Arcade Spirits Review

Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4

Also available on Microsoft Xbox One and Nintendo Switch

Arcade Spirits is a romantic visual novel set inside the fast-paced, high drama world of… owning an arcade?

Apparently, you read that correctly, Arcade Spirits exists in an alternate timeline where E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was not released in December 1982. Instead, the developers delayed the release and fixed the myriad issues that game had, and thus the video game industry successfully avoided a massive market crash that nearly destroyed the past time forever until Nintendo saved our souls with the NES. Without that significant cultural obstacle, video games assimilated into the mainstream at an accelerated rate and, somehow, the arcade managed to survive. This does not exactly track logically, as the acceleration of acceptance of home systems would have probably killed the arcade faster but you just have to roll with this. Ultimately, I appreciated this game providing a subtle little history lesson for younger gamers and the fun a Community reference by calling our arcade bereft reality “the darkest timeline.”

Looking around, you cannot really argue with that assessment, even without counting the loss of the arcade.

The main goal of Arcade Spirits is to find your happiness, through the operation of a struggling arcade business, and maybe even find your soul mate. It’s the dream for many of us, I am sure.

The game offers you a degree of character customisation, albeit severely limited in scope as far the characters physicality is concerned, it does offer the choice of three pronouns: He, She, or They, rather than the traditional binary gender options found in older character builders. Your character will look the same, base wise, but with alterations to skin, eye and hair colour, as well as hair length but it does not get any more detailed. The character is ambiguous enough to suitably slot into whichever pronoun you choose for them. Your character’s sexuality is also as rigid or fluid as you like, with being able to build romantic relationships with whatever gender you like or all of the genders, if you prefer. This is a nice touch and shows a development team that understands its audience.

The art style has a nice, clean look, accentuated with vibrant pops of colour and appropriately splashes of neon. The characters are distinctly designed and offer a fairly broad selection of personality and body types to suit your preferences. It is a romantic visual novel so you should probably try to woo one of these nerds. As you interact with these characters, you are offered a selection of response types (such as humorous, serious, gutsy, etc) and these can alter your bond with the characters depending on whether your personality traits click with theirs. I spent most of my game pouring my focus into the nerdy tech girl who is obsessed with the design aesthetics of old game cartridges. At a certain point in the game, you get the chance to go on a date with your digital crush and each date’s storyline is tailored to their personality so keep that in mind so you don’t mess things up.

It really is that simple. If you have never played a visual novel before, I cannot say whether this game is a suitable entry point as your mileage will vary. If you have a tolerance for reams of text between crucial story choices, you will be well served by the bubbly and witty dialogue here, but if you are the type of person to button mash through dialogue then this will not be for you because you need to pay attention to every detail or you will make a lot of misjudged choices.

Fans of the genre will surely enjoy this entry (unless you only play those pornographic ones from Japan, then maybe not, but you go ahead and find your bliss, I won’t judge you) because this is a fun, charming little story full of endearing characters, eye-catching art style, and a refreshingly inclusive mindset.

Overall

While it does not do anything radically new with the visual novel style, Arcade Spirits has plenty of charm and personality to make it a worthy addition to the genre. Now to imagine a world where ET the video game didn’t completely suck. What a happy place that must be.

7

out of 10

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