Reviews | Written by Chris Jackson 20/07/2021

AKIBA’S TRIP: HELLBOUND & DEBRIEFED

PLATFORM: PS4, SWITCH (REVIEWED) | RELEASE DATE: JULY 23RD

Shadow Souls are roaming the streets of Akihabara, targeting young people and draining not only their blood but also their energy, talent and general will to live, while also altering the humans' bodies at a cellular level and making them vulnerable to sunlight. The Shadow Souls plan to fill the gaps in society, left by these now weak and feeble shut-ins, with their own "children", in an attempt to take control of the human race. Your character, who you name yourself, is found unconscious in the aftermath of a Shadow Soul attack, and ends up being recruited by agents from NIRO, the National Intelligence and Research Organisation, a top secret group who are attempting to fight back against the Shadows. However, during your attack, a Shadow Soul saved you by injecting her blood into you, so you're now a Shadow Soul yourself, and therefore very valuable to NIRO. Why were you saved, and how can the shadows be stopped? With the Akihabara Freedom Fighters by your side and NIRO providing backup support, it's your job to find out exactly what's going on!

Set across ten very small areas of a faithfully-recreated (circa 2011) Akihabara, you'll explore the city, help (or hinder, if you want to go against NIRO's orders and work with the Shadows instead...) the local otakus, meet the crazy and quirky people who inhabit Japan's mecca of all things culty, weird and geeky, and batter seven bells out of the Shadow Souls with whatever weapon might be close to hand, from rolled up posters and plastic swords to computer parts and musical instruments. That's not quite all there is to it though – the only way to kill a Shadow Soul is by exposing their naked flesh to direct sunlight, so prepare yourself to get stripping the clothes off those dastardly fiends at every possible opportunity! High, mid and low attacks are used to target specific items of clothing, which flash red when they've been weakened enough to strip off. When your foe is down to their underwear, the power of sunlight burns them to a crisp and they fade to dust right before your eyes...

A range of RPG elements mean that you're always getting stronger throughout the game, and you'll constantly find new and more effective weapons and armour (well, clothing) to change into. Shopkeepers are more than happy to trade items, including some very handy instruction manuals that allow for easier stripping of various clothing types, and there are plenty of side quests to complete alongside the main story. And don't forget to increase your reputation at the local maid cafe for perks and bonuses, visit the rooftop training area, and check in on your very accommodating little sister who will try on various outfits and strike a few alluring poses for you (it's all been very silly and lighthearted up until now, but that's the point where things do get a little bit... questionable).

The story plays out through conversations with your allies, almost in a visual novel sort of fashion, albeit fully voiced so you don't have to do all the heavy reading if you're averse to that sort of thing. Finding your current objective usually involves a quick check of your in-game phone, where a “to do” list and email app provide handy hints. Sometimes though, you're not told explicitly what you need to do or where to go, which can lead to some extremely frustrating roadblocks. The game world is very compact so you're never too far from whatever it is that you need to do, but actually finding that "whatever it is" can sometimes be a bit of a pain.

Hellbound & Debriefed doesn't look great (it's a port of the original Akiba's Trip game which was released on the PSP back in 2011, after all) and there's a fair amount of janky clunkiness, especially during combat. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're into the slightly obscure and weird side of things, you'll likely be able to overlook the less polished aspects and enjoy the game for what it is - a supremely silly, slightly saucy supernatural story that takes you on a whistlestop tour of one of Japan's most famous districts. The writing is much better than you might imagine from a game of this nature, and multiple endings mean that you may well find yourself playing through three or four times to see the different outcomes. Just remember, it's nothing pervy – Shadow Souls are basically vampires, after all, and the only way to kill a vampire is to expose them to sunlight. It's definitely, definitely, 100% not an excuse for being pervy. At all.