Review: Akiba’s Beat (PS4/PSV)

Review: Akiba's Beat (PS4/PSV)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4, PS Vita
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
  • PlayStation TV Compatible No
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
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Title: Akiba’s Beat
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (PS4 11.96 GB) (PSV 3.17 GB)
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Acquire
Original MSRP: $49.99 (PS4), $39.99 (PSV)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

In Akiba’s Beat, Akihabara once again needs saving, but this time people’s delusions are becoming reality and threatening to take over the city.

Gameplay:
Unlike the previous title, Akiba’s Trip, this game has a protagonist with his own story, Asahi Tachibana.

In the opening sequence you learn that there is a malevolent character in a hat and a pink cape who explains that people’s delusions – the ability to perceive reality via their own fantasies – are what make them human.

The game then thrusts you into a long, frustrating, and unskippable tutorial on how the controls work.

The first part takes you through a mock dungeon and has you battling foes where you have to execute the various commands several times before the game will allow you to progress.

When you finally get out of that initial dungeon it’s not over. Half of the menu buttons and other things are locked until the game finally allows you to move on from the agonizing tutorial.

Like the last game, this one takes place in district of Tokyo called Akihabara that’s now primarily known for its anime, manga, video games, and other general otaku culture. While you can traverse almost the entire city, most of the story is delivered via the typical 2D animated overlay with voiced dialog that’s prevalent in many JRPGs.

The action portions of the game take place in what the game calls delusions. As you’ll see fairly early on in the story, supernatural forces have caused certain people’s delusions to manifest themselves as a sort of dimensional anomaly that’s only seeable by certain chosen ones. The people who are the cause of the delusions are referred to as “Delusers”.

Once you’ve found the Deluser an entrance to their delusion appears and you’re able to enter it to defeat the boss at the end. It’s in the delusions where the battle gameplay takes place.

In the dungeon/delusion sections of the game, the gameplay and battle system is extremely similar to more recent games in the Tales Series. You can see the enemies as you traverse the dungeons, and when you make contact with them you are taken into an arena battle with as many as two to five enemies.

… The controls are also almost one for one with Tales
Just like in the Tales Series, you will have up to four of your party members fighting with you in each battle. Each party member is completely autonomous, though you are able to customize how they act in battle.

You’re able to set them to go all out, conserve HP and SP, heal characters, focus on strong or weak enemies, etc. You’re also able to switch party leaders and take command of any party member, though you can’t switch in the middle of a battle as you can in the Tales games.

The controls are also almost one for one with Tales – even down to a system that’s very similar to the Linear Motion Battle System (LMBS).

This means you will automatically target a single enemy, and once targeted, your character moves on a single plane, towards or away from that enemy. This linear movement is designed to free you from having to control the camera and the Z-axis of the playing field. It also allows the use of the right analog stick as a shortcut for special attacks.

I’m a big fan of the LMBS, but the only problem is that Akiba’s Beat does a terrible job of implementing it. The initial button layout is kind of odd because they throw in a jump mechanic that’s a combination of both your block button and the special attack button.

I found that this jump mechanic doesn’t really have much of a practical use, and it also limits what can be done with the other buttons that are available.

… it really makes it difficult to fight effectively …
The block button is initially mapped to one of the face buttons, and it’s pretty unintuitive to use it effectively. Thankfully, after the onerous tutorial, you’re allowed to remap the buttons how you see fit.

I was able to map the block button to one of the trigger buttons and now it’s much easier to block. However, as I mentioned before, the battle system isn’t implemented all that well. It’s extremely clunky.

There’s a slight delay, or hard pause, each time you go in and out blocking attacks as well as when using the right analog special attacks, and it really makes it difficult to fight effectively.

The battle system is just not as fluid as it should be and it really hampers the fun of the gameplay. I really feel that if you’re going to take the time to replicate a battle system from another series, you should at least try to do it effectively.

Other random control issues I have with the game are that, since it’s also on the PS Vita, you cannot map the L2 and R2 buttons on the PS4. I think, since the game is neither Cross-Save nor Cross-Buy, there’s no reason to keep the controls exactly the same. I would have really liked to map the L2 and R2 buttons to the free-run in battles or for target selection.

Other than the battles and story, there are also trading card items and a series of side quests. Around the third or fourth dungeon, the game unlocks trading card shops that appear all over the city.

… there’s no indication as to what the various symbols do …
You can buy the trading cards just like you would in real life – in packs of random cards. When you purchase a pack of cards, they’ll be turned over one by one and you’ll then be able to see the special attributes each one will give you once equipped.

One of the gripes I have about these is that the game never explains how they work. From the trading card equipping screen in the menu, you’ll see that you can equip two cards marked Yin and Yang.

The confusing part is that there’s a setting in between the two card slots that’s labeled Unifier. This Unifier field gives you a choice between all sorts of symbols – plus, minus, percentage, ampersand, at symbol, etc. The problem is that there’s no indication as to what the various symbols do, if anything.

The screen doesn’t have a description for the Unifier field, and the game encyclopedia/written tutorial doesn’t explain what it does. It simply states that you can collect cards to give you various abilities. From what I can tell, the Unifier field is completely useless and doesn’t have any impact on the attributes of the cards you give to your party members.

While I primarily played the PS4 version, I did play a little bit of the Vita version as well. As far as I can tell, the two are nearly identical, save for some graphical differences. However, I didn’t encounter any issues and it’s pretty much the same exact game.

Overall, I think the gameplay is okay but the performance and general shallowness of the game features keeps it from being as good as it could be. The features are good overall, but the execution is lacking.

… I really found it disappointing that the environment wasn’t more fleshed out …
Visuals:
The visuals are fair. It’s sort of disappointing coming into this game from the last one and seeing Akihabara as a barren city with not much detail. Even the various denizens of the city are abstracted to figures with a solid color, similar to Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE on the Wii U.

I really found it disappointing that the environment wasn’t more fleshed out when even the previous game had fully detailed NPCs walking around. While the visuals don’t look bad, they do seem to be a little less polished than they could be.

As for the Vita version, the graphics are even more pared down from the PS4, which is to be expected to some extent. The performance of the Vita version is actually indistinguishable from the PS4 version for me. The movement and controls are just as snappy on either of them.

PS4

PS Vita

Audio
Overall, the audio quality of the game is pretty good and it does a pretty good job of using surround sound.

The soundtrack is also very good, though it seems there’s only a single song that plays during the times you’re traversing the city. It gets a bit monotonous to hear the same song over and over, and it would have been nice if they would have mixed it up a bit or at least allowed the player to customize what songs play.

The game features both the Japanese and English voice tracks which can be selected from the title screen. I found the English voice acting to be a bit annoying, especially for the character Pinkun, who is the floating plushie familiar to one of the game’s central characters.

… its failings in the execution prevent it from being great …
Though, I will say, annoying voices are sort of standard fare for the mascot characters in various RPGs such as Teepo from Tales of Xillia, etc.

I switched to the Japanese voice track to see if the voices were a bit more tolerable, but unfortunately they were not, so I switched back to English. I will say that after playing for about a hundred hours or so of the game, the acting doesn’t bother me as much, so that’s a plus.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Overall, I think Akiba’s Beat is a good game, but its failings in the execution prevent it from being great. I’ve been a big fan of this series since playing Akiba’s Trip, and I was very excited when this was announced for the West.

It’s so unfortunate that the game just isn’t as polished as it could be, and I feel if it had executed on all of the various features, it could have been an excellent game.

I would recommend it to fans of the series. While not up to the standards set by the previous title, it still is provides quite a bit of content and the quirky stories you’d expect from an Akiba game.

For people who are new to JRPGs or others mildly interested in the series, I’d probably wait for a sale, but it might be a good game to fit in between some of the larger RPGs that have come out this year.

I do think that, once you set your expectations down a few notches, you’ll be able to enjoy the game for what it is.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Jason Honaker

Jason Honaker

A software developer for over 15 years, originally from St. Louis, MO and currently living in Seattle, WA. Started gaming in 1979 on the Atari 800 8-bit PC. I play all sorts of games, but am partial to RPGs and 3rd person brawlers and shooters.

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