In a world where magic and the occult is often frowned upon, living and working as an apprentice alchemist is a challenging life to live. It becomes increasingly difficult when a young spirit attaches herself to you and an all-out war between humanity and magical beings begins to break out. In the town of Anemone Valley, a mysterious and magical part of the world where alchemy thrives and spirits dwell, is there more than meets the eye hidden under the surface?
Visual novels are the Marmite of the gaming world for many. You either love them or you hate them. After experiencing Arcadia Fallen for myself, I can firmly say that my love for visual novels is as strong as it ever was. Arcadia Fallen has a world of mystery and fun to offer, and with it, it brings a brand new modern lease of life into the genre of visual novels. The story begins as you inadvertently become bound to a cheerful spirit by the name of Mime after a series of rather unfortunate events that reveals a demon infestation in Anemone Valley, a small town within the larger area known as the Empire. With no easy way to contain the demons and malevolent spirits at first, your job as an alchemist’s apprentice soon gets pushed aside to investigate how to seal the spirits away as well as separate your soul from Mime’s before the sleepy mining town is destroyed from the inside out.
One thing that Arcadia Fallen does incredibly well from the outset is character creation. It isn’t the colour options or clothing styles that make the difference though, but instead the options to choose whether you want to appear male, female or androgynous in looks. You also have the rare but much-needed option to choose the pronouns you prefer—he/him, she/her and they/them. As if to further emphasise the degree of choice you have within Arcadia Fallen, you can also choose between two voice options—one more masculine and one more feminine in nature. Of course, you can also change the name you use to suit your preference. This was the first thing that really impressed me with Arcadia Fallen, and I’m happy to report it only gets better from here.
The companions you meet on your journey around the valley are the true heart and soul of Arcadia Fallen. In traditional visual novel style, you can travel between different areas around Anemone Valley through a map, and each area you visit will introduce you to a new character as the story progresses. You first meet Victoria, a knight tasked by the Empire to track down Mime and keep an eye on her. With some convincing on your part, Victoria gets roped into your demon infestation investigation despite her deep-rooted dislike for magic and alchemy. On your travels, you will also meet Ann, a young Tinker Mage who is working towards becoming a magic professor within the academies of the Empire. Michael, a suspiciously suave mage with no formal training will also accompany you. Lastly, you’ll come across mysterious magic-imbued Kaidan who travelled to Anemone Valley to prevent a further demon outbreak. And the best part? All four of your companions are romance options as you progress.
Writing and dialogue can make or break a visual novel, and it is without a doubt one of Arcadia Fallen’s strong points. One aspect that is a complete game-changer for me was tone indicators on each dialogue path. With each option that is presented to you, hovering over the route you want to choose highlights how the choice will be interpreted by your companion or whoever it may be that you’re speaking to. This simple addition is game-changing. I can’t recall the number of times in various visual novels and choose your own adventure games where I’ve picked a dialogue option that I believed was the most appropriate to the route I was trying to achieve only for the dialogue to go down in a completely different tone to which I intended. With these tone indicators, it becomes incredibly easier to recognise and decide which kind of play-through you want to do and stick to it. For my first play-through, I mainly stuck with dialogue options that allowed my character to keep everyone happy and I avoided any options that were antagonistic as much as possible. You’re never shoved down a path of one choice and one choice only, and you can switch up your reactions to fit the situation—this alone helped in creating an atmosphere where your character was much more believable and your companion’s reactions to them are entirely plausible within the confines of the plot.
Romance options work in the same way. Occasionally, if you happen to be conversing with one of the four romantic option characters, a dialogue box labelled “romance” will appear and allow you to then choose a reaction fitting with your character. There is never a “wrong” option here, and the level of detail put into the decisions is abundantly clear. As you play through each chapter, you will also occasionally encounter a choice that you have to make that has an impact on your relationships with certain characters—this is perhaps the one area I would say is slightly let down. The consequences of these choices, in particular, could stand to be a little more severe—whilst they may make certain characters upset or unhappy in the moment, the friendships and relationships are easily salvageable and the choices don’t have much in the way of impacting the overall multiple endings you can achieve either.
Visually, Arcadia Fallen is unique and stunning. If I were to picture a world where alchemy and magic were present, it would look something along the lines of the world of Arcadia Fallen. The use of bold and vibrant colours in the backgrounds give each area you visit a personality. The style overall seems to have a classic comic book and manga influence which is another aspect that I thoroughly enjoyed. Each character that you encounter is uniquely designed and it’s clear that thought and detail have been put into each of them to reflect their personalities and roles within the world. Victoria for example is exactly what you would expect a knight or high ranking official from the Empire to look like—neutral colours, clean uniform and well kept. Compared then to Mime, for example, a magical spirit, her design uses bold pinks and purples as well as emphasising her non-human features like her horns. Each character also has multiple sprites featuring different expressions and poses, which helped to keep the game dynamic and flowing in each scene.
The music was also very fitting and changed depending on which part of Anemone Valley you were in, again emphasising the fact that you’re in a fantasy game but also accompanied each scene well and didn’t overpower at all. One especially nice touch was an opening theme and animation at the beginning of the game which was something I wasn’t expecting but was extremely impressed by.
One of my favourite aspects of Arcadia Fallen was without a doubt the voice acting. I was simply blown away by the quality and talent of the voice acting. Again, voice acting in visual novels is often a hit or miss situation, but Arcadia Fallen yet again struck the bullseye with this. Every single voice actor did an incredible job in portraying their characters—often in voice-acted visual novels, characters can lose a lot of depth and personality if they are not performed correctly, but this is not the case here. The superb voice acting brings out the sheer depth of the personalities that you wouldn’t otherwise experience—it’s very hard to dislike any of the main cast due to this.
Rounding off, some of the other interesting aspects of Arcadia Fallen that I enjoyed were the alchemy table mini-games. These mini-games are deceivingly challenging as you progress, and used for a multitude of things throughout the plot like potion creation and sealing demons. For the most part, these puzzles are easily completed with some thought and some luck.
I was also greatly impressed with the LGBTQ+ representation that Arcadia Fallen provided. As already mentioned, the ability to choose your own pronouns as well as your appearance and voice was already stellar, but Arcadia Fallen goes even further than this. All four romance options are open to you regardless of any choices you made in your character creation and they are all written extremely well. The inclusion of a romance between two older female characters was also handled realistically and one of the more prominent side characters Quinn happens to be non-binary. As a bisexual woman myself, the positive representation throughout the game was incredibly well done and overall is a credit to the story as a whole.
Whilst Arcadia Fallen may just appear to be another fantasy world visual novel with a seemingly cliché plot, I can assure you that there is absolutely more than meets the eye. It is an immensely enjoyable visual novel, and of course whilst it isn’t perfect and it has its flaws, it is absolutely memorable in the genre and I look forward to jumping right back into the small sleepy mining town of Anemone Valley to complete another play-through as soon as I possibly can.