Title: Arcade Spirits
Developer: Fiction Factory Games
Platform: Windows, MacOS, Linux
Category: Visual novel/Dating Sim
Release Date: February 12, 2019
How we got the game: Bought it on Steam
I had never heard of Arcade Spirits before Rachel and I discovered a Let’s Play of it on the ProJared Plays YouTube channel. We haven’t finished his entire play through of it just yet due to me getting interested enough in the game to play it myself. And, honestly, I freaking love it. A visual novel set in an arcade with a fun story and fantastic characters had me sold almost immediately!
Being a visual novel, Arcade Spirits does not have difficult gameplay. Rather, the most action you do is choosing your choice in a small list of answers at certain points in the levels. Yet, there are plenty of options and dialogue choices for you to make, even if sometimes the menus of choices aren’t that long. Indeed, there were some menus that only gave you two choices aside from a basic option.
Each choice that you made would help develop your avatar’s personality, whether it be Quirky, Steady, Kindly, Gutsy, or Basically. The choices indicate which answer goes with which personality trait, but there is an option in the short tutorial that allows you to hide the indicators so you have less of a chance to “gamify” your personality. Every multiple choice set would have a Basically answer, while the other few options would point toward one type of personality or another. When speaking with other characters, some would prefer certain types of responses over others, but there are no bad choices. You cannot get kicked toward a Game Over screen for the “wrong” choice (except for a couple of instances where you have to really try for a Game Over).
Not only are there no bad choices, but the game is clever enough to remember your choices in later levels. In Level 1, you may help a little girl at the arcade who will then remember you in Level 7 and want to help you in return. Certain choices from the beginning of the game — such as why you decided to get a job at an arcade — pop up as motivation for other choices in the game, as well as interactions with other characters. Visual novels, especially dating sims, have branched paths with the choices you make, but Arcade Spirits is the first game in my memory to actively have earlier choices be referenced to and the reason as to why choices later on happen.
My other favorite aspect of this game? In the beginning, you can actually choose if you want flirting and romance, a slow-burn romance, or just friendship. Considering I’m asexual, this is huge to me. I like slower romance, but the fact that there is a route where I can just befriend every character so we’re all working to save the arcade is fantastic!
The graphics of this game is just so much fun! The characters are really well-done, as are the backdrops of each scene. Most of the backgrounds have small, animated touches that both draw you into the scene while not being too distracting from the character(s) are are interacting with. I was also impressed with the customizable avatar. There aren’t any choices with clothing and only three hair styles — short, medium, or long — but skin, hair, eye, and clothing colors are whatever you’d like them to be. Your avatar is featured in several scenes no matter what crazy color combo you choose. Most importantly, you can choose the pronouns you go by, which was also something really nice to see.
Being a video game about… well, arcade and video games, the sound effects were on point. The music was subtle but went really well with the game overall, each scene having its own ambiance sounds. I really enjoyed the partial voice-acting and quips from all of the characters. A couple of my favorites were two dudes who owned the book and doughnut shop next to the arcade. The voice actors were phenomenal going back and forth with each other!
The gist of the story is that your character has lost another job and feels that… it’s rather normal. The avatar’s backstory involves their family always having to settle with what they had, and the avatar seemed to be resigned to that fate. They do not have a real dream to follow, prompting their roommate to suggest a special app that helps their user stay organized and in control of their life. This app then searches for the avatar’s “dream job” which lands them at an arcade called the Funplex.
The Funplex has interesting and dynamic characters to meet and befriend, and woo if you so choose to, ranging from your fellow coworkers to some of the arcade’s regulars. As the avatar, you try to figure out your dream, the reason as to why you decided to join Funplex’s team, and in doing so, you do your best to protect the Funplex from collapsing or being sold to a bigger arcade tycoon.
And that’s just the first half of the game. I fear I’ll spoil the finale if I continue. The story itself is heavily focused around dreams and finding out who you are and what you want out of life. The writing is both impressive and thought-provoking, with humor and some serious topics thrown in to keep everything in balance.
Considering all of the routes — romance, friendship, all the characters — and plethora of dialogue choices you can make, this game has amazing replayability. At the time of this review, I’ve done one romance option and am currently exploring the friendship route, but there are a couple of other characters I’d like to get to know and romance down the line. Right now, I’m just eager to get back to the game!
Arcade Spirits gets…
5 out of 5 lives.