The JRPG seems like a genre that has faded into obscurity, but in reality it’s still thriving in its own circles. With the recent release of Persona 5 and several other upcoming games, the genre is persisting with its unique and quirky core intact. The Akiba series is one of the newer in the genre, with 2011 Akiba’s Trip which released on the PSP in Japan, giving rise to a full worldwide sequel Akiba’s Trip 2 on the PS4, PS3 and Vita in 2014. The series has been a bit of a beat em up focus with some more risque elements, but spawned a devoted following which has given rise to a full RPG spinoff, called Akiba’s Beat which takes the series into a new musical thematic and much less risque territory, with a heavy focus on the traditional JRPG elements the genre is known for.
Developed by: Acquire
Published by: XSeed Games
Release date: May 16th, 2017
Platforms: PS4, PS Vita
Akiba’s Beat Features
- Spinoff to the worldwide release Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed
- Story focused JRPG with a complex narrative and large cast of characters
- Party based combat system that lets you control any of the characters
- Trading card and ally system adds depth to combat and exploration
Story & Setting
In contrast to the more risque Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed, Akiba’s Beat is much less risque JRPG where players will traverse dungeons and engage in a long and deep narrative with a large cast of characters. It takes place in Akihabara after the events of the previous game and main protagonist Asahi Tachibana is a “NEET” living a normal life after dropping out of college. Joining him are Saki Hoshino, a newly transferred student, Riyu Momose, a Japanese idol, Yamato Hongo, an anime, manga and cosplay enthusiast, Kotomi Sanada, a wealthy dropout, Mizuki Aihara, a college student and friend of Asahi and Reiji Shinomiya, the oldest who is searching for someone.
The main theme of the story is an exploration of jaded youth trying to make sense of the current world they live in and the Tokyo district of Akihabara has been faithfully recreated in its “Electric Town” grandeur, full of game and anime shops, arcades, shops, cafes and more. The cast represents this diverse assortment and cover all different personality types and orientations.
The core events of the game deal with the party becoming stuck in a world of delusions, trapped in repeating a day long cycle of a Sunday. In this, the party continues to come across a mysterious man in a pink cape who seems to appear whenever odd events occur. Caught in a temporal loop, where the day restarts as soon as it ends, Asahi is one of only a few whose memories don’t reset with it. Him and his party must now explore Akihabara for signs of “delusions” which are people’s innermost fantasies made manifest, which change the city and behavior of its citizens. They have to roll up their sleeves and take these delusions out if there is any hope of restoring order. During the course of this crazy journey, Asahi and his companions will unravel a deep, twisted mystery that blurs the line between the physical world and that of mankind’s innermost desires. Thematically, these delusions and their danger share similarities with the Persona series of games.
Although the game is a spinoff it does not share any of the prior gameplay mechanics and focuses more on JRPG features. It will play in combat as an action RPG, with players initiating battles once they move the character into an enemy. This will then launch the battle in a separate battle. In battle the player will have a 4 member party with 3 controlled by AI, and one under your direct control. You can switch to control another of the party members directly at any time during battle.
Rather than issue commands, combat will engage by using cursor keys in combination with attack buttons to trigger an assortment of actions. When HP hits zero, the character becomes knocked out and other party members can use skills or items to revive their fallen ally. When a character’s SP reaches zero, they become unable to use their magical or physical skills. SP can be recovered through standard attacks, via skills or by consuming special items. You will need SP in order to execute the combo attacks, so managing your amount will be an important part of battle management. AP is another resource to be managed and it governs attacking. When AP reaches zero, a character is no longer able to attack. AP recovers over time as a battle progresses, adding a layer of AP management strategy to how you behave during a battle.
The battle system features an Imagine Mode which allows characters to perform actions without consuming AP. To trigger this, you will be filling an Imagine Gauge by attacking enemies. The gauge moves between 5 stages and can be used at these different points, but the triggered mode is more powerful when a complete gauge is used. Once in Imagine Mode, a character is greatly enhanced and will be the path for unleashing special techniques. As the game progresses, characters can unlock improvements to the Imagine Mode and unlock the Imagine Field. The Imagine field boosts character abilities, reduces incoming damage and gives you a custom character song that plays in the background. This song can be later swapped to another in-game song, allowing for some customization.
Despite the robust combat system, Akiba’s Beat is a very story-heavy game and you’ll be going through long stretches of gameplay without engaging in combat, so story allergic players beware! A lot of the time spent will be speaking to NPCs as you try to solve the game’s mysterious events. At certain points along the story campaign you will be presented with Delusionscape dungeons that you will have to enter and these are the times you will actually be engaging in fisticuffs. Within that, for those who are combat allergic, there are tweakable difficulty levels that let you coast through the fighting and get right to the next story scene. This is a move similar to Nier: Automata for players who are more interested in the experience of the game and its narrative rather than a focus on their own button mashing.
Overall the combat gives a lot to the Beat title in the name as it’s all very musical and beat focused. There’s an energetic, DDR vibe running through all of it which should really get people going while playing. If disco dance floor arenas are your thing that is.
When you’re back under the bright lights of Akihabara, you can purchase trading cards which you can equip that will allow you to use the card’s skills. The cards are a part of the in-game Vanishing Fantasy and you will be able to procure over 100 of these cards. The skills themselves will allow you to perform a ton of different actions, like halved SP consumption or double magic recovery.
Rounding these features out is a character support type system (called maids) where there are specific supporting characters who help the playable characters as a fifth ally. When exploring the overworld they will offer support in the way of helping navigate the city streets and dungeons. In battle, they will tell the players about enemies and let them know when their fellow party members are in trouble (again similar to what we’ve seen in the Persona series). In certain conditions, they will also trigger battle effects to help turn the tide in your favor.
The game is fully voiced with nearly 22,000 lines of voice acting recorded, across over 180 unique characters, presented aross English and Japanese. As you can surmise, a game with that much story benefits greatly from robust voice acting as text reading can become weary, as we’ve seen in narrative heavy games like Torment: Tides of Numenera.
Fans of the JPRG genre, especially Persona would benefit from taking a closer look at Akiba’s Beat. It features a quirky structure with a strong focus on story and narrative, and seems like it will deliver on the experience gaming that fans of the genre look for. It’s bright and musical approach to gameplay fits perfectly with its Spring release date.