Game Title: Akiba’s Beat
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Download: 3.1 GB
Availability: Retail (Europe, Japan, North America), Digital (EU, JP, NA)
PSTV Support: No
The newest game in the “Akiba” series has caused quite the buzz in the online PS Vita community. It changed the formula and is trying to make a name for itself outside of just being “The Sequel to Akiba’s Trip 2: Undead & Undressed”. There’ve been good murmurings on the grape vine and not-so-good.
However, I am here to give you an informative review and give you all of the information you need to know, since I’ve completed the game, myself. So, without further delay, here is my review of the Tales-like Action RPG, Akiba’s Beat!
Akiba’s Beat takes place in Akihabara or Akiba for short. A local NEET (Non Educated, Not Employed, Not in Training) is going about his daily rounds when he discovers spatial distortions that no one else can see, a phenomenon known as a “Delusion”. When a chipper young woman recruits him into infiltrating and destroying the delusion, they realize that they are trapped in a never-ending time loop,with the same day repeating time and time again.
In order to escape from this endless time loop, the two team up to track down and destroy delusions that pop up around Akiba and end up recruiting many of the people who spawn them along the way. The story of this game I view very similarly to the Persona series. The mystery and explorative part of the story is very similar to the concept of Persona 4, but with the heart of Akiba culture thrown in. The cast is colorful and each has unique backgrounds. From a NEET and Transgender Queen Information Dealer to a Magical Girl Idol-in-Training and a Gothic Lolita with a razor-sharp tongue, each member brings a lot of diversity and humor to the table.
It should also be noted that Akiba’s Beat has one of the most high-quality English Dubs the PS Vita has ever seen. Every line of dialogue is voiced and the VAs did an outstanding job. XSEED should be proud of the work they did for the localization.
Akiba’s Beat is unique in the gameplay department. Imagine Persona 4, Akiba’s Trip, and Tales of the Abyss all being melded into one game, and you’ve got Akiba’s Beat. It uses Tales of the Abyss’s combat system for inspiration, Akiba’s Trip’s exploration features, and Persona 4’s style of story and dungeon progression.
Progression is story-driven, but you basically have a large map of Akiba to explore. On this map, you will always have some story objective you need to find to go to the next part of the plot. However, you will also have shops to visit for equipment upgrades and the occasional Character Events to do a side story with character backgrounds for a major character. These events pop up across the story and will often complete with rewards, like equipment or supplies.
The biggest flow is the unlocking of dungeons. Every story chapter has a new dungeon, or set of dungeons you need to find and activate an entrance for. This is remarkably similar to Persona 4’s method of finding new dungeons in the TV World. Each time a new dungeon or “delusionscape” appears, you must spawn story events until its creator has their heart shaken and that’s when the entrance will pop up. It’s really a huge amount of character development as every dungeon is based on its creator’s delusion, or life dream.
Once you get the entrance, you storm through the dungeon to destroy it. This involves navigating several floors filled with enemies, ending with a major boss fight that will not only destroy the delusion but also conclude that chapter of the story.
Dungeon progression is pretty simple. On every floor, there is a door that leads to the next floor you need to reach. Getting to this door is normally a matter of puzzle-solving. All dungeons have blocked paths you need to find and interact with objects to open up. In some dungeons, it’s electronic switches to open doors and others it’s chain strings to open curtains. And these get continually more difficult as you get closer to the game’s climax.
Combat is the main thing you should look at, though. Akiba’s Trip was a hack n slash beat em up game. When you find an enemy in Akiba’s Beat, you are taken to another stage for an Action-RPG combat sequence with your party against the enemy party. You have AP to do physical attacks and skill combos and have both physical and magic skills to use.
If you’re a Tales fan, imagine Tales of the Abyss’s combat system and that is almost exactly like this. You have a line between you and the enemy and you have to hold the L button to actually start free-roaming around the 3D arena. The other major difference is AP. If you only have 4 AP, you can only do 4 different actions until you have to run away and recharge.
This raises the strategy but it really makes the game feel stiff. Abyss isn’t exactly a new combat system and the AP limitations really drags down the intensity of the fights. It’s fun, no doubt, but a flawed kind of fun.
The main balance to the AP system is the Imagine Gauge. As you fight enemies, you build up a sort of “Overdrive” gauge. Once you activate it, you start playing a song in the background and use that song’s length to fight all-out with infinite AP.
As far as difficulty, it’s pretty tough outside of Easy Mode. Normal fights aren’t too hard, as long as you can balance your party out with healers, magic-users, and fighters, but many of the boss fights are really tough on anything Normal Difficulty or above. This isn’t a game that will hold your hand, like setting Auto Battle in a Tales game. You’ll need a lot of skill, and you’ll need to be skilled with every party member as you will have solo battles throughout.
Length is harder to tell. You can’t rely on the in-game tracker because it tracks time in and out of sleep mode. In other words, if you are at 20 hours and put it in sleep mode and go to sleep. When you start again 10 hours later, the timer will now say 30 hours. But over the course of the game, accounting for progression, story scenes, and side events, I would put it at no less than 30-40 hours.
Here’s where a downer comes into play. I spoke with PQube and XSEED Games, but no version of Akiba’s Beat is going to be made compatible with the PlayStation TV (even though enabling it is as simple as hitting a checkbox). So, if you want it on a console, you’re forced to get it for PS4.
Controls are relatively simple, overall. You move around with the Left Analog Stick and move the camera with the Right Analog Stick. The L and R triggers are mostly just used for cycling menus or the free-roam aspect of combat arenas. Now, face buttons. X is used for jumping in the field and using skills in combat. Square is used for physical attacks and Triangle for the customization menu. Circle opens the menu in dungeons and the town, while it lets you Guard
The controls aren’t too complex and they’re explained well. If you’re used to Tales, there won’t be much of a learning curve.
The graphics of the game aren’t bad. Definitely not the best the Vita can do, but far from the worst. There’s plenty of details and not too many jagged edges. Plenty acceptable by Vita standards (though the PS4 version is a different story as it’s not much enhanced from the Vita version).
The main issue with presentation is the loading sequence. When you first load a save file, you’ll be spending a good minute or more waiting for it to load. The same thing will happen going in and out of dungeons. Not a full minute, but easily 40+ seconds. Some boss fights also have load times longer than a minute.
The saving grace of this is the frame-rate. Aside from a couple circumstances, the game stays a solid, steady flow from start to finish. It rarely ever drops under 30 fps, but maybe once in the game, so this is optimized very well.
In conclusion, Akiba's Beat is an interest meld of Persona, Akiba's Trip, and Tales of the Abyss. Although the load times are long and the combat feels very stiff, it's still a fun little RPG with outstanding voice-acting and a story full of comedy any anime or JRPG fan can really get into and enjoy.