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Akiba's Beat
Score: 83%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Acquire
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:
If I spent a day arguing with someone over something they couldnít see that I could, Iíd really be concerned for my mental health. Iíd feel a little better if I had some friends that could also see the things that no one else sees, but thatís just a delusion in itself for me and my reality. Fortunately, a not so lucky NEET hero meets some people who drag him around fighting these things that no one else can see. Unfortunately, he just wants a lazy Sunday in his favorite city of Akihabara, and who can blame him? I feel his pain, though. Iíve always wanted to visit Akihabara, but not like this! Akibaís Beat will show you all the things only you can see, so letís try not to go crazy as we move along.

Akibaís Beat features a lot of great imagery that goes well with its anime approach to the graphics. The Akihabara hub really made me feel as though I was actually exploring Akihabara, though I canít say how accurate the gameís Akihabara is to real Akihabara as Iíve never visited. From what I have heard about the area, however, it really feels like Akibaís Beat does a great job of covering the spirit of Akihabara. All throughout the game, youíll see various characters enthralled with their favorite anime or manga, plenty of electronic stores, and a plethora of shops catering to the various fandoms for people in Akihabara. The dungeons are pretty great, each featuring a different theme based on who the dungeon belongs to. While theyíre not the most interesting to explore in terms of layout, the backdrops and art featured in each dungeon are fantastic to look at and take in, even more so when the art and themes are different for each dungeon. The 2D art is simply superb, and this goes a long way considering how often weíll be seeing it. Each characterís style really shines through, and given that story and cut scenes are progressed with dialogue where each characterís 2D art represents them as they talk, itís really nice to have some great artwork to take in.

Much of the music in Akibaís Beat may sound similar to things youíve heard from before, perhaps from an anime or some other anime related game. The tracks synergize very well with the Akihabara setting, featuring many pop songs that sound like something an idol would sing or that youíd hear in a maid cafť. The dungeons feature their own type of music, ranging from soft classical to more hardcore rock songs, depending on the dungeon. This really helps the imagery in these areas and makes them feel more immersive, providing a greater experience for the player by making each area feel incredibly unique. The game features both English and Japanese voice acting, with English and Japanese subtitles included. Both the English and Japanese voice acting sound incredibly well done and I really enjoyed playing the game with both. Some people may prefer the Japanese voice acting simply for the aesthetic, but I strongly recommend you try both and donít just bandwagon.


Gameplay:
Ah, lovely Akihabara. Akibaís Beat takes place in the famed electronic/anime/just about anything you love city, where players can explore the town as Asahi Tachibana, a 19 year old with a serious NEET problem. Joining him are a diverse group of characters who work to nullify the various delusions popping up in the town and ultimately escape the eternal looping Sunday.

Players run the town as Asahi by using the Left Control Stick to move him, while the Right Control Stick rotates the camera. Asahi can jump with (X) and interact with people or events by pressing the (Square) button. (Triangle) brings up the Main Menu, where players can change their gear, track records and items, and view their party. The (Circle) button brings up a map of Akihabara so you can see exactly where youíre going or what you need to be doing. Special events, main events, and all the shops are located on this screen, and you can even press (Triangle) to fast travel between save points. There are people all around town, but you canít interact directly with the majority of them. Most will just have a speech bubble above their head, and getting close will trigger their speech bubble to pop up. Youíll also receive commentary from your navigator as you explore the town, where they simply commentate on places or things you pass by. You may also find yourself coming across odd looking doors. Ignore those for now.

Someone told you ignore the odd doors? You must be deluded. Those odd doors make up a key point of Akibaís Beat: The Delusionscape. The Delusionscape is what spawns when a personís delusions are manifested into the real world. They distort a specific area, causing various objects related to the delusion to spawn in the area. Fortunately, normal people canít see them, but these delusions eat away at reality and must be dispelled. This is your job. You must venture into the delusions and defeat the Grand Phantasm sustaining the delusion in order to dispel it. Delusionscapes are basically the dungeons youíll be traversing and are the main focus of action. Exploration is very much the same as when youíre Akiba, except youíll be able to strike things with the (Square) button while also examining objects. Monsters roam the Delusionscapes and will appear in plain sight. You can strike them with the (Square) button to initiate combat. There are a variety of items the player can find as they traverse a Delusionscape as well, and youíre free to return to any Delusionscape if you find yourself needing to toughen up a bit. A world of dreams isnít always what you imagine it to be.

Youíll need to defend yourself in the Delusionscape, so learning to fight is key to your survival. Once battle starts, youíll be taken to an alternate instance of an arena where you control Asahi (or whoever you pick) in battle. Your teamís s HP and SP bars are shown at the bottom of the screen and enemy health bars are displayed over their heads. You can maneuver the battlefield with the Left Stick, but youíll really only move to or from the enemy. Holding down (L1) as you run allows you to run in any direction. Pressing (Square) allows you to attack, the (Circle) button allows you to defend, and pressing (X) while holding (Circle) allows you to jump. The (Triangle) button brings up a Tactics Menu, where you can use items or give commands. The (X) button allows you to perform a special technique which drains your SP gauge. Initially, combat is pretty routine: Charge in, kill a couple enemies, and itís done. Once you start getting into more difficult Delusionscapes, the enemies toughen up and bring more friends into the fray. This is where it got pretty exciting. Combat felt less like a chore and more like a fun experience. Until the enemies were able to wipe me out, anyway.

The main quest isnít the only storyline players will be engaged in during Akibaís Beat. Most of the important people you meet will also have a series of side quests tied to them that the player can optionally partake in. Each side quest starts with a character requesting help with some task from Asahi. If players feel so inclined, they will be able to reveal more about that character, allowing you to glean bits of information about their past, their personality, their interests and all sorts of things. For assisting the character, players will be rewarded with some type of item. Some people may not enjoy this sort of thing, but I personally found it very interesting to interact more deeply with the people I was encountering over the course of the game and learn more about them. Akihabara is full of interesting people, so why not spend some time with those close to you?


Difficulty:
Akibaís Beat features four different difficulty levels that you can choose from when starting up the game. The difficulties are Easy, Normal, Hard, and Imagine. For better or worse, the game doesnít outline what each difficulty does. Youíre kind of left on your own to interpret what each difficulty may or may not change, but the names are pretty recognizable. Easy will make the game pretty easy, naturally. Normal is for people seeking more of a challenge than Easy, but still wish to be able to enjoy the story without being overwhelmed. Hard is for those more interested in the combat and overall gameplay, and Imagine isÖ well, you can probably imagine. Itís pretty tough, and definitely not for the faint of heart. Regardless of which difficulty you pick, you can always go and change the difficulty during the game by going to the Settings option in the Main Menu. Try whatever youíd like and find what suits you.

Game Mechanics:
Customization plays a pretty big role in Akibaís Beat, but what else would you expect from an RPG, right? Players are able to change their equipment to increase each characterís parameters, such as defense or attack. Beyond that, each character also comes equipped with a PP. Donít give me that look, it stands for Personal Pumpeter. This device spawns the characterís weapon and it can also be customized. The PP even has its own Sub-Menu for customization. You can change the various equipment of your PP, such as the Graphics Board or storage. These changes increase the values of your PP and grant bonuses such as increasing Imagine Mode time. You can change all the parts and buy new ones from computer shops, so you should check by those from time to time. Building a computer is super easy, trust me.

Caaaaan you feel my HEEAA-ARGH, ahem. Hi there, sorry, I was getting a little into the music. Speaking of music, it plays a bigger role than youíd expect in combat. If you forget about my little performance, Iíll tell you something thatíll give you a great edge in battles. Just pretend youíre in a music video! No, Iím serious. Akibaís Beat features Imagine Mode, an ability that triggers music playing and you have to get down to the sound to make it more effective. Your Imagine gauge is located in the bottom left and it fills as you dish out damage in combat. Once it is half full, you can activate a special mode and then hold down the (Square) button while the headphone icon is flashing over your character. This is the first sequence of Imagine Mode. The meter will then continue filling past the halfway point until it is completely full. This is where it gets intense. Activating Imagine Mode when the meter is full plays the song youíve selected. The scenery changes and youíll gain a big increase in stats. The more attacks you land, the greater your beat scores go. This increases your stats even more, giving you a massive power boost in battle. When the chorus hits, unleash everything youíve got for some insane damage. Can you imagine the possibilities?

I canít always get into action RPGs, but Akibaís Beat really hit home. Iím a pretty big fan of anime and manga, and Iíve always been interested in Japanese culture. Even being shown in this form, exploring Akihabara and seeing all the sights really got my heart set on wanting to go. Akibaís Beat does a lot of things well and brings something fun to the table for anyone to enjoy. You should definitely add this game to your list of things to check out.


-SS-54, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ren Plummer

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