Feeling Like I Went Back A Decade With 'Akiba's Beat'
The Akiba series has got some interesting games to its name. While it didn't come to America until 2016, Akiba's Trip was given a lot of praise in Japan. The subsequent games are either really loved or hated on, depending on how you feel about the story. While we were getting Trip, Japan was getting Akiba's Beat, which finally made its way to North America and Europe this week.
Akiba's Beat follows Asahi Tachibana, a NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) who decided to drop out of college and live a normal life. He lives in Akihabara (part of the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo) where music fans cultivate to find new tunes, only in this version a person's dreams can take on physical form and become physical nightmares. Asahi's mission eventually becomes to rid the area of these nightmares (with the help of some friends) and restore the area to its groovy self.
Immediately the first problem you'll run into is the time-consuming cut scenes. Still frame animation with text dialog that feels more like an anime novella than an action RPG. No joke, I sat through ten minutes of dialog meeting your transfer student companion Saki Hoshino before I could move onto meeting another person for seven more minutes of useless dialog. I get that the game is introducing the characters and explaining the world, but there's so much useless and boring interactions between the bits of info that you need, it comes across more like a teenage drama than a game. And it never ends—you'll be fighting one minute and getting some momentum going, then suddenly one of your wacky sidekicks you pick up has to extemporize about how they're feeling about the situation. We just killed a giant speaker monster! Could we please process that at the end of the day? Right now, there's still stuff to deal with!
The biggest issue I have is that I feel like Akiba's Beat took a step back in every way possible. The graphics, the formula, the gameplay, the interactions, even the music to a degree—it all feels like it was a prequel to Akiba's Trip. This doesn't appear like a game that came out five years later, it feels more like a JRPG I would have checked out on the PS3. The combat system and graphics will back this up and cause you to groan. They're not rendered well for a current gen system, and it appears like I took a step backward in development. The fighting system is much more beat 'em up than RPG, with the only real elements of the RPG system being leveling up and weapons. Like they just missed the boat on what this should have been.
I just can't recommend Akiba's Beat at all. The rating it's getting is based more on character design for the anime elements and having a decent concept as a story. Beyond that, it feels unfair to review the game because I feel like I'm reviewing a game made ten years too late. There's very little positivity to bleed from this—it looks and plays like a rushed game trying to meet a deadline. And considering that it was made by Acquire and published by XSEED, I'm going to hold both companies to a higher standard because I know they can do better. If you're a fan of the series you'll probably buy it and look past the flaws, but for average gamers, it isn't worth it.