Following on from the provocatively-titled Akiba's Trip
, Akiba's Beat
brings us back to Japan's nerd-Vegas Akihabara, where, on a random Sunday, some massive speakers have appeared on the side of the train station. Nobody, mind you, seems to have noticed, save for Asahi Tachinaba- protagonist and inevitable NEET- and one other person who seems far too happy about the matter.
It's in front of the speakers where he meets Saki Hoshino, another one who is able to see the speakers, and her familiar Pinkun, the most annoying thing in the world. She explains that the speakers are the manifestation of the delusion of someone nearby- specifically, the overexcited man from earlier, who is pining for the earlier days of Akihabara, when it was a hub for audiophiles to pick up equipment, rather than the videogames and anime place it is now.
When the source of a Delusion is found, a door to their Delusionscape appears- a dungeon, if you like, to the overworld of Akihabara- and at the end of the Delusionscape is a boss which must be defeated in order to snap the individual (or "Deluser") out of their Delusion, and return Akihabara to its proper state.
With that Delusion cleared up, the day comes to an end, and everybody goes back home. The next day, however, is Sunday again, and there's another Delusion on the other side of town. Asahi and Saki team up again to get to the bottom of the appearances of the Delusions, and see if that's got anything to do with the days repeating.
The design of the Delusionscapes are closer to those found in dungeon crawlers- boxes full of enemies connected by corridors- and don't really offer a great deal to explore or even experience, something which is made all the more obvious by them being simply platforms floating in space, making the limited scope of the dungeons very clear.
Combat is action-focused, with the players' party transporting to a closed arena to fight an arbitrary number of monsters. Standard attacks clock up Skill Points which are spent on more powerful Skills, unlocked by levelling up and triggered by a flick of an analogue stick and tapping the Skill button. A limited number of Action Points also limit you to four actions before having to step out of the way for a short period. While it's hardly going to give Souls
or any 'proper' fighting games any sleepless nights, it does make it a little bit more involved than just bash-bash-bash.
Blows that land fill the Imagine Meter, which can be deployed when complete for a short period of hightened attack power- a song can be selected to replace the background music, and hits made in time with the music during the verse increase the damage done when the chorus comes around.
There's also missed potential in the game not supporting multiplayer, as the Action Points could lead to some fun couch co-op teamwork situations, especially as more Skills unlock.
The questlines which take you from Delusionscape to Delusionscape are less interesting, however. These tend to involve little more than running from one end of Akihabara to the other to hear a small amount of dialogue, before running back to hear a bit more, then somewhere else for a tiny bit more, before the game relents and lets you access the next Delusionscape- this is exacerbated by the time loop narrative meaning that often the same thing has to be cycled through a few times in order to unlock the associated Delusionscape.
Sidequests which pop up in between milestones in the main quests don't fare any better, being the same but without the relief of a Delusionscape, or at least no new ones of their own.
The Akihabara of Akiba's Beat
is an incredibly small number of anonymous, built up streets, lacking in any meaningful landmarks beyond two large empty spaces, one of which makes up nearly half the overworld. The area is too small to be Grand Theft Auto
's Liberty City, and each area- seperated by loading screens- isn't differentiated enough to be The World Ends With You
's Shibuya. It might be faithful to the real location, but in practice it just means you spend all your time getting very lost and abusing fast travel to get from place to place- this makes it even more like an exercise in admin than an adventure.
(Acquire also weren't able to licence the shops and adverts in the town, which you probably won't notice unless you're really invested, with only one name really relating to a company you'd have heard of in the West)
The plot, which takes you from Delusionscape to Delusionscape, also takes in the many subcultures Akihabara has played host to from its current love for idol singers, to less recent maid cafes and gothic lolita fashion trends, spending some time with each individual Deluser and showcasing what gives each of the subcultures its appeal- while still being able to take a friendly pop at them, even if it does tend to think it's a lot funnier than it is.
As such, each different Delusionscape brings its own thing to the table- not only does each one have a new setting, the change in art style reflecting the current Delusion, but also adds a new mechanic, even if these are things as simple as 'dead ends' and 'doors'. The wider game is also good at adding new things as you go along, introducing sidequests and later a trading card system to boost your stats. Even if those things aren't as original as they could be, there's always something new around the corner.
Ultimately a lot of Akiba's Beat
is going to pass straight by a lot of people- what you're going to get out of this really relates to how into your otakudom you are, and even then how much you want to go around an off-brand version of Akihabara. If you do, it's certainly a perfectly enjoyable game, and you'll get a lot out of the setting, but it's a tougher sell to anybody who's not into the virtual tourism.