords for pretty much every aspect of this game.

I love how talkative dying folks are in the AC world.

I love how talkative dying folks are in the AC world.

    While Rougue’s story could easily be one of the most interesting in a while again Ubisoft goes as lazy as they could for it. After seven entries all about how evil the Templars are, despite all the evidence that they are really exactly like the Assassins but use a different flag and phrase things a bit differently, here it’s all flipped. The Assassins are painted as overaggressive assholes who will stop at nothing, not ever the complete destruction of a city and all those lost lives will even cause them to blind. The Templars are shown exactly like the Assassins have been in every other entry. They’re more thoughtful and concerned for the people, they’re more thoughtful about the consequences of their actions. But that’s only in the Animus segments, once in modern day they’re back to the nasty evil world domination driven fucks we have always been told they are. Instead of taking the opportunity to really explore the two sides differences it’s so glazed over and so extremely opposite a view that it wastes all it’s potential. More since Shay is the first character in a recent entry to even passingly consider what’s going on around him and has a moral view on it beyond “Those guys are bad, ‘mkay? We gotta stop them.”

What do you do with a drunken Templar? What do you do with a drunken Templar early in the morning? Sail him around until it's boring...

What do you do with a drunken Templar? What do you do with a drunken Templar early in the morning? Sail him around until it’s boring…

    I find it lazy, though I have been guilty of it myself, to just reference similar titles when discussing gameplay it is impossible to avoid here. So I’ll give as much thought to it as Ubisoft did. The sailing and naval action is directly out of Black Flag but with icebergs. Do you remember the hostile territory takeovers from Brotherhood? That’s back as well but now they fly Assassin flags. The endless grinding for creatures to hunt so you could use their pelts to craft better equipment from AC3? That’s back and twice as grindy. The only new addition to gameplay is lifted right out of the previous installments online play. The new stalker enemies blend in with the normal NPCs and wait for you to pass so they can spring out and deliver a telegram of pain should be a great addition. Unfortunately, we’re going back to the keywords from earlier, it’s integrated lazily and it annoyingly slows down the action at times when it should be ramping up. The stalkers don’t have any motion, they just hid in their spot and loudly talk to themselves. At no point do they ever feel like a threat or as more than an after thought added late in development so they wouldn’t waste some easy to plug in features. While the stalking and hiding in plain site was a fantastic and fresh multiplayer style, when scripted like this it’s more of a chore that’s slowing down and padding out the thin gameplay.

    Assassin’s Creed Rouge is a dubious farewell to the console generation that birthed this series. Bringing back every possible mechanic that was praised in earlier entries and giving a story that desperately tried to win back the favor of those annoyed with the last two. I just can’t recommend it to most people. If you are in real need of more Black Flag? Go for it. This was made just for you. If you haven’t been keeping detailed notes on every Assassin’s Creed title, skip it and pick up the Ezio Trilogy collection and Black Flag.

20 games later and you still spend most of it hiding in the surprisingly large number of haystacks.

20 games later and you still spend most of it hiding in the surprisingly large number of haystacks.

Assassin’s Creed Rouge- 5/10 Lazy, repetitive and poorly done. The biggest missed opportunity from the series so far.

Risen 3: Titan Lords

oooooohhhhhh.... Steam cover art.

oooooohhhhhh…. Steam cover art.

Piranha Bytes third Risen game goes puts us back on the high seas. A pirate action RPG must be a great thing, right? I mean who can ever get enough swashbuckling pirate speak? I can’t. Pirate is even my default language on a couple sites I troll. Pirates fighting the minions of hell? Yes. More please. What could possibly go wrong here? Risen 3: Titan Lords has to be an end of the generation classic, right? Wrong.

    The children of Steelbeard, the fiercest pirate captain in the Risen universe, have been hunting for treasure on the Crab Coast. They don’t find treasure. Instead they find a portal to the netherworld which quickly spews out a demon mage who kills our hero. Waking up five weeks later, thanks to your new sidekick Bones, you learn your soul has been tucked away in hell and you need to get it back before becoming one of the undead horde. Before he can save his soul, he’ll have to get back his ship, pull together a crew and seal up the gateways scattered through the land.

    Where Risen 3 really has it’s best moments is in the dialog. It’s just quirky enough to be fun instead of eye rollingly stupid for the most part. Many of the lead and party characters are voiced with tongues firmly implanted in cheeks which is really the only way to approach lines like these. Unfortunately no one seemed to tell this to the secondary voice actors who bog down the charm with limp readings and dull voices. It’s a shame that not everyone went all in with their characters.

DIALOG TREES!

DIALOG TREES!

    The map is large and the environments vary greatly. Risen 3’s world is just fun to wander through. Which is good since the impressive number of side quests requires a lot of it. That Piranha Bytes keeps the world fresh throughout the game is an impressive accomplishment. Several of the environments look fantastic with lush vegetation or sheer ice cliffs. They look so good that it’s almost sad that the developers had decided to overstuff all of them with junk. Be it pick up items or hordes of enemies, everywhere is packed to bursting with STUFF. To make things even more disappointing, the enemies and characters look bad. Not deal breakingly bad but noticeably rough when running around the world. Everything and everyone places in the world could do with a spit shine and polish. Why build such a great world and populate it with such eye sores?

    Combat, on the other hand, IS a deal breaker. The magic system is fine and a lot of the spells are a lot of fun to use but when it comes to hand to hand or firearms it all falls apart. Targeting is a mess, taking swings at the air in front of or next to your target or turning around to swing at an enemy far behind you. Dodging and blocking feel awkward with a poor response time. To make it worse the strike animations are all oddly long for the pace the game tries to impose on combat. It’s excruciating having to wait for your strike to finally be delivered, after standing there holding down the block button for close to eternity waiting for this moment, only for the animation to draw out what should be a quick attack that ends with you stuck being slapped around instead of bringing the pain as planned. Enemies can leap across the screen to smack you upside the head that’s nearly impossible to gauge the dodge timing for. Your sidekicks AI is a mess also. Winning without them is impossible but you can’t expect them to really help you when you need it either. You can only lead enemies toward them and hope they decide to attack over there, allowing you to take them on one at a time instead of in a cluster which is a sure death.

    Risen 3 will probably delight fans of the series but it is not going to bring any new folks to the fold. If anything it’s guaranteed to annoy those who aren’t already long term fans with it’s terrible combat alone. There’s the bones of a great action RPG here but the meat around them just does not cut it.

It's obvious why they released this one as a promo image. Some of the environments are simply stunning. We didn't bother to capture any for this because it would have meant going back into the game. No one was willing to do that.

It’s obvious why they released this one as a promo image. Some of the environments are simply stunning. We didn’t bother to capture any for this because it would have meant going back into the game. No one was willing to do that.

Rise 3: Titan Lords- 4.5/10  As it is… it doesn’t even make it to being an average title. The terrible combat and awful character graphics drag down a great world and interesting characters. Only for Risen fans.

 

The Evil Within

The buddy system. When in a twisted nightmare world remember it always use it. As much as you can anyway.

The buddy system. When in a twisted nightmare world remember it always use it. As much as you can anyway.

    Shinji Mikami has long neglected the survival horror genre, having created the Resident Evil series and overseeing the series development up to Resident Evil 4, finally returns home to the genre he pretty much created. The first title from his own development studio Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda Softworks, The Evil Within feels like a great old Mikami game… by that I mean Resident Evil 4. The Evil Within feels like Resident Evil 4. A lot like it.

    There’s an armed and active shooter in the local insane asylum. An unknown number inside are dead, including several police officers, so instead of sending in a SWAT unit to neutralize the shooter the city sends in Krimson City Police Detective Sebastian Castellanos, his partner Joseph Oda and rookie Detective Julie “Kid” Kidman. So already the suspension of disbelief is fairly high. It doesn’t take them long after arrival to find bodies everywhere and watch a supernatural antagonist, Ruvik, taking out the remaining police. Of course said supernatural antagonist immediately appear behind Castellanos. Without further ado he’s separated from his partners and in a twisted world of monsters and gore soaked walls.

    The Evil Within’s story has a panicked “We’ve made this game but we forgot to give it a plot! Throw every cliche at the wall and see what sticks!” vibe to it. The problem is that they didn’t remove the stuff that didn’t stick and nothing is really explored in an interesting way. Add to that Sebastian being a boring character to spend time with. What he lacks in personality, he doesn’t make up for in tough-as-nails-been-there-done-that-brought-home-the-t-shirt attitude. While his sidekicks are a bit more interesting they’re not explored enough for them to really matter.

Ooooohhhhh... creepy... kinda...

Ooooohhhhh… creepy… kinda…

     Dialog is as cheesy as it gets but not in the Resident Evil way. In those it’s a lovingly made cheese that fits the tone and helps make the experience, a high quality brie that would have gourmands fighting to the death for it. Here it’s more of processed cheese, it doesn’t really fit with the rest and doesn’t help anything along besides fill silence, a cheese in a spray can that gets clogged if left sitting on the table for a minute. The voice cast is… well… they’re there and that’s about it. While Jackie Earle Haley is solid as Ruvik, the man just does creepy evil bastards well, and Yuri Lowenthal gives a little life to Oda, the others are a master class in mediocrity. Maybe they’re just lazy and wanted a quick paycheck. I haven’t decided which. What makes this worse is that they’ve spent a fair amount on the voice cast and cast actors whose work is at least known to a more general audience. Anson Mount brings his full skills to Castellanos, meaning he fails to emote or even bring the slightest amount of depth or shading to his performance and doesn’t even bother to sound like the world weary character the dialog tries so hard to make him out to be. Jennifer Carpenter’s go as Kidman is fortunately brief as she only pops up a little and for fairly short spans of time, tragically she’ll be front and center for at least two of the coming DLC.

    The Evil Within’s levels look fantastic. The changes in environments from chapter to chapter offer a fair amount of interesting settings. The lighting effects are well done to highlight the environments and give each one a distinct feel. While none of them are really anything unique, they are all done with care and an eye for detail. Several of the stages are really incredible sights. It’s too bad that Mikami doesn’t allow them to do their work. Almost every area is splattered with gore and has corpses shoved into every corner to the point of overkill. Instead of letting them work as they are for effectively creepy settings. Mikami simply overcrowds them. They’re too busy to let them really do their job of heightening tension or giving an interesting experience. To make it worse is the choice to cram the screen in a letterbox format. I guess its in an effort to make it all feel more like a movie but it doesn’t. Instead it just makes things harder to see. The smaller more interesting details need to be nearly stood on and can be overlooked entirely. The traps tossed throughout each level and items occasionally disappear in the cramped frame. It makes the experience more frustrating instead of absorbing.

    Characters and enemy models all have a very dated look to them. On top of that none of them are very unique looking. The normal level enemies are all very cut and paste from every other horror title, glowing eyed zombie like creatures. The bosses are all gigantic variations on popular characters from other titles. One that you keep running into is a masked guy with a chainsaw… something that you have never seen in another Mikami game. Except, of course, Resident Evil 4. There’s a Pyramid Head knock off, this time with a safe wrapped with rust barbed wire. There’s a long haired onryo with multiple arms. While they’re still effective they just make the experience feel like a retread when facing them.

Can YOU name the film this makes me think of? Hint: 1985 Terry Gilliam

Can YOU name the film this makes me think of? Hint: 1985 Terry Gilliam

    Combat is a mixed experience. While I found the stealth to be really solid and fun when it’s a workable option. The head on encounters grew very tiring. Your character just moves too slowly when aiming, the camera zooms in ever more completely blocking out the majority of what’s happening around you. Melee attacks, which are pointlessly weak in most cases, will go wide of the mark and as just swung wildly. Precision and accuracy is nearly impossible with most weapons since the frame rate has a tendency to drop when you need it the most and enemies will suddenly vanish from your well lined up shot to be right on top of you and just to the left well outside of your view. The boss fights are more often puzzles than direct combat, which works really well and makes every confrontation interesting… except… many of them deliver one hit kills and the load time that follows can get almost painfully frustrating.

    The Evil Within is not a bad game by any means. It just doesn’t ever live up to its potential or take any new paths that we haven’t all taken before. There are several fantastic moments but they are surrounded with mediocrity or with so much frustration that just walking away often seems like the only rational thing to do. It’s definitely not for everybody. I prefer to look at it as a warm-up for Mikami and Tango. There’s enough here to give hope for whatever they have next up their sleeves, even though it’s not enough to make The Evil Within work as well as it should.

 

7.5/10- The frustration, lack of scares or suspense, some blatantly bad design choices and annoying combat undermine what has moments that could have made this a new classic in the genre… but if it is your kind of game it’s worth sticking it out. Only for die hard Survival Horror fans.

 

WIDESCREEN! for your widescreen TV... totally isn't at all annoying or a bad design choice. Nope. Not at all.

WIDESCREEN! for your widescreen TV… totally isn’t at all annoying or a bad design choice. Nope. Not at all.

Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed

You'd think they cops would be called more often with these serial clothes thieves running rampant.

You’d think they cops would be called more often with these serial clothes thieves running rampant.

    Akiba’s Trip… Akiba’s trip… Akibastip… Akiba stip. Ok. I get it. Akiba’s Trip: Undressed and Undead is brought to us by Acquire, the company behind the Tenchu and Way of the Samurai series, and published by Xseed brings a new twist to the beat ‘em up genre… ripping your opponent’s clothing off. A self aware parody light novel that is an occasionally scathing indictment of Japan’s nerd culture. It’s hard to not enjoy but it’s just as hard to recommend.

    Akihabara, lovingly known as simply Akiba, is the mecca of Japanese geek culture. Akiba is crammed full of shops and restaurants all catering to all possible branches of nerdom. If it exists, you can find it in Akiba. Which is expensive for a poor Otaku. Answering an ad for a part time job as a medical research guina pig that pays in rare collectables, Player Character, wakes up strapped to a table. He soon learns he’s been turned into a Synthister, a man-made vampire that feeds off people’s life energy. Synthisters are powerful but still unable to take much sunlight (wonder how you could possibly fight them? Huh…. I’m sure there’s a clue in the title, right?) Luckily for him, he’s soon rescued by an unknown girl and before he knows it they are leading his friends into battle against the forces of greed in the crowded streets of Japan’s nerd mecca.

    Akiba’s Trip is one of the best localized titles I have seen recently. The dialog is quick and fairly well written. US publisher Xseed deserves a lot of the credit here. It’s enough to keep the stock characters from being as boring as they usually would be. The flow of the dialog with its word choices, stops and nuances that are, as a rule, completely lost in most Japanese games lift this to be a better title than it has any right to be. The dialog options allow for some really funny anti-social comments and the branching options that has effects on how each character views you. The lead characters become almost charming, especially the lead’s younger sister is one of the most adorable characters to grace the medium (until they make it creepy… and boy is it possible to make it CREEPY). Much of the best dialog comes in the side quests. Many of them revolve around someone who has taken their fandom too far. Some of it is surprisingly progressive and doesn’t ever judge them for what the character’s particular thing is, only allowing you to try to help them get a perspective on it. It’s almost progressive and for the market it’s aimed at it takes a fair amount of guts to do.

When not fighting... there's a LOT of talking.

When not fighting… there’s a LOT of talking.

    While much of the dialog itself is solid, the same can not be said for the voice cast. The delivery is perfunctory and generic. Both the English and Japanese cast do more to hurt their characters than to bring them to live. I found myself actually muting them during the long talking scenes. The J-pop soundtrack is catchy as all hell. Almost too much so.

    Akiba is a large and open area. There are more than 100 shops to visit and thousands of sale flyers to pick up. Ads dominate the landscape, videos for other Xseed titles stream on all monitors you see, posters for different anime and cafes are plastered on almost every available surface. It’s a great place to roam and explore. The only draw back is it’s put together in bite size chunks. There’s just no excuse for this to not be an open world.

    Fighting consists of your normal high, medium and low attacks. Each targets a specific clothing item on the opponent character, so using high attacks on enemies without something on their head is just wasting your time. Each piece of clothing has its own health bar and once it gets down to about half you can wear it down even quicker with a button mashing grab for it. After having deal enough damage the article begins flashing red which allows you to pull it off. You can chain these clothes grabs for long sessions of tug and scorch. One thing that combat is missing is any kind of targeting system. So you will spend a fair amount of time lunging and grabbing at air. Usually while surrounded by a half dozen angry, half dressed Synthisters.

Tug of war is forever ruined.

Tug of war is forever ruined.

   There is little variety in the encounters which could lead to the game becoming tedious quickly. Acquire tries to make up for this with the huge number of makeshift weapons available to you. While the weapon types are fairly limited, there are hundreds of each type. There’s also a huge variety of clothing options for your character to suit up with, almost all of it is literally ripped off enemies.

    Visually Akiba’s Trip is nothing special and there are some annoyingly long delays with the NPCs in each area. Like the segmented map, there’s just no excuse for this. You’ve loaded the area and it’s completely empty for a good 30 seconds before grey shapes start to form and another wait before their skinned. The ads, on the other hand, load up fast as shit.

    Akiba’s Trip has a lot going for it. If you don’t react with automatic disgust at the stripping mechanics, there’s a pretty good title here. It’s an equal mix of male and female opponents, all with equal perv time. There was so much that could have gone horribly wrong here but Acquire pulled it off. If only the combat was a bit more varied or the voice cast gave it a little effort. If you are a fan of anything Japanese geek, you’ll have a great time. If you think that Japan is a nation of perverse sex offenders you won’t.

Team Stripping...

Team Stripping…

Akiba’s Trip- 6.8 It’s a good effort but it doesn’t quite work in general. While it’s a treat for its audience, it probably won’t win anyone over to this niche market.