Disclaimer: This review was conducted on PS4. A code was supplied by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
As someone who enjoys JRPGS, I feel overwhelming lucky to be a part of the gaming scene during this renaissance of great Japanese games. Chart topping AAAs like Nier: Automata, Persona 5, Nioh and the like have graced us with hours and hours of heavily polished content. Even mid tier Japanese publishers are starting to put out consistently better games. Akiba’s Beat is a sign that this trend will, at least, continue into the immediate future.
The game takes place in Akihabara, Japan’s electric town, as did Akiba’s Trip, the game’s immediate predecessor. In fact, the Akiba’s Beat’s map is virtually identical. Aside from that, and the obvious resemblance in artistic style, there isn’t much between the two that remains the same.
Akiba’s Beat’s premise is that Akiba is being overrun by people’s delusions. Since the city is so fast moving with its trends, there are people who have held onto specific time periods and this is somehow forcing the city to be stuck in time. The main character, Asahi, is a NEET who stumbles into Saki, a girl who spends her time eradicating people’s delusions. Throughout the game, Asahi carefully navigates his way through events becoming stronger, building friendships and growing as a character.
In order to fight these delusions, Asahi and his team must enter Delusionscapes, essentially dungeons, and kill the main boss of each delusion – its Grand Phantasm. This sequence is very similar to the dungeons in Persona that end with characters facing their own personas. While exploring dungeons, you will encounter various enemies. Combat mechanics are similar to Tales of Zestiria, in which you can move directly towards the enemy in front of you and use basic attacks, skills, dodges, items and such on the fly. The standout mechanic in Akiba’s Beat, however, is Imagine Mode, which you can use by charging and activating individual tiers allowing you to do a ludicrous amount of damage to the beat of a song that you can unlock and select.
There isn’t much diversity in terms of enemy design as most are simple palette swaps, but dungeon design itself becomes fairly complex with longer and more sophisticated puzzles.
While the game’s animations are somewhat clunky, as are most mid-tier Japanese productions, the game can become surprisingly fast-paced once you get into its groove. The game runs brilliantly too, I didn’t experience a single bug or hitch during the entire time that I played. However, loading screens are frequent and infuriating, with each location change requiring its own load, creating a fragmented and pace-killing experience.
Akiba Beat’s sound design abides by a fairly high standard. When first launching the game, its PV is backed by a beautiful song by Claris befitting the anime influences of the game and setting the tone for the adventure perfectly. And every song available to use during Imagine Mode adheres to the same level of quality. The character VO is, similarly, very well acted. Everyone – except Pinkun – is pleasant to the ear and perfectly embodies the style of their character.
As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t much to compare between Akiba’s Beat and Akiba’s Trip so fans looking to jump back into the fray will be largely disappointed. Akiba’s Beat is its own game and takes its own spin on the franchise. That being said, there is one very obvious influence for Akiba’s Beat: Persona. The game, in almost every one of its aspects, attempts to mimic Persona. What it lacks, however, is the style and polish that Atlus’ Persona franchise is so well known for. The lackluster menu design, the lack of character models for non-interactive NPCs, the inability to fast travel within dungeons, and several other small quirks combine together to dampen the overall polish of Akiba’s Beat.
One positive example of this Persona mimicry, however, is the excruciating amount of detail given to each character. This is especially true within each character’s sub-event, which you can complete to learn more about them. Every character feels nuanced and has their own place in Akiba’s Beat, regardless of how small their role might be in the grand scheme of things.
The developers have clearly learnt what makes the Persona franchise so great and have attempted to duplicate it in their own unique way. This gives Akiba’s Beat a solid fundamental backbone that helps it stand tall even when the writing or mechanics may feel dull.
Overall, Akiba’s Beat is great. It doesn’t come close to Persona 5 in achieving its goal. And it certainly doesn’t have much in common with Akiba’s Trip, to some fans’ inevitable dismay. But, it stands on its own two feet and delivers and experience that is definitely fun and miles ahead of the quality that fans of Japanese media have come to expect from smaller publications.