Sunday, August 31, 2014

Music! WeAreCastor.

WeAreCastor's Bon Voyage BandCamp page.

I was browsing SoundCloud the other day, and someone I was listening to liked a song whose artist liked Devil Don't Dance by WeAreCastor.  I love it - a nice blend of soul/funk and modern stuff - but WeAreCastor aren't a band that can be pidgeonholed into a single genre.  Each song, often, has a very different sound than the last - and it's seriously worth a listen.

Bright Lights goes on a bit long - one kinda' feels it it should end around the four-minute mark but it's still some chipper, upbeat stuff.

Just in case you missed Devil Don't Dance...

The whole album, Bon Voyage, is one of those albums you can turn on and just walk away from.  It's either very good or excellent in turn, and after it my iPod rolls directly in to Invade & Disco, the band's follow-up to Bon Voyage which dropped six months later.

WeAreCastor.  Check 'em out.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pledging love through the giving of stuffs.

Kayla and I will have our three-year anniversary this month.  I am, oddly, not one of those guys who forgets anniversaries (Kayla tells her work friends "nerds do it best.")  Exactly one month after our first kiss, we went out for a nice dinner - and the month after, and the month after.  It's kind of like a standing date night, on the months that we both don't just forget (which happens - but we both forget, so I don't feel guilty).  But the yearly anniversary - that's a thing.

These things usually begin with Kayla telling me she doesn't want me to buy her anything.  In the subsequent 0.03 seconds, the tiny General Ackbar who lives in my brain sounds his sage warning, and I inform her that, "tough noogies, you're getting a present whether you like one or not, and if you don't tell me what you want I'm going to go out and buy you lawn darts or something."

(Disclaimer: I would never buy her lawn darts.)

But the threat of lawn darts carries weight, and she settled on the idea of a very nice watch.  I can get that type of desire.  I, for example, have a very nice watch.

The Rapport of London PW91 double-hunter case skeletonized pocket watch.  In silver.

She told me about the watch she liked, but didn't want me to go get it because she deemed it too expensive.  I twisted her arm a bit, and she conceded that I could get her the watch, but we might as well wait until closer to our anniversary.

"What if it's gone by then?"

"I'll just get a different watch."

"But Kayla... is this the watch you want?  Is this the watch and no other watch will make you quite as happy?"


"Okay, let's go get The Watch."

The Watch, for Kayla, was a jewel-encrusted number from Michael Kors.  We went into the store and she found the precise watch she was looking for.  We then poked around and I pointed to a very elegant thing in silver, saying something like "that one's nice."

"That is nice!" she agreed.  She got the sales lady to pull it out of the case.  She tried it on. "It's too expensive," she said for the zillionth time.

"Kayla, is this The Watch?"


"Then I don't care how much it costs."

Kayla's watch is the Michael Kors MK3190 Womens Watch, in silver.  It cost around three hundred dollars, and was worth every penny, as she loves it.  Over the subsequent few months, she's been bugging me about what I want for our anniversary.

The obvious answer, at first, was "preordered games," but - while I'll be in desperate need of gaming money come September - that didn't feel like an appropriate anniversary gift.  For one of the hundred+ games in my library to be Our Third Year Anniversary Present.

She told me she'd considered that ridiculous(ly awesome) Kratos figure, but reckoned it'd be too much.  I agreed.

I poked around the 'net for a bit.  We considered some hoodies from Redbubble - I've still kinda' got my heart set on this Lollipop Chainsaw number and a green hoddie with this on it:

C'mon.  That's awesome.

And, as near as last week, we were this close to ordering a pair of hoodies which feature the logo and Tiki key art from Dragon's Crown and some gorgeously-simplified Momohime key art from Muramasa.

...but hoodies wear out, y'know?  It's unlikely I'll be able to point to these hoodies in five years and say "that's what Kayla got me for our third anniversary."  ...but still... Dragon's Crown hoodie...

...give me a minute... annnd ordered.  Okay, where were we?

Right!  David deserves giftage!

Last week, Kayla observed me playing Diablo III, and made mention that it looks like something she'd like to play.  Then she made mention that she could go out and get me a second Dualshock 4 as "part" of my present, and we could play co-op.  Well hell yeah.

So, as far as I'm concerned, half my gift is a girlfriend who'll play Diablo with me.  That's a precious thing, right there.  The rest of the gift... couldn't be shipped to Canada.

Let me begin by saying I have three high-end figures of video game girls.  More if you count (what I consider to be) low-end Play Arts Kai figures.  I told myself I would limit myself to characters from Vanillaware video games, which puts a huge stopper on things.

...though I'll admit, if someone showed me a really adorable Yotsuba figure, I wouldn't be able to pass it up.  And I'm regularly tempted by the Kill la Kill stuff.

As Kayla and I passed through hobby shops, perfecting our collection of Funko Pop Adventure Time figures, I always find myself pouring over any version of Harley Quinn I could find.  (I also stared for a good long while at the Play Arts Kai FemShep, but I swore them off).

I love Harley Quinn, though.  Specifically, I love her in the Arkham video games, and in the Warner Bros. animated series from back in the day.  Harley was actually created for the animated series, and she was so successful they ended up making her a permanent part of the Batman mythos.

For me, the animated Harley is Harley.  She is the archetype.  My Harley isn't some demented cheerleader-slash-nurse in a mini skirt and a bustier, a'la Arkham.  She's the Harley of Mad Love.  There's a lightness, a crushed sweetness to Harley Quinn - like the Joker might have if you got the sense he did all the murders and acid traps for the sake of love.

My Harley Quinn is Paul Dini's - and she looks like this:

The DC Collectibles Batman Black & White: Harley Quinn Statue by Bruce Timm.

It's from a Black & White series of Batman figures that go to artists who worked on the series at one point or another, getting their own spin on the major personalities.  There are literally, like, a dozen vastly different Batmans in the Black & White series - but I think this is the only Harley.

The collectibles shop we frequent has all those Bat-men, but they've never had Harley.  Every time we go in, I ask if they've got her - but no, they have her ordered. She should be in next week. After six weeks of inquiries, one of them was kind enough to tell me that their supplier never actually confirmed they'd been getting any.

Harley was now a collector's item, among collectors.

So we checked out Amazon - a dozen different sellers had it, but no one would ship it to Canada. Oh well.

Game over.

But not for Kayla.  Kayla had it shipped to a little business just across the US border that makes its money holding on to such items, and drove down there to pick it up.  About three hours each way.  Oh, and she brought me some birthday cake Oreos.

What a girl.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Guess what's coming to Vita and PS4? Indies!

Again!  That ain't a bad thing, of course - but I'll admit that every time we get another mini-flood of indie-on-Vita announcements, my excitement boils for a bit as I scan the news, searching, searching...  It's not a Darkest Dungeon announcement.

Oh well.  At least we get the next thing from the crew that made The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile.  That's pretty awesome!

And it sounds pretty awesome.  Dig this:
"If you’re familiar with some of our earlier games like The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile and Charlie Murder, you should know what to expect: solidly executed, intricate and brutal combat, lovingly hand-drawn and animated 2D art (of the non-pixel variety), a killer in-house soundtrack, and a massive roster of set-defining, dynamic and unique bosses. Salt is inspired as much by our history as a studio as it is by old classics like Castlevania DS, and new classics like the Souls series."
Everything I just read turned me on.
"Like in The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, the emphasis in Salt and Sanctuary is stylistic sidescrolling combat: weapons have movesets, air attacks have hang time, and rolling is king. There’s a huge amount of depth to the combat in Salt, however. Weapons can be one-handed and paired with shields or offhand crossbows for versatility, or wielded two-handed for added power — and every configuration has its own unique moveset. There are staffs for magic, bows for ranged combat, and belt-slotted consumables like throwing daggers and weapon-buffing Pitchfire. Of course, loadout weight affects your movement, rolling speed and stamina regen, so a good balance of defense and agility is key. Basically, it combines two things we love: fast, precise 2D combat and super strategic RPG depth. Also, there are curb stomps."
Sold.  Day one.

Like Guacamelee, Salt and Sanctuary is a Sony Pub Fund game - which means Sony ponied up some dough for development, guaranteeing them (likely) limited timed-exclusivity rights.

Also announced today for Vita are Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, a card-strategy game, that wierdo swordfighting indie Nidhogg, classic shooter Metal Slug 3 and an interesting-looking adventure game called Alone With You, which boasts that it will permit the player to explore "a half-dozen unique areas."

Shootin' for the moon, are we?

Another Pub Fund game, I'm willing to bet either the player-character or your helpful artificial intelligence buddy killed your comrades.

I'll check it out if (1) it's cheap and (2) there's nothing else interesting to play.  Curiosity may compel me.

As always, it's nice to see more announcements for my favorite platform.  Honestly, even with the momentary infatuation I'm enjoying with Last Light and Diablo III, the Vita remains my most-played platform of 2014.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Game Diary.

First Light.  Ummmn yeah.  That's good inFamous.

I had a lot of complaints about Second Son when compared to the first two inFamous titles, most of them focusing on how just getting around the open world as Delsin wasn't nearly as fun as it was as Cole in inFamous and its sequel.  First Light is a blast to get around.  Fetch still has the light-dash thing, and that makes getting up the sides of buildings a thoughtless process, but it hides its collectibles way out in empty space, demanding you make use of her neon-powered high-jumps, her air dashes, her neon thrusters.

In a lot of ways, it's the platformer I wish Second Son had been.  Story is meh so far.

In other news, I'm really enjoying Diablo III so far.  I got my Monk up to level 24, and at that point Kayla expressed enough interest in the game that she went out and bought me a second Dualshock 4 for the sake of co-op (and our upcoming anniversary).  I rolled a Wizard and she went with Barbarian, and that ancient Diablo formula proves seriously addictive.

I want her to get home just so we can keep smashing our way through some demonic hordes together.  And, also, y'know, 'cause I miss her.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

REVIEW - CounterSpy.

CounterSpy is a fine example of a game which prizes style over substance.  It's lovely.  It has an excellent 70s spy-groove soundtrack, bold, beautiful, poppy art direction from ex-Pixar artist Mark Holmes.  Its menus are stylish, beautiful, minimalist retro menus.  Its cutscenes are all silhouettes and horn-heavy jazz.

It's lovely - it's just not much fun.

It's a game that's far more about the tactics of what you're about to do than actually doing those things.  Good planning wins the day, here, as the game seems intentionally designed to limit the agency and power of its stylish hero when it comes to actual movement and combat.   The titular spy is only quick when it comes to snapping in to cover (note the two walls with arrows in the image above - those are the two cover points in this room), and just a bit too sluggish at everything else.

Shooting and its single-button-press fisticuffs never feel particularly satisfying - even with some pretty great headshot animations - both because there is no real player skill involved in the former and the controls of the latter never comfortably click.

There are intelligent choices, regularly made, on the part of Dynamighty.  When in cover, you can sweep your aim over the room before you in the form of a very large circular reticle, giving you an approximation of where your weapon will be aiming when you tap L1 to aim and sweep out to take your shot.  Enemies that are alerted to your presence but unseen - or close enough to hear an un-silenced gunshot - appear as icons at the edge of your screen.  Clever!

There are intelligent choices made, here.  But they don't equate to a game that's particularly fun - they just permit a game that's a bit boring to be very manageable.

Yes, tragically.  Boring.  CounterSpy features randomized levels - it's designed for infinite replayability - but after a single playthrough on its normal difficulty, you'll have seen and experienced everything the game is capable of throwing at you.  You'll have more weapons and purchaseable powerups to unlock, but beyond that, the game has blown its wad.  Subsequent playthroughs on its harder and hardest difficulty reveal no greater pleasures or surprises.

It's paper-thin.

That would be forgiveable if the act of silently sweeping through its military bases were as slick, sleek and snazzy as its presentation, but it quickly grows stale, and is thrown into stark relief when one suggests that fellow stylish stealth indie Mark of the Ninja exists, and manages to be infinitely more fun with a simple, linear campaign, gloriously expressive movement and customizable character skills.

CounterSpy is a fine first try for developer Dynamighty, but it's nothing you should spend money on outside of a very low sale price.  It's a six-out-of-ten game with nine-out-of-ten presentation.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Don't Starve: Giant Edition comes to Vita September 2nd.


Vita screens!

Price!  $14.99.  Totally reasonable. The Vita version "...includes the Reign of Giants expansion. This expansion is usually $4.99, and we’ve bundled it in for everyone. It includes new characters, seasons, biomes, and other challenges that will happily kill you."

No cross-save!  "Unfortunately, in order for us to get the game on Vita, we had to rewrite a bunch of backend code to optimize it. Because of this, the save games are not compatible with PS4, so there is no cross play."

But!  "BUT! We love you all, so we’re making the game cross buy! If you own Don’t Starve on PS4, you get the Vita version for free, and vice versa."

New playable characters! "Reign of Giants adds two characters for players to discover and survive with. Play as Wigfrid, a stage actress who went a bit too far with method acting on her latest role, an ancient Valkyrie, or Webber, a young boy who lives inside the spider who tried to eat him long ago."

Year-round starvation!  "Struggle through a full year of seasons as you experience the torrential rain falls of spring and the blistering heat of summer."

A bigger, badder world!  "New biomes have been filled to the brim with new creatures and gatherables that will either help you survive — or kill you."

Shit.  Now you're scaring me.

More than one save slot! "You asked, we delivered."

Giants!  "They're in the name, for crying out loud!"

Oh God it's like a week away!  YayyyI have got to finish Rogue Legacy... but yeah, I can see this taking up a lot of my time.

Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 - Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games.

Yikes.  Glad these videos are a thing.

New Titan Souls trailer.

The game now has an "early 2015" release window.  Yeah, I can see myself diggin' on this.

Unless Hyper Light Drifter already came out by that point, in which case this'll probably feel pretty bare-bones.  (Apples & oranges, I know.)

A nice serving of Dead Island 2 gameplay.

It's from a Eurogamer preview, and there's a lot of footage we haven't seen before.

To be honest, I'm not a fan of Yager's light-hearted, comedic approach to the game - I rather enjoyed the dichotomy of the spectacular, over-the-top action of Dead Island proper mixed with a decidedly downbeat atmosphere - but put a katana in my first-person hands and point me at a zombie, and we're already half way there.  Day one.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Let's do some Math! 2014 Edition.

August is the time of year that I look ahead to the crushing onslaught of gaming goodness the next few months will level at me and, crucially, my wallet.  Once again, it is time to do some math.  I'm cutting way down this year, as I'm trying to save some cash... but that doesn't mean I have to be entirely responsible.

I just need to plan ahead, and I can manage.  I think.  I'm hoping I can average like, one-point-five games per paycheque.  That's manageable.

Remaining this month is inFamous: First Light, which will set me back about $20, I reckon.  September is where things really begin.

September 9th - Destiny - $69.99.  Yes, really.  Canada is paying, like, Australia prices lately.  Sucks to be us.

September 23rd - Natural Doctrine - $39.99.  My Vita has been dying for a nice tactical game ever since 2K ported XCOM to tablets, and Natural Doctrine may fill the bill.  This trailer certainly went a long way towards selling me on the game, but I'd still like to check out some reviews before parting with my precious paycheque.

September 30th - Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor - pass.  I've had a preorder down on Shadow of Mordor for a while, and press have been pretty positive about the game - but if I'm going to give a pass to this or Destiny, it's probably going to be this.  The Destiny beta (and alpha) were just pretty frickin' fun.

"Late September" - Shadow Warrior - $44.99.  An old-school arcadey FPS that harkens back to the boom-era days of Duke Nukem, DOOM and Dark Forces.  Yes please.

Total for September : $155.

October 7th - Alien: Isolation - $69.99.  Alien Isolation may prove to be a victim of its own hype, but it remains the first time an Alien game has actually tried to offer what Alien fans want.  I'm in.

October 21st - The Evil Within - $69.99.  The legendary Shinji Mikami (Vanquish, God Hand, Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil) returns to survival horror.  I don't care if the press was been down on the game at its last showing.  Don't care.  Shinji Mikami.  Discussion over.

October 28 - Lords of the Fallen - pass.  Like Shadow of Mordor, I've got a preorder down on Lords of the Fallen that I'll have to move.  It's a dark action-RPG that's trying to be like the (deservedly venerated) Souls franchise, but I can't afford games that are merely potentially awesome.  If reviews sway me, I may give it a second look.

October 28 - Assassin's Creed Unity - $69.99.  The Assassin's Creed franchise has a problem with consistency, but sometimes you get AC II or Brotherhood or IV.  Those are awesome games that provide seriously enriching experiences - and the first purely new-gen AC is something I'll need to see.

Total for October : $210

The only major release I'll need in November is

November 18th - Far Cry 4 - $69.99.  The sequel to one of the best games of the last gen?  Done deal.

Also due out some time this year is the SCEJ RPG Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines - $50 - which does not yet have a release date.

What will further stretch my wallet are all the sweet little digital-only games that are in the pipeline for the rest of 2014.  All of these are day-one purchases, all of these are due this year, and none of them have a release date locked down.  I'll estimate twenty bucks each...

Galak-Z - $20.

Hyper Light Drifter - $20.

Hotline Miami 2 - $20.

Liege - $20.

Don't Starve: Reign of Giants (Vita) - $20.

Velocity 2X - $20.

Drifter - $20.

Total for November (+digitals) : $230. 

Okay, so that's a total of $595, which is a very far cry from last years' total ($1062.00, what with the PS4 launch). Estimating two pay periods per month, that's six periods - so that's only $100 per paycheque!

That's totally doable.  Particularly if I manage to quit smoking.  Shit.

Oh, wait.  Tax... $672.35 or $112 per cheque.

Okay.  Yeah.


That's gaming responsibly.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I think this trailer just sold me on Natural Doctrine.

Most of what I've seen of Natural Doctrine so far just made me feel it was a pretty ugly game.  Then what I heard of it made it sound like a stupid-hard game.  This trailer and this post over at the PS Blog makes it look and sound like a game I want.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Muramasa's 4th DLC drops Sept 2nd in NA!


Aksys announced this evening that the localization of the fourth and final piece of downloadable content for the immaculate Muramasa Rebirth will arrive on PSN in North America in less than two weeks.  The title is Hell's Where the Heart Is, and they've provided a nice breakdown of the story.

"When former monk turned playboy Seikichi accidentally proposes to Rajyaki, the daughter of the Lord of Hell, he finds himself literally sucked into an adventure he never dreamed of! Already on a mission to recover the sacred treasures of the Seven Gods of Fortune that she misplaced, Rajyaki stuffs Seikichi in a magical bag and continues her mission – all while being the “bestest” fiancĂ©e she can be! Play as the formidable Rajyaki as you explore the Muramasa world, all while falling madly and deeply in love with Seikichi!

Three Powerful Forms – Naturally as the daughter of the Lord of Hell, you have some fearsome powers. In child form, Rajyaki is quick and speedy with her ax. As a woman, Rajyaki uses her powerful club to knock enemies out of her way. Finally, in demon form, Rajyaki uses her near infinite powers to destroy any enemy in her path!"

(Rajyaki's style, then, is rather akin to Miike's shapeshifting combat in Fishy Tales of the Nekomata.)

"Test Your Skills – Even after completing the main story, Rajyaki’s adventure continues! Face bosses and enemies from the Muramasa Rebirth storyline and test your skills against the likes of Raijin or the Dragon God!"

Aksys also promises that  "after completing all four DLC, a special gift from Vanillaware, developers of Muramasa Rebirth, awaits players in the Genroku Legends main menu."  Oh please let it be a tease for their next game.

Oh please.  I love you Vanillaware.

I've always loved you.

Muramasa's fourth DLC drops August 28th in JP!

Trailer!  Looks awesome - particularly if you enjoyed the Nekomata DLC. 

"The story revolves around a prodigal guy named Seikichi, who goes around chasing all the women around him. He wasn’t too fond of the Buddhist monks, so after leaving the temple, he runs into the Demon Girl.

However, due to some sort of misunderstanding, it seems like she has fallen for him, and he must get away. Will he be able to escape from the cute little demon girl so he can go back to his ways of a womanizer?"

Given how quickly these have been localized, I'd say we'll be getting Muramasa's last taste of DLC some time in early September.  Yay!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Game Diary - quick edition.

I'm still pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Akiba's Trip.  Readers of this blog will understand the following statement is a strong endorsement indeed:  not once, when playing it, did I think to myself "I could be playing Dragon's Crown right now."

But I've finished it and CounterSpy is out and you know I'm all up in a stylish stealth-action game.

And I zipped through its campaign in less than two days.  It's designed to be replayed ad-infinitum, with unlocks carrying over into its procedurally-generated levels, but I'm not sure it's got the fun factor to hold me.  I'll give it another shot on a harder difficulty level before sounding off.

In other news, I was waffling back and forth today on whether or not to go pick up a physical copy of Undead & Undressed (which still totally remains on the docket) or pick up my preorder of Diablo III for PS4.  When EB Games called me yesterday, the girl on the phone was doing her whole preable thing, and the whole time I was wracking my brain, trying to remember what game I could have possibly preordered that came out this week.

Today I called around to various EBs and independent gaming stores in my city to see if anyone had a physical copy of Undead & Undressed.  No one did.  And then this guy at work started talking about Diablo and asked me if I'd played Diablo II back in the day and yeahhh I did and it was awesome and I loved it alright crap I'm buying Diablo III.

When the intro screen came up I found myself beset by giddy, kid-like hype.  I did love the Diablo games when I was younger, and now, finally, I'm playing Diablo III!

I put about an hour into it tonight, and it is... smooth as butter.  The upside to getting a game that a company like Blizzard released two years ago is that a company like Blizzard has been patching and sharpening the crap out of it in the mean time.

I went with a monk, because I like punching things and enjoy Kung Fu Panda, and I can tell that this could very quickly turn into a slippery slope - but that's a classic technique for maintaining gamer attention that has long proved potent.  Punch a thing and money spills out.  Punch another thing and some rare shiny thing drops on the floor.

Here's another thousand things to punch.  Who could resist?  Not I.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

REVIEW - Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed.

Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed (Akiba's Trip 2 in Japan) is a brawler-lite action RPG in which the player takes on the role of a shameless otaku in the legendary Tokyo neighborhood of Akihabara - a mecca for anime nerds, video game nerds, pop-idol-worshipping nerds and all other similarly-obsessed superfans.

Waking on the operating table of an evil corporation, you discover the fine print in a job contract which promised you exclusive access to super-rare figurines gave the company exclusive rights to experiment on your mortal coil, turn you into a sun-fearing "synthister" and set you loose to siphon away the life energy and passionate desires of Akihabara's uniquely-desirous population.

You are saved by a beautiful and mysterious girl, and the two of you set out to bring down the corporation by single-handedly taking on the synthister menace that stalk Akihabara's streets, cleansing their dark souls in the purifying rays of the Sun... by running up to them in broad daylight and stripping them down to their undies.

At first glance, Akiba's Trip is a serious contender for an "oh Japan" game.  Oh Japan.  Why you gotta' be all about naked high schoolers and tentacles?

But it's not the game you fear it will be when you first learn of it.  It's not the game you worry it'll be when you see its cover art.

(I'll be honest, I love this cover art.)

It's wonderful.  It's a sweet game, in the most earnest sense.  It's one of the most consistently-entertaining, funny, cheerful, endearing things I've played all year.

Your sister is a cosplay-sewing shut-in who speaks in weird monotone and absolutely adores you, forces you to buy her limited-edition shirts and makes you practice superhero poses with her.

Your friends are tomboys, Japan-obsessed foreigners and fellow nerds.  They're the type of people who'll watch an anime marathon to prepare for an upcoming cosplay competition and agree it was the most moving thing they've ever seen (except for the last episode).  There's something sweetly identifiable in all of them, and their jokes tend to be jokes like we'd toss out to our friends in the comforted knowledge that we're in the company of an audience who gets us.

I get it!  (We all get it!)

The real star of the game is the neighborhood itself - an accurately-recreated version of Akihabara that you wander around, doing side-quests, earning cash, shopping and exploring.  It's not stunningly-realized - you can't actually enter any stores and virtually walk around them - but it still manages to turn the player into a willing, fascinated tourist as you get to know the district.

When you walk up to one of Akiba's famous shops, you'll hear some distinctive music playing outside (most of the stores in the game actually licensed their likenesses to the developer, so you'll hear the real music the stores play).  When you hit X, you're taken to a static image of the store as they appear in reality, with their anime mascot or an NPC greeting you and selling you items through a menu system.

As you stroll the streets, you'll be approached by ladies with flyers, and you're free to take one - there are tons of different ones to collect - and it turns out what you've just picked up is a beautiful, high-res image of the actual flyer of an Akihabara store.  It's hard to resist flipping through them and checking out the dense ads and gorgeous images of beef bowls and noodles.

Not a truly open-world game, Akiba's Trip breaks the district into a dozen smaller areas, each a street or two in size, with short (five-second) loads separating them.  When you fast-travel large distances or the game is loading a scene, you'll get an image of a distinctly Akihabaran advertisement as the progress bar clips along.

The story works fine - there's a mysterious power behind the corporation that's producing the synthisters, and it seems like the girl who rescued you isn't exactly human, but its most meaningful purpose is simply to allow the player to get to know its (endearing, charming) characters and set them loose on zany stories.

In Akiba's Trip, I beat the shit out of a satirical take on the AKB48 girls in front of the AKB48 theater. I wandered the area taking snapshots of oversized hot dogs and gorilla-themed curry shops, I hunted synthisters for cold, hard cash, I talent-scouted for a maid cafe and - yes - when anyone gave me any guff, I punched them in their shirt, hat and chinos, and stripped them naked.

The game offers an exceedingly shallow combat system in which you weaken your foe's clothing with repeated strikes to that area - each area assigned to a face button.  X punches them in the pants, circle in the shirt, and triangle their headgear.  R1 is used as a modifier-button, permitting you dodges, counters, power attacks and evades, but the basics are dead-simple: punch your enemy in their shirt until it weakens (circle, circle, circle) then hold circle to go in for the strip.

There's a touch of strategy to it.  The combos and qualities of your attacks are purely dictated by the weapon you wield, and once you rack up a high enough combo (30+ hits), every attack thereafter becomes far more powerful.  You earn experience by performing strips, and you can multiply that earned experience by performing strip chains.

So you walk up to a dude, punch him in his hat, shirt and jeans until they weaken, then break off and attack another foe, and another, and another until you go in for the strip and rip rip rip rip rip rip rip in a (weirdly intuitive) quicktime event that sees you stylishly yanking the clothes off, and so, dispatching, multiple foes in one fell swoop.

Like the Sparkle Hunting moments in Lollipop Chainsaw, there's something that satisfies about the funny, over-the-top animations.  Even taking down a single enemy is gratifying when you do it with gravitas - poppoppop their head, torso and legs and zip zip zip!  I love it when I sweep the legs out from under an enemy and zip their pants off in the half-second they find themselves horizontal in mid-air.  The strip style you get from S-ranking the combat arena's challenges is hilarious, suggesting an otherworldly mastery of clothing, and I've still never tired of the Record of Asuka Style Ninjutsu technique.

Like a true ninja, you perform a strip so incredibly quickly and gently that your target doesn't even realize they've been stripped until you step away, strike a cool at-one-with-the-universe ninja pose and - omigosh!  My hat's gone!

What the-!

Instead of feeling lascivious, Undead & Undressed maintains an upbeat, slapstick tone throughout.  It's cheerful and light-hearted - an utterly charming game that wildly succeeds despite its ankle-deep (yet still, oddly, challenging) combat.

As you strip particular clothing types - cosplay, business, shirts, jackets, skirts, jeans - you earn proficiency in those types.  When your skill becomes maxed in each type, you will thereafter remove that kind of clothing without ripping it - adding it to your collection of garments.

Once you've built up a respectable wardrobe of options, what becomes most expressive about Akiba's Trip is how you style yourself.

You choose your combat style through your preferred weapon (there are about eighty to pick from), and no piece of clothing has any benefit over any other, as there is only one stat - durability - and any item's durability can be raised to the maximum level by simply visiting your little sister and paying her to put her sewing skills to work, combining items into one super-item.  

The game's blacksmith is your geeky little sister.  I love it.  

Yay!  Thanks Nana!

Its combat?  Perfunctory.  Its technology?  Behind the times.  But I love Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed.  

Discovering this game is like walking into a video store and finding something like Samurai Western.  Taking a chance on a game and discovering something so weird and crazy and... charismatic.  Something that's so happy just to be a game, and is thrilled to have you along for the ride. 

I was consistently-entertained for my entire time with Akiba's Trip, and found myself wishing I had more time for side quests, more time to explore.  I want to rip through this game's trophy list, buy an item from every store, collect every flyer, earn every walk animation.  

You can customize your walk animation!  And now that I've beaten it, I want to give it a second playthrough.  At least.  I hear there's a "sister ending," and given that she's the awesomest thing in the game, that really should happen.  

And given that, in New Game+, you can customize everything down to your character model, you can bet your ass there's a Japanese schoolgirl wandering the streets of Akihabara, stumbling around like a zombie.  

And she's gonna' strip this town raw.