Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed review for Nintendo Switch, PS4

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PS4, PC
Publisher: Marvelous/XSEED
Developer: Acquire
Medium: Digital/Disc/Cartridge
Players: 1
Online: Yes

I can?t believe how utterly indifferent I am to Akiba?s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed. I mean, I sort of can, since I felt very much the same way about the last Akiba game, Akiba?s Beat, but still: given how much I loved Akiba?s Trip: Undead and Undressed back when it came out on the Vita more than seven years ago, it boggles the mind that the other games in the series have been so underwhelming.

To be fair, Akiba?s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed?s came a few years before they ironed out the kinks on Undead & Undressed. It may feel dated, but at least it comes by that honestly.

Of course, that leaves the question of why you?d want to be playing something that feels so dated in the first place. It?s not like we?re talking about some essential piece of gaming history or anything. Even the best game of the series, Undead & Undressed, is really just a solidly above-average action title that only gained notoriety because of its bonkers plot about stripping pedestrians in Tokyo?s Akihabara district as you try to literally expose vampires. Now imagine that, but with more awkward mechanics, middling graphics, and very dated dialogue sequences, and you can see why Hellbound & Debriefed feels so inessential.

In fact, if I?m being honest, it?s really just the action that makes this game such a letdown. While the graphics are nothing special, as a devoted handheld gamer, I?m totally fine with games that don?t look mind-blowing. Hellbound & Debriefed is kind of ugly, but I can look past that.

Likewise, I can?t say the story holds my attention — it?s pretty much the same as all the other Akiba?s ____ games, but with more exposition since it?s the first one in the series — but I?m not going to hate the game just because of that. The dialogue scenes often make Hellbound & Debriefed feel more like a visual novel than anything else, with lengthy stretches where you do little but advance the text through a plot that?s not all that deep or interesting. While that?s not my favourite thing in the world, I?ve at least become used to that sort of thing. Plus, this game at least allows you to pick some of your dialogue options, which puts it ahead of plenty of actual visual novels.

But the action being terrible — that?s where I draw the line. Hellbound & Debriefed just isn?t all that fun to play. Your attacks are incredibly rudimentary, and so imprecise that you basically just spam the same button over and over again, hoping you hit your enemies once in awhile. If you hit them enough you eventually get prompted to tear off a piece of clothing. Repeat that enough times, and you defeat them.

Setting aside the inherent creepiness of it all — if Hellbound & Debriefed represented the first time we?d ever seen the mechanic, it might be noteworthy. But seeing as it was done much, much better in Undead & Undressed, here it just feels clunky and awkward.

I get that in the absence of Undead & Undressed on the Switch, Akiba?s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed might seem tempting if you?re after this sort of thing. It shouldn?t be, though. The series may have (very briefly) gone on to more interesting things (before promptly taking a nosedive back to mediocrity), but you?re not going to see any of that here.

Marvelous/XSEED provided us with an Akiba?s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C-