It's hard to know what to expect whenever a game comes out that's basically a spoof of other games. Akiba's Beat may be full of JRPG tropes and references but does that make it a decent entry in the genre?
Akiba's Beat is the spiritual successor to Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed which I own a copy of but I never actually played it. As far as I know, Trip was a cheeky beat 'em up style game yet Beat is a typical JRPG with action-based battles. You play as the lazy and frequently late Asahi who soon comes across a girl named Saki. She explains to him that he's special in that he can see people's delusions materialize. They also find out that they must live through Sunday over and over again just like in Groundhog Day. Together (along with a few other chums that they meet along the way), they explore Akihabara while entering the dungeons that are spawned by citizens' delusions in order to prevent them from disturbing the balance of the city. It's a strange premise for a game indeed but Akiba's Beat thankfully doesn't take itself seriously at all. The charming characters and enjoyable sense of humour that's full of pop culture references definitely makes a great first impression.
The basic gameplay of Akiba's Beat simply involves travelling to various waypoints then working through extremely lengthy dialogue sequences. After going through enough story scenes, a dungeon will materialize then you have to battle your way through it in order to eventually defeat the boss at the end. After that, it's time for more drawn-out dialogue, etc.
Akiba's Beat's battle system is quite easy as all you do is mash a button to attack while pushing in different directions to perform slightly altered slashes. Another button can be used with various directions to unleash special abilities. If things start to get hectic, you can enter the menu to use items or simply collect your thoughts. Some complexity is added in the form of a gauge that fills as you fight. Upon unleashing its potential, you can attack in rapid succession while a multiplier increases. It's an interesting mechanic but doesn't really add much to the core gameplay. When it comes to setting up your party, all you basically do is buy better equipment then you're set. Because it's so basic, genre newcomers can easily dive in and learn how to play with no problem.
Unfortunately, if you're a JPRG fan then Akiba's Beat is far too simple to be rewarding. The lack of complexity and challenge will make genre enthusiasts crave something much more elaborate and involving. Speaking of which, the campaign itself falls flat in this sense as well. You won't find any puzzles or thought-provoking hurdles to overcome. Instead, all you do is warp around the city to different waypoints, watch needlessly lengthy dialogue scenes (which are admittedly enjoyable at times), then traverse the odd dungeon. In the end, this setup is far too mindless and repetitive to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Another aspect of Akiba's Beat that fails to impress is its visuals. Even though the 2D character art is animated beautifully as characters interact, the 3D portion is far from current generation quality. Watching the characters run around, attack, and jump will make you realise how lackluster the animation is. The dungeons are comprised of flat floating platforms and colourful backgrounds which simply comes across as lazy while the city is mostly lifeless as it's full of monochrome NPCs and the odd generic traffic-filled street.
If you're in the mood to watch a cast of charming characters have often humorous conversations for lengthy periods of time then Akiba's Beat is a game for you. However, those looking for a satisfying JRPG will be better off searching elsewhere.
- + Endearing characters and some genuinely enjoyable lighthearted humour
- + Simple and easy gameplay and party setup is perfect for genre newcomers
- - Minimal gameplay that's far too basic and unchallenging for JRPG fans
- - Mindless and repetitive campaign
- - 3D visuals are mostly poor quality