Arcade Spirits, developed by Fiction Factory Games, is a visual novel set in the 2000s in a time where video game arcades are the hottest thing. Players take on the role of a character with relatable life struggles and who finds their calling working at the small family-owned arcade store, Funplex.
Violence: Some gamers threaten patrons, and a small gang war breaks out in the arcade.
Language: Word uses are A**, D***, H***, B******, and more appear, but the game covers them completely with symbols: !@#!@.
Sexual Content: The characters take a day at the beach, and a male and female character wear skimpy bathing suits. Suggestive themes are used for humor, the Funplex employees use the word “orgy” as a metaphor, and a romance moment implies groping and making out.
Positive Content: Aside from inspiring players to work at an arcade, the story involves the characters finding a place where they belong. The main character travels from job to job finding no deep fulfillment. Multiple characters share the struggles with their identity, others their gender, and some finding acceptance.
The spectrum across these issues we all share and face. I find this a positive, because it’s a place we all find ourselves together, a sentiment spoken by one of the characters in the game. And as we are all in this together, we can help one another, lift up each other in love, like Christ. He came and died for all of us. In the depths of ourselves that cry for identity, acceptance, purpose, or to be saved from ourselves, is a call He is all too ready to answer.
As the game starts, players begin with crafting the main protagonist, Ari Cader (get it?). Players have access to a mix of genders, skin colors, hair styles, and hoodie colors with which to customize their character. Next, the player is introduced to Juniper, the roommate and lifelong friend who helps find the ideal job by installing an app, IRIS.
IRIS is an advanced AI that searches for both a job and a romance based on social stats, and acts as the hub page for the social statistics and romance meters. Players answer questions and solve problems through the story using a variety of responses, such as being blunt, kind, fair, witty, and so on. She also works as a great technical assistant, accessing the internet at a moment’s notice.
Players meet the cast of characters quickly. All individuals personify a single facet of gaming culture: the e-sport athlete, the top score seeker, the accountant, the tinkerer, the dancer, and the cosplayer. In Arcade Spirits, everyone has a dream they aspire to, and a history they keep under wraps. Players have the choice to get to know each of them and pursue a romantic relationship while uncovering more of why these different personalities go to Funplex.
Playing a visual novel comes down to reading text and staring at the cast, backdrops, and the textbox UI. A skip option is available for the multiple playthroughs, along with multiple save slots, a log for seeing previous conversations and choices, and an auto-text scroll function. Arcade Spirits comes through with having everything.
The skip option comes in handy after a player’s first run, hurriedly jumping to the next choices that will divert the story down another path. Arcade Spirits only has one ending, but the outcome of each character will change depending on how much time is spent with them.
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The game…has a story. Arcade Spirit’s writing is merely adequate at delivering plot and giving life to its cast. Between its predictable twists and one-sided characters, the romantic comedy-esque story may not be good, but it’s not terrible either. There are some chuckle-worthy moments, and admittedly, as I told my wife, “I do enjoy when a story can make me feel inspired to keep working hard toward my goals.” Arcade Spirits certainly inspires its audience to chase their dreams.
The presentation has potential. There are things that could help it achieve a greater status, such as more sprites per character and more backdrops. The art was pleasing to look at, but it suffers from being static and repetitive. Sadly, the same can be said for the music. Though it nailed the feel of the 80’s, I can’t recall Arcade Spirits’ tunes standing out in any way.
In the same vein, the characters don’t enter into any personal development, save for the main protagonist. Thus, it’s difficult to invest any deeper than, “Oh, that classic accountant!”
It is nice to see more Western style games branching out where the Eastern zone dominates the board. I like going through Arcade Spirits to remember where our video games come from. And I would be foolish not to mention the amount of references all over the place. From Donkey Kong to Doki Doki, there’s tons of honorable mentions. It’s especially unique that the whole premise is around the 1983 Video Game Crash becoming the 1983 Video Game Boom.
Sadly, the Switch port is broken. The skip option skips no matter what filter is in place. It still skips if all filters are off as well. The log meshed lines of text together, making it impossible to read certain parts. The price seems a little high as well. Lastly, my wife played again after we beat it to achieve all of the endings, and she suffered through save files being corrupted on her account, and my own, after extended playing. She obtained all endings in time for the files to be corrupted again, and the secret ending glitch out. I hope it gets repaired soon.
Even if the 1983 Game Boom wasn’t explored to its full potential, Arcade Spirits is worth one play.
Review copy generously provided by Wonacott Communications.
The Bottom Line
Give it a shot, but don't play it for too long.