ReviewsReview: Arcade Spirits

Review: Arcade Spirits

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With the rise of mobile gaming, tablets, portable consoles, and the increased strength of the internet, there are no requirements to go to an arcade to get your gaming fill when you are away from home. These once bustling venues were the mainstay for many “mature” gamers, but the younger generation will sadly miss out on this great institution. Arcade Spirits is a Visual Novel (VN) that focuses its plot around this amazing nostalgia laced world, and the people that live at the heart of it.

Developed by Fiction Factory Games and published by PQube, this single-player Visual Novel asks you to interact with a wide range of people, to build a working relationship with them, and maybe more. Arcade Spirits allows the player to influence the people around them. You can look for romance, or you can play it in a purely platonic fashion, the choice is yours. I found it refreshing that the developers empowered you to make this decision. So often in VN’s you are forced to follow an approach that feels unnatural and unwanted. This can impact how you feel about each character you interact with, and can taint the story. 

An odd, yet familiar setting.

Set in the year 20XX, you control the main protagonist in a futuristic neon world. Mobile phones, 3D apps and all science fiction based nonsense, have come true, yet arcades have survived this technological onslaught. The world of gaming almost collapsed in 1983, after an ill advised and poorly developed game nearly made it to market. Had it done so, that would have been the fall of the modern era, and computer games would have been no more! Dah dah daaaaaaaahhhhh. This tongue-in-cheek approach forms the basis for much of the plot. 

Will you fall for her techie charms?

References are made to classic retro games, and there are lighthearted digs towards the modern gaming landscape. It’s a brilliantly delivered story that will have you; chuckling, cringing and scowling at its mixture of weird and wonderful characters. The game starts after you’ve been sacked from your latest job. Your housemate suggests you download the IRIS app to help find employment, and have a more positive outlook on life. Begrudgingly, you install the program, boot it up and watch it kick into life. This is the beginning of your new adventure, one that leads you to the Funplex arcade. This is a place where you discover your calling, and you start to understand the true meaning of family and friendship.

A game of many choices.

VN’s are all about the choices that you make, and the impact they have on the surrounding people. Arcade Spirits takes this one step further by allowing you to decide your; sex, look, and if you wish romance to form a key component of the plot. This inclusive approach was fantastic and rarely does it appear in this genre. Decision making is at the core of everything that this stands for, and 4 different responses allow you to build rapport, and create a character profile for yourself. Will you be; funny, serious, balanced or empathetic? You must think; is it more important to build bonds with people and consider my response? Or answer how you wish and go with the flow!

Whatever your decision, the story rolls on regardless. Friendships will rise and fall, and romance will blossom if you so wish. You’ll witness the love and passion for the arcade that each of these people call work. You soon realise that the arcade isn’t just a vocation, but it’s a way of life. The people that you call friends will soon become your extended family.

Don’t mess with the Queen Bee!

Similar to its peers!

Like other VN’s the concept of the game is extremely simple. Follow the plot, make your choices, and live with the consequences. Though you are free to decide on your characters’ look, sex and name, this has no bearing on the story. Unlike many of its peers, your decisions don’t impact the direction of the story, they just affect how each character perceives you. I found this a little odd as the tale marched onwards, regardless of how you dealt with any situation. Once you start this, it feels like you are on a one-way trip to your destination. The scenery may alter slightly throughout, but the core route stays the same. This felt a little too restrictive for me and removed a much loved element that I have experienced in many other VN’s.

Over the top imagery.

Like many of its peers, the visuals are way over the top. A colourful and crisp art style defines each of the characters and their local environments. A variety of backdrops are used to pique your interest and to keep things interesting. Fixed images that flit on and off the screen simulate movement, and each of the characters’ faces alter to highlight a swing in emotion or dialogue direction. I really like how this genre delivers its material; it’s simple, easy to look at, and usually incredibly detailed. It stands shoulder to shoulder with much of its competition, and will keep you focussed from the first word to the last.

The audio plays out along the same lines as the visuals. A well conceived idea that is executed well, but it feels familiar if you are a fan of the genre. The music disappears into the background, failing to make a lasting impression. It’s neither good nor is it bad, it simply exists. This allows the sound effects of the many machines and the spoken dialogue to rule the roost. The voice work has two settings, full speech or quick quips. Whatever your decision, they both complement the plot, and help to progress Arcade Spirits story nicely.

Is this Scooby Doo?

A relaxing platform.

When a game is predominately based around reading, and limited decision making, you know you are in for a relaxing experience. Controller use is kept to a minimum, and snacks can easily be consumed while playing. If you wish to take this one step further, you can automate the whole process (not the snack eating), and allow the computer to take all the heavy lifting. So, sit back, put your feet up, and let the story flow before your eyes.

VN’s suffer with a lack of replay value, and like a good book, the only time you will return to it is if you truly love it. With a lack of variety in the plot, the only reason to return would be to try a different approach with certain characters. Though, I doubt many gamers will want to sit through the whole story again for a slightly different relationship. Luckily, the story is very good, so though you won’t come back to it, you will enjoy the first read through.

A well conceived idea.

I really enjoyed what Fiction Factory Games have created. The many gameplay choices allow you to feel in control of how the story plays out. A well written and nicely paced script ensures that you don’t get lost amongst a variety of subplots and its many characters. Creating your personality was a nice touch, and how this influenced others was an interesting gaming choice. Arcade Spirits won’t tick all the boxes for the fans of the genre, but its inoffensive approach means it should be added to your library, so buy a copy here! Create your character, download IRIS and see where life will take you in this colourful and fun Visual Novel.

SUMMARY

A colourful and comedy laced Visual Novel that will have you chuckling throughout. A well written script and some interesting characters will keep you hooked on this from start to finish.

+ Bright and distinctive art style.
+ Well delivered voice-over work.
+ Easy to play.
+ A good amount of content.
+ Interesting characters.
- Lacks replay value.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: [email protected]

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