AKIBA’S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed (PS5) Review | via PS4 BC

To mark the 10th anniversary of the original AKIBA’S TRIP, XSEED Games, Marvelous Games, and ACQUIRE have ‘remastered’ the PSP Japan-only title and launched it on the PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC under the title “AKIBA’S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed“. The unique and addictive gameplay had me hooked, obtaining the platinum within five days, but my initial impressions weren’t the greatest as it took me a while to overlook the obvious lack of quality in regards to the presentation. If you’re looking for a full remaster or remake, you’re going to be disappointed, this release is closer to a re-release with a higher resolution – but is that a bad thing?

Originally released in 2011, AKIBA’S TRIP was a Japan-only PSP game that was quickly superseded by AKIBA’S TRIP Plus in 2012, an updated version of the game that improved various mechanics and added new features. This new 2021 re-release is the HD version of the Plus edition, from what I can tell, with a few bonuses such as the choice between being fully voiced in either Japanese or English.

With no guides to hand, no additional support, and some very vague trophy descriptions, obtaining the platinum took me just over 61 hours and seven full playthroughs of the game… It was a long ride, but was it worth it? Did I enjoy the game or was I simply obsessed with stripping random strangers as I sexually assaulted them in the street? And, did I finally manage to overcome my initial issues with the overall quality? Let’s find out…

AKIBA'S TRIP Hellbound Debriefed 1+1

Erm… yeah?!?

There’s an evil roaming the streets of Akihabara, not the fabled ‘scary lady targeting virgins’, but supernatural vampire-like beings who are stalking their prey in broad daylight. How do you know about them? Simple, you’re a newly converted member of their species, having been saved on the brink of death by feasting on the blood of one of these inhuman creatures. Thanks to your involuntary awakening, you now suffer the same weakness as those you’re about to be tasked with tracking down and attacking.

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AKIBA’S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed‘s story branches off down various narrative pathways depending on the choices you make, the people you help, and the quests you complete, which is one of the main reasons the game took me seven playthroughs to fully complete. You can stick with the paranormal investigators who ask for your help in taking down those responsible for your ‘curse’, or you can defy them and side with your own kind and join forces against the humans.

Each narrative is fun, exciting, silly, and varied enough to make you want to see everything the game has on offer, with each completion route unlocking more bonuses and various difficulty levels. Just remember, this game technically came out before the 2014 sequel, so the gameplay and mechanics in this one are inferior to Undead & Undressed. However, that doesn’t instantly make this a ‘bad’ game, it’s just not as good as I’d hoped it would be.

AKIBA'S TRIP Hellbound Debriefed 2+1

Smurf Stripping!

Gameplay
The game revolves around one concept, removing your enemies’ clothes to expose their skin to the sunlight and watch as they turn to dust. Despite being very sensitive to the natural light, it only affects them once all of their clothes (bar their underwear) have been removed, so you need to target each region as you weaken the durability and then either shred, tear, or remove the clothing! Basically, enemies will wear clothing on their upper and lower body, such as a shirt and trousers, and maybe a hat or cute cat ears. As you beat these areas with whatever weapon you have on hand, they become easier to grab and yank off.

Just like the Dead Rising series, you can use pretty much any random object as a weapon in AKIBA’S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed, from a laptop and guitar to a stick or a fairy’s wand. You can also dress up your character in anything they purchase or can cleanly remove from their foes during combat (once you’ve unlocked dressing in women’s clothing). There is a sense of progression involved in this as you can’t remove clothing at first, all attempts will result in simply tearing the clothes like a rabid animal, but buying and reading skill books enables you to strip a certain type of person.

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Although your main objective is to seek out and strip the vampiric enemies, you’ll occasionally find yourself stripping humans as well. The main difference is that the humans remain flesh-coloured (whereas the actual enemies turn blue as you strip them) and they’ll slap you before running off in their panties once you’ve finished undressing them. I thought the blue skin was some form of censorship at first, as I don’t recall the sequel doing that, but it was simply so the game could tell you the difference between humans and non-humans. Also, unfortunately, you can’t do a super-strip and remove the underwear in this game – panties and boxers are as far as you can go.

I can’t recall if the second game did this, but in AKIBA’S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed, you can only change your clothes on the map screen, meaning if you’ve been stripped bare then you have to retreat in order to suit up before the cops catch you and arrest you for indecent exposure. This was quite annoying, especially on harder difficulties where your clothes would be ripped or pulled off very easily, as once you’re naked then it’s game over due to the sunlight burning you… unless you have sunscreen on.

AKIBA'S TRIP Hellbound Debriefed 3+1

What a strange bunch!

Side Missions
Aside from the main story, there are tonnes of side missions, I can’t recall how many in total but I think it was about 70-80 per playthrough. Although all of these are optional, except a few, I highly recommend you complete as many as you can as some of the later ones are quite fun. Also, completing certain missions will help influence the ending as each mission is given to you by one of the three factions, so you can help push the game down a certain path if you strategically only complete the ones a certain group give you. 

Some of the side missions are quite bizarre, you get to fight the Wish-brand Power Rangers, a bear, lots of guys in frog suits, and even a group of people in white clothing with masks and golf clubs that reminded me of the group from A Clockwork Orange. There’s even a hidden quest in which you learn how to go prone and take upskirt photos of girls wearing skirts – no joke! I even played through a few missions based on beating up cross-dressing/transexual boys wearing their sister’s clothes… I was surprised these types of quests were present, things like this are usually removed in western releases these days.

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AKIBA’S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed also contains a few minigames and side activities, such as a Tekken-like beat-em-up, a side-scrolling shmup, quizzes, and an ongoing combat tournament. If you’re going for the platinum, you’ll have to dabble with everything on offer, but they are all technically optional. The quizzes were probably the most annoying for me, you have to answer 15 questions in a row correct based on a certain subject – one of which is a fictional Anime show which is explained to you via about 10 minutes of scrolling text as your colleague explains it to the protagonist…

AKIBA'S TRIP Hellbound Debriefed 4+1

She may be angry but she’ll do anything if you pay her!

Your Sister
Once you’ve reached a certain point in the game, you can return home and talk to your sister at any point. What’s the purpose? You can dress up your young teenage schoolgirl-aged sister in whatever clothes you own, paying her to model them for you as you move the camera around and take pictures whilst performing various poses. Yeah, it’s about as pervy as it sounds, to be honest – it reminds me of the mode in Gal*Gun 2 where you can take pictures of the girls in their panties. It does have a purpose though, whatever she wears gains additional levels as she poses for you.

You can also ask your sister to scold you, hit you, and praise you… This is used during one of the side missions, as there’s a guy who’s very upset he doesn’t have a sister so pays you to tell him how it ‘tastes’ when your sister hits you and changes in front of you?!? However, it also increases the level of what she’s wearing, just like the above. So, although the actions are questionable and a little disturbing at times, it’s a great way to quickly boost your clothing level.

Amusingly, once you’ve completed the game you get the option to change the model of your sister, so I replaced her with an old man in one playthrough and an old woman in another. This made it very awkward when I unlocked her specific ending and the narrative was all about incest and underage love… Yeah, the game has a few questionable themes and moments, but it’s not like that all the time… Well…

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AKIBA'S TRIP Hellbound Debriefed 5+1

Yes, he has one of those…

Questionable moments
As mentioned above, the game touches on incest and underage relationships (I presume she’s underaged) when you trigger your sister’s ending, but that’s not the only questionable thing I noticed within AKIBA’S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed. As mentioned above, you initially play as a male protagonist – this can be changed when you complete the game – and you soon unlock the ability to dress in female clothes. This leads to a few funny encounters…

There’s an event where you’re told to dress as a girl to get a discount on an item, as the seller likes girls. If you do so, he offers you 60% off if you let him touch your boobs and ‘do a couple of things’. Upon touching you, he discovers you’re a guy and quickly goes from being disgusted that you lied to wanting to ‘taste you’ and do ‘more than touch’ because he’s curious. 

There’s a mysterious woman who trains you throughout the game, showing only her sexy silhouette from behind a curtain. She’s constantly providing sexual innuendo in pretty much every conversation you have with her, but that’s not the questionable part. At one point, she asks for a ‘cherry’. You can go and buy her some cherries and get a rubbish reward, or you can bring her a school-aged boy or girl who she proceeds to have sex with (off-screen) and gives you their clothes. 

Seriously, those who were worried about the game having content removed and/or edited for the Western release, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Other than the odd thing which may have been translated a little differently, the game seems to have retained the lewd, naughty, tongue-in-cheek humour the original game and its sequel had.

AKIBA'S TRIP Hellbound Debriefed 6+1

Sometimes it’s best to stand back and just let them fight each other!

The difficulty
You have to complete AKIBA’S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed multiple times in order to unlock the hardest difficulties, which is okay as you can carry over your gear and items each time you start a new game. So, completing ‘Gamer’ and ‘Otaku’ wasn’t too bad, the main difference was that you had to target the different regions of clothing and inflict more damage before you could tear them off. Your character level doesn’t move over but I found you could easily bump yourself up by taking part in the combat arena early on.

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Then we got to the ‘Holic’ difficulty and, Oh My God, it’s hard! In this mode, weapons and gear can be scaled up to level 999, whereas in lower difficulties it’s limited to 99, and it’s pretty much mandatory to do this if you want to last longer than five minutes. Your clothes will rip within two or three hits, your weapons hardly scratch the enemies, and a simple 30-second fight can turn into 20 minutes of furiously dodging and spamming the attack button. I almost gave up due to how brutally difficult and unforgiving this difficulty was, but I took my time and abused a few items I discovered and was able to finally beat it after many hours. 

What I found interesting is that you can go to the train station at any point and ‘leave the city’, creating a ‘cleared save’ file which you can load up and start a new game with, utilising the new items and levels you’ve acquired. As such, the game played like a roguelike for me, allowing me to jump into an easier difficulty, grind for weapons and resources I could use to upgrade my gear, then leaving and starting again on Holic to upgrade and try again. Then, if it was too hard, so I didn’t lose any of my progress, I just left the city and loaded the new save back up in an easier difficulty to grind again.

Yes, the end-game was tedious and it did annoy me on more than one occasion, but the satisfaction of delivering the final blow on the hardest difficulty and seeing the platinum trophy pop was great! It was worth it.

AKIBA'S TRIP Hellbound Debriefed 7+1

I can’t think why his head hurts… Maybe it’s the blurry visuals!

Technical
We have to talk about the elephant in the room, AKIBA’S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed looks pretty bad. The game is essentially a HD PSP game, that’s it. The textures are the same as the original release, meaning you’ll see a lot of sub 320p assets like posters that are blurrier than Super Seducer 3! I hate saying this, but it’s a very lazy port in terms of the visuals, on a 55″ TV it was really offputting with not only distorted images but also quite a bit of shimmy and softness due to only being (I presume) 1080p.

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Thankfully, the English voices are well done and plentiful throughout the game, with only a few things not voiced as they weren’t in the Japanese voice-over either. The only issue I found was the inconsistency with the NPCs ability to correctly guess my pronouns… Once you complete the game, you can change your character model to either a guy or a girl and this results in the characters now calling you a ‘she’ or ‘her’, but some of them still refer to you as a guy and your sister occasionally calls you her brother. It’s not a big issue but it adds to the ‘this may have been rushed’ theory.

However, despite the obvious lack of quality in regards to the visuals, the game ran great with no noticeable slowdown, running at (what appears to be) 60fps and 1080p on the PS4/5 consoles. I found the combat just as addictive as the sequel and soon didn’t even notice the outdated assets as I was more focused on the gameplay and narrative. I just wish the porting team put more love into the process, updating it to modern standards.

Also, on a side note – the game DOES support an inverted y-axis, you just can’t select it until you’ve actually started the game and have control of your character.

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Despite being a very simple HD re-release of the PSP original game, AKIBA’S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed has as much charm, lewd narrative, and addictive gameplay as its superior sequel. Once you get stuck into the game you’ll begin to overlook the fuzzy assets and simplified gameplay, becoming enthralled by the comedic writing, addictive stripping combat, many side missions, and questionable dialogue. There’s lots of replayability due to multiple paths, endings, and characters, with a massive list of tasks to complete, not to mention the insanely difficult ‘Holic’ mode.

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AKIBA’S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed may not be a looker in terms of modern JRPGs, and I may prefer the sequel over this original game, but I’m glad that we finally got a chance to play it in English officially on modern consoles. If you enjoyed Undead & Undressed then you’ll enjoy this one too, as long as you can look past the very low-quality visuals.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

AKIBA'S TRIP: Hellbound & Debriefed

8

Final Score

8.0/10

The Good:

  • - Very funny narrative with branching pathways and multiple endings
  • - Lots to do if going for the platinum
  • - Seems to have nothing removed, despite how 'questionable' it gets
  • - Very addictive gameplay
  • - Can be played with either English or Japanese voices

The Bad:

  • - It's essentially a HD PSP re-release, using the same object textures as the very small handheld device
  • - The game feels simplified and a little clunky when compared to the 2014 sequel
  • - The hardest difficulty is very, very hard
  • - It feels like a fast, lazy port with little to no improvements visually or mechanically
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