All right, all right, so Akiba’s Beat isn’t technically a “sequel” in the strictest sense of the word, but hey — it’s the third game in the Akiba series, so it does technically fit the bill in that regard. And that’s why, sitting down for a private demo of the game, I have to point out that it’s an extremely strange way to follow up on 2014’s Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed. Sure, the game takes place in a similar setting to its predecessor, and features a similar cast of color-coded teenagers, but that’s just about where the similarities end. Apparently finished with the “beat vampires up until they’re naked” approach, this Akiba opts for a more traditional 3D action-RPG approach. Its combination of fast-paced, 3D fighter-esque fighting and overworld/dungeon exploration will feel immediately familiar for fans of the Tales series, who should keep this one on their radar.
Use Your Delusion
During the short demo, which I took turns watching and playing alongside director Kohta Takano, I got a little bit of insight into the way the game’s flow will work. From the hub world, which seems to be the same Akihabara region featured in Trip, players can activate a special ability that will allow them to see the locations of special rifts in reality — or more simply, dungeons called “Delusions.” Takano said that some of these locations will be based on the general delusions of NPCs in the region, while others will be character-specific and focus on the delusions of party members and other important characters.
Once inside a Delusion, things start to look familiar (in more ways than one). The twisted, colorful visuals and bizarre themes of the dungeons reminded me of the ones in Persona — and given that this Delusion system seems to deal directly with the personalities of characters, I wonder if perhaps Acquire are purposefully taking a leaf out of Atlus’s book. While that’s somewhat of a question to me, though, there’s absolutely no question that the combat of Beat is taking all its cues from Bandai Namco’s Tales series. Like those games, you’ve got a chance to get a pre-emptive strike on an enemy in the field (although this wasn’t yet possible in the demo), with contact initiating an immediate jump into a fast and frenetic action-RPG battle system.
Tales From the Strip
The similarities from there are unmistakable: players can either execute basic attacks or special skill moves that can be assigned using face buttons and analog directions. Up to three AI-controlled party members join along in battle, creating a cacophony of shouted move titles and interjections. The gimmick here, and the part from which Akiba’s Beat derives its title, is in the special meter in the corner of the screen. This meter fills up in five segments, and to move it past one of them, you’ve got to execute your special move — so you don’t have to worry about conserving it in the slightest.
Each character’s got their own set of special moves, naturally, but it’s the five-segment specials that really make things insane. These cause the theme song of your character to start playing, which Takano told me will actually be sung by each character’s seiyu in the Japanese version (and hopefully our version if we’re fortunate enough to get dual audio). As long as the song is playing, you’ve got the potential to completely unload on enemies and bring them toppling to the ground in seconds.
Meet the Beat
It’s sort of hard to tell whether or not Akiba’s Beat will shake things up enough to keep them consistently interesting just based on the demo, but it is absolutely clear that Acquire have done a much better job at polishing and perfecting the central mechanics this time. Whether you were a fan of the original, or you’re an action-RPG fan looking for something new, this is certainly one to keep an eye out for. The game’s currently slated for a Q4 2016 release — stay tuned, as we’ll be sure to keep you posted once there’s a final announcement.