Review: Arcade Spirits
Title: Arcade Spirits
Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel
Developer: Fiction Factory Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed)
Release: January 25, 2019
Arcade Spirits is a romantic visual novel that takes place in an alternate timeline, one where the video game industry didn’t crash and arcades are still popular. You play a character who is down on their luck having just lost their last job. Your roommate convinces you to download an app, IRIS, that will help you find your dream job. Little did you know that your dream job is working at an arcade. The choices that you make will help you grow the arcade and the relationships therein. Are you ready, player one?
The Tip and The Top
To sum up Arcade Spirits, think of a popular 80’s movie full of the quirky cast, interesting dialog, awkward romances, and situations that thrust the protagonist into strange situations where they are a changed person after the movie ends. If you never played a visual novel before, think of them as a choose your own adventure game. And boy, you have a lot of choices in this game. As you play through Arcade Spirits, you will encounter several unique and colorful characters, and the choices you make will determine your relationship with each one of them. The story starts off slow at first, but as you start to get into things and learn more about the characters and your relationships with them, you can’t help but get sucked into the story.
The story is chalk full of references to 80's nostalgia, from popular games to pop icons. Anyone that loves that era or has a love for 80's pop reference will automatically be drawn in by the the game’s charm. The dialog is fun albeit sometimes corny, but it plays well into the game’s overall themes. At times you’ll find yourself responding in a cheesy manner, but in another moment a character opens up to you (I’m looking at you QueenBee) and you can’t help but feel compelled to provide a more meaningful response to the character in their dilemma.
These character interactions are what make Arcade Spirits so great. Because you have so many conversation options regardless of who you choose to build meaningful relationships with, the replay value is rather high.
Another aspect of Arcade Spirits that stands out is the voice acting. The writing for each of the characters is well done, and the voice acting work adds a lot to every character. You can tell a lot of time went into the design of the characters and a lot of care went into the acting work too which helps you actually care about the outcomes of each one of the individuals you interact with during your play through.
The Flip and The Flop
While the voice acting is absolutely superb, you definitely notice when it’s missing. At times, the character you are interacting with will go into a speech about their stories and their past, and then the next few paragraphs are all just text after which there is spoken dialog again. It’s almost as if there was story added to the game after the voice acting was completed. Honestly, this is a minor issue and is done more frequently in other games (Octopath Traveler comes to mind). However, because the voice acting is so well done, it’s easy to miss when you don’t hear it.
For all the choices you can make while interacting with the game’s characters, the customization of your own player character is lacking depth. You can choose between a few different outfits, their color, and a few hairstyle options. Quite frankly, this is a minor complaint as well, but for as much depth as the story goes into and the choices you can make, it was a bit shocking to see how little choices you have when you create your character.
Final Grade: A
Visual novels aren’t for everyone - but those of you that enjoy a good story and the many choices that a good visual novel has to offer, then this is a good game for you. The story is straight out of 80's film with a ragtag group of characters each having their own aspirations and dreams, and with your help they can fulfill those dreams...or not. It’s all up to you based on who you interact with and how you interact with them. The story is solid and a lot of work was put into the creation of the characters, the options you have, and the outcomes of each possible choice. Even those that aren’t fans of visual novels can appreciate hard work and good art when they see it, and Arcade Spirits exudes passion that the creators put into it.
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