As fans of JRPGs, sometimes it feels like we repeat ourselves. Quests feel oh-too-similar, characters say the same things and, generally speaking, we yearn to escape the loops in which we constantly find ourselves. Akiba’s Beat, the latest from Acquire and XSEED, explores that in a more literal sense: a world in which time loops keep the characters trapped in “be careful what you wish for” delusions in a world of neverending Sunday.
Dubbed a spiritual sequel to Akiba’s Trip, Akiba’s Beat shares few similarities other than Akihabara setting, developer and general art style. While Trip was a beat-’em-up, Beat is a Tales-style action-RPG, complete with a very similar combat skill system and overdrive mechanics. It doesn’t quite bring the tactical depth that its inspiration has developed over its decades of sequels, but for a game with what could charitably be called more limited ambitions, it provides serviceable combat.
While Akiba’s Trip was a beat-’em-up, Akiba’s Beat is a Tales-style action-RPG, complete with a very similar combat skill system and overdrive mechanics.
This combat’s tied together by blocky dungeons that are visually interesting but not exactly coherent environments, and by a world that does a bit too good of a job of feeling like you’re living the same moments over and over. Too often, your job will be to check the map to find the next exclamation point, run five minutes through a lot of loading screens until you get to a point at which you can hit a button at that spot, hear someone say something and head back to the other side of the map again to see one more text box. You will spend 30 minutes doing this, and you will be rewarded at the end with a duplicate of an item you’ve already purchased for not very much money.
And oh, here, let’s present the most representative screenshot we can offer for the game, since you will see it more than half of the time.
That’s even in the PS4 version, mind you; we’re used to incessant loading screens on the aging Vita these days, but there’s nothing here that should cause this much computational trouble. The game runs on Unity, an engine we’ve seen work perfectly fine for some developers but one that not everyone’s so well-versed at optimizing. We saw Acquire dip its toes into Unity with the better-than-it-should-have-been Aegis of Earth, and… well, we hoped that experience would give them more expertise with it. Apparently it did not.
Technical troubles aside, Beat retains the strong aesthetic of Trip, making it easy enough to parse the environment and find your special text-box-spawning full-color NPCs. And hey, it’s nice and shiny, too! Which is… a consolation for the load times? It’s fun to look around and see the Akihabara-inspired scenery, like a game store that suspiciously only sells past Acquire titles. The more you know about Japanese geek culture, the more you’re going to get out of the game. And, well, frankly we’re also happy to get a chance to explore these environments in a game with a more appealing premise!
What may be the most grating element of Akiba’s Beat is its need to constantly talk to you. Whichever character you have set as the “support” unit will tell you any time there’s a place of interest nearby, be it a save point, door, shop, enemy or item box. This is all of the time. Literally all of it. You will be at the next place before the voice clip has finished playing from the last one. You can turn it off, um, if you turn off all of the voices everywhere. Which is not an ideal solution.
Whichever character you have set as the “support” unit will tell you any time there’s a place of interest nearby, be it a save point, door, shop, enemy or item box. This is all of the time.
When you can hear it, the music in Akiba’s Beat is actually rather solid, and that’s especially true in battle. When you’ve built up a meter, you can trigger a period of increased damage and capability, and this is accompanied by your choice of various songs you’ve unlocked. In addition to being nice for variety and taste, these each have different durations and multipliers, and you can even choose shorter “TV edits,” with much smaller meters, to get through the game’s smaller battles.
That’s the problem with a game with a Groundhog Day-style premise, really: it’s a smart way to get more mileage out of a smaller space, but a game that does it needs to be carefully crafted to avoid being more repetitive for its players than it is in its world. Because, frankly, it’s way easier for players to escape to anything else. Ultimately, Akiba’s Beat is an experience for which your patience — or persistence — will determine your enjoyment.