I’m not going to complain about more localized games, but at the same time it’s easy to understand why certain, more niche titles wouldn’t have made it across the pond. Akiba’s Beat is a great example of this, for instance. It focuses on a very specific chunk of Japanese culture to the exclusion of pretty much anything else while not exactly standing out in terms of gameplay. A title that could have served to spark some interest in Akihabara for those less well-versed in the Land of the Rising Sun ends up falling a bit flat as a result.
Akihabara resident and self-proclaimed NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Traiing – basically a basement-dweller) Asahi Tachibana is basically living the dream…if the dream is, uh, sleeping all day. When he’s not sleeping, he’s reading manga, watching anime, playing games, you get the idea. That’s Asahi’s life, and he doesn’t see much of a need to shake things up. Things get shaken up for him, though, when he meets Saki Hoshino and her mascot pal Pinkun. They’ve come to Akiba to investigate the appearance of “Delusionscapes” – areas where a person’s intense personal delusions begin to intrude upon reality.
Asahi gets pulled into their adventures, then finds that he’s unable to stop helping out when he ends up trapped in a stable time loop and repeating the same Sunday over and over again. Until Asahi and his friends discover the source of the delusions, they’re doomed to live this one Sunday forever.
How are they going to do that? Well, if you’ve played the Tales series before, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going on in Akiba’s Beat. You’ll run around dungeons and, upon encountering a monster, switch over to a fast-paced action-RPG combat system to take out the trash. It’s certainly easier to swallow than the earlier Akiba’s Trip, a brawler about stripping your enemies. Anyone who’s into JRPGs enough to give this title a second look is likely to feel right at home.
I mean, home’s a little bit broken-down and could probably use a little TLC from a repairman, but they’ll feel right at home regardless. Akiba’s Beat tends to feel like a store-brand Tales game; specifically, it uses a variation on the AP system we’re familiar with from more recent titles like Tales of Zestria or Berseria. A lot of the polish we’ve come to expect from those games isn’t present here, though, and it can hurt a bit.
For instance, special abilities are incredibly mana-hungry, especially early on; you need to be a lot more frugal with your juice than you would in Tales, which means a lot of monotonous time spent bashing away with normal attacks or chugging soda cans to regenerate. Another quibble is that the game’s a lot less friendly when it comes to enemy attacks causing knockdown. This means that certain foes are entirely capable of stunlocking your characters and leaving them completely defenseless. It takes a second or two too long to regenerate AP, making battles feel sluggish rather than the intended intense series of back-and-forth thrusts and parries that characterize modern Tales games. The game’s big, unique feature, Imagine Mode, looks like it could serve as an interesting sort of rhythm game/RPG hybrid…but it’s actually just a standard super mode.
These rough edges permeate the whole of Akiba’s Beat to its detriment. We could talk about the graphics, for instance. They look pretty good, with a nice, vivid anime aesthetic, but they stumble when it comes to the details; most RPGs have a varied and interesting bestiary, for instance, a rogue’s gallery of unique foes that makes each new dungeon feel like an adventure, but Akiba’s Beat mostly has recolors. Even the bosses have generic names like “X Grand Phantasm” where X is the name of the dungeon you’re in. It’s more than just the graphics, though; every aspect of Akiba’s Beat comes off as a tiny bit half-baked.
A game that’s all about a quirky place like Akihabara ought to have tons of extracurricular nonsense to mess around with, but Akiba’s Beat is a strikingly no-nonsense JRPG: clear a dungeon, go through the plot to unlock the next dungeon, clear it, repeat. Akiba’s Trip did a much better job on that front. As for the sound, it’s decent…except for the voice acting. Let’s just not get into that. I don’t want to feel like “that guy.”
Akiba’s Beat is a game that could’ve used a little more time in the oven. The team’s heart was clearly in the right place; there are some interesting ideas here, especially as you get further in, and I certainly don’t hate the idea of a relatable protagonist like Asahi. It’s just hard to get into the game when, for instance, every time I start to like Asahi, he reminds me that he’s a chode by punctuating every single use of a particular skill with “Do yo’ thang!” or standing there like a doofus when I’m trying to get him to attack. This sort of situation defines the experience, which makes it very difficult to recommend for any but the most ardent JRPG fans…and even then, they could probably be playing Persona 5.