Arcade Spirits
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

Arcade Spirits is a visual novel that is packed with romance, great writing and plenty of nostalgia for anyone who grew up practically living in arcades during the eighties. It features a diverse cast of characters that are all interesting enough that you want to spend more time getting to know them. The story is perhaps not the most original, but it still managed to draw us in and keep us interested right to the very end. It is also one of the most inclusive visual novels that we have played, but nothing about it feels forced or tacked on, which is even better. If you love visual novels and want something a little different from the usual fare, then Arcade Spirits is highly recommended.

Gameplay: Plenty of choices that actually matter and a very engaging storyline to keep you hooked.

Graphics: Bright and colorful with plenty of backdrops and great character designs.

Sound: The synthwave soundtrack is great and the voice acting even better

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Arcade Spirits

Developer: Fiction Factory Games | Publisher: PQube Limited | Release Date: 2019 | Genre: Visual Novel / Dating Sim / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam / itch.io

It really is hard to describe how awesome arcades were to people who haven’t really experienced them in their heydays. As great as retro compilations are for preserving classic games, none of them can replicate the feeling of standing in front of a real cabinet while soaking in the atmosphere around you. Having had the privilege of wasting entirely too much time and money at a rather large arcade in our youth, we were looking forward to playing Arcade Spirits. It is a combination of visual novel and dating simulation that takes place in an alternative time-line where the 1983 video game crash never happened. This gives the game the perfect excuse to use an arcade as a backdrop for the story while setting it in the future instead of the past.

Arcade Spirits opens in 20XX with the protagonist continuing their bad luck streak when it comes to employment. You are free to select their pronoun as well as adjust their hairstyle, skin tone, hair color as well as eye color. This type of customization is quite unique for the genre and gives the game a more personal touch compared the visual novels where your character is either a faceless nobody or have a preset look and personality. Right off the bat the game demonstrates that the choices you make actually have an impact on the story and are not just there to provide you with the illusion of freedom. After your BFF and flatmate, Juniper, urges you to install an AI digital assistant app on your phone to help you find a new job, you can choose between doing so, or ignoring her advice. One choice will get you on the path towards happiness, love and fulfillment, while the other can wrap the story up before it has even had a chance to begin.

Not every choice in Arcade Spirits is as drastic, but the game certainly doesn’t pull any punches. The primary setting for the game is an old, but fairly popular arcade called Francine’s Arcade Funplex. Francine has run the place since the eighties and appoints your character after a rather unusual job interview. What happens from there is up to you and the choices you make as well as the way in which you interact with the people around you. The arcade setting definitely hits all the nostalgia buttons, but it is the characters that truly make this game special. Arcade Spirits features quite a big cast and you are even able to romance seven of them, if that is what you want. Usually with this type of game there is an “obvious” romance route with one of the characters while the rest feels more like side characters, but this is not the case here. Every one of the characters are not just interesting, but also fleshed out in terms of their personalities. In fact, Arcade Spirits is one of the very few games where we want to go back and complete the romantic route for each character just to discover more about them and experience more of the great writing.

Initially, the characters seem like they are all going to be stereotypes, but spend more time getting to know them and you’ll discover that nothing could be further from the truth. For example, QueenBee, the resident pro gamer who has a penchant for swearing and aggressively thrashing everyone who challenges her in her favorite game also has a softer side and a fear of rejection. Ashley, the bubbly cosplayer who works as the mascot at the arcade might seem like the most happy go lucky person there, but also has her insecurities. Each time we played through the game we discovered new things about characters that were not apparent unless we spent enough time with them, which is great for the replay value.

What is really interesting is the way in which the game approaches the player character. Apart from the customization options at the start of the game, you also get to determine the personality of your character and how they react to the choices and challenges that they face during the story. If you want to be quirky and overcome challenges with jokes and humor, then that is what you can do. If you prefer being kind and trying to come up with solutions that will benefit everyone, then that is an option too. Or you can try and be more levelheaded instead of basing decisions on your emotions. Iris, your AI assistant, will keep track of all the choices you have made, so you can see at all times what your strengths and weaknesses are. She also keeps tabs on your relationships with the other characters and will tell you which ones are a match for your personality. It’s quite a neat system, but we recommend disabling the icons that show you which traits are tied to the choices and instead picking the ones based on your own judgment, at least for the first playthrough. You are obviously free to pick a personality type and stick with it, but mixing things up and really thinking about your choices instead is a lot more fun. In some situations your options will be limited to only the ones that are related to your strongest stats, which can lead to different outcomes.

Arcade Spirits is split up into eight chapters, each of which throws a certain number of twists and turns your way. Initially, the game is all about getting to know your co-workers as well as the regulars at the arcade while also handling any issues that crop up. Eventually, the stakes become much higher and you have to deal with all manner of stressful situations. Because the story is so good we don’t want to give away anything, but as mentioned earlier, Arcade Spirits definitely doesn’t pull any punches. The game does feature plenty of humor, but it is also not afraid to tackle more serious topics head on. Even the romantic aspects are handled in a very classy and believable manner while giving you the freedom to pursue anyone who catches your interest. The pronoun and gender you pick at the start of the game doesn’t lock you out of certain romances like in other games and neither does the game make a big fuss about your romantic choices. Instead, everyone simply treats it like two people who are falling in love, which is how it should be. As sweet as the romances are, everything is kept strictly PG, so players expecting the typical level of visual novel fan service will have to look elsewhere. In fact, the chapter during which everyone is decked out in their beachwear is about as risqué as things get.

The art style used for Arcade Spirits is definitely a good match for the game and it features a very diverse cast of characters. The designs for each character is spot on in terms of their personalities and the whole game has a very vibrant feel. We also loved the fact that Arcade Spirits lavished just as much detail on relatively minor characters, so you actually get to see their sprites instead of just reading the descriptions as in a lot of other games. In addition, the game features a lot of different backgrounds, so you are not just stuck in one arcade for the duration of the story. Neither the characters or backgrounds feature a lot of animations, but overall everything looks great. The characters have enough different outfits and expressions to make them feel a little bit more alive and many of the backgrounds have minor animated elements to prevent them from feeling too static. It’s a pity that the game doesn’t feature more of the traditional visual novel style CGs, but understandable when you take the customization options of your character into consideration.

Another aspect of Arcade Spirits that really impressed us is the audio. The game favors a neat synthwave soundtrack, which is a perfect match for the futuristic arcade setting. It also uses a wide variety of sound effects to liven things up. However, the highlight is the voice acting and this is one area where Fiction Factory Games definitely didn’t skimp on quality. Every one of the characters is voiced by pretty notable names and it makes a huge difference. Although not every single line of dialog is voiced, the ones that are sound really professional and makes the whole experience so much more immersive. The controls are the usual visual novel fare, so you can click through dialog with your left mouse button or the “enter” key on your keyboard. You can also save at any time and the game provides you with more than enough save slots, so we recommend making good use of them if you want to explore all the story branches.

Overall, there isn’t a whole lot that we can fault about Arcade Spirits. It is clearly a labor of love and the amount of care and attention that has been lavished on it really shines through. The story is a little on the short side, but most players will want to jump straight back in and try another route after completing the game. The writing is really good and it has been a while since we have played a game where we would have loved to spend more time with the characters and the world that they inhabit. The fact that it is all so nostalgic for people who grew up frequenting arcades obviously plays a big role in this, but the excellent writing should suck just about anyone in. The character customization aspect is nice, but feels a bit limited as you only have three different hairstyles to choose from and can’t really change any physical characteristics. This is still a lot more than what we typically see in visual novels, so we can’t complain too much.

At the end of the day, Arcade Spirits is a great game with great characters that all have their own interesting personalities. The dramas and challenges that take place throughout the different chapters are perhaps not that original and unique, especially if you’ve watched a lot of eighties movies and sitcoms, but it is still a blast to play. Hopefully the game does well enough to warrant a sequel as we would love to see more of these characters and their world. We would have loved to elaborate more on the story and characters, but this is the type of game where you really need to experience everything for yourself firsthand. The game does have a free demo, so if you have any doubt about whether you will like the style or setting, then give it a try first.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP SP3
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Core HD Graphics 3000/4000, NVIDIA 8800 GT, ATI Radeon HD 4850 or better
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • Additional Notes: NOT SUPPORTED: ATI Radeon X1600, Intel GMA950, NVIDIA Geforce 7050
  • OS: Windows 7, Windows 8
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.8Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 450, AMD Radeon HD 5670 or better
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • OS: Snow Leopard 10.6.8 or newer
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Core HD Graphics 3000/4000, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M, ATI Radeon HD 4850 or better (ATI Radeon X1600 NOT SUPPORTED)
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: NOT SUPPORTED: ATI Radeon X1600, Intel GMA950
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.8Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GT 650M, AMD Radeon HD 6750M or better
  • OS: Ubuntu 12.04 or newer, other unsupported distros may work
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Core HD Graphics 3000/4000, NVIDIA 8800 GT, ATI Radeon HD 4850 or better (Open Source Drivers NOT SUPPORTED)
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: lib32-alsa-plugins or libasound2-plugins:i386 and libasound2-plugins-extra:i386 may be required.
  • Additional Notes: NOT SUPPORTED: ATI Radeon X1600, Intel GMA950, NVIDIA Geforce 7050
  • OS: Ubuntu 14.04
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.8Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 450, AMD Radeon HD 5670 or better
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space

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1 Comment

  1. Shinobum38 15 days ago
    Reply

    Well you managed to convince me to make this a day one purchase.

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