Visual novels are a marmite genre. If you don’t know what that means, let me explain. Effectively, you’ll either love what you see, or you’ll hate it. Sadly, though, it is rarely that simple as many elements combine to make a great read. Whether it is the blend of characters, style of writing, plot intricacies, or language translation, they can all make or break the experience. Therefore, when I was given Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers to look at, I was a little apprehensive.
Developed by Fiction Factory Games and published by PQube Ltd, this is a romantic visual novel. Now, you may think, romance…ugh, no thanks. To be fair, I thought that myself. But I ask you not to stop reading just yet. Unusually, this is a bit geeky, and it taps into some weird and wonderful stereotypes. Consequently, the characters are relatable; the story is interesting, and the audio is funky as hell.
Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is an excellent sequel.
I played and reviewed the original in March 2021, and I scored it 7 out of 10. However, sequels can be hit or miss, especially if the developers go off on a tangent. Luckily, Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is an excellent sequel and a fantastic read. With 9 romantic paths to take and multiple endings to experience, you never know what’ll happen. Furthermore, your decisions and interactions influence your character traits. Consequently, you must decide if you are passionate, calm, upbeat, and more. Whatever you decide, it influences how you’re perceived.
The year is 20XX, and the world is obsessed with arcade gaming. ESports dominate the headlines and subsequently, everyone wants to become a pro. However, this is easier said than done, and being talented isn’t enough to get you noticed. Instead, you must find more seedy ways to find success. Luckily, your rival provides you with a life-changing app and you never look back. “IRIS” is an advanced artificial intelligence program that also happens to be illegal. With its help, you find new friends, possible romance, and a chance to fulfil your dreams.
So many choices.
I’ve played many visual novel titles, but none have been like this. Normally, the protagonist and the subsequent parts are chosen for you. In Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers, you design your hero and their rival. What’s more, if you’ve played the original, you can reuse your character. This was fascinating, as it added extra layers to the plot. However, the differences are minor, so starting from scratch wasn’t an issue.
Once your hero is created, you experience a story full of interesting choices. Consequently, you feel like you are driving the story forward. This was phenomenal as normally the genre is a little voyeuristic. However, instead, your decisions influence relationships and the pace of the plot.
Is romance on the cards?
Though this is effectively a weird dating simulation title, you don’t have to be romantic at all. Instead, you can focus on friendship and the excellent retro gaming elements. Alongside this, you can enjoy a thoroughly fascinating story that takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions.
I couldn’t resist romancing my fellow gamers, and I enjoyed watching the group dynamic change. What was equally fascinating was how the characters reacted depending on your choices. This created a fascinating story that was deep, intricate, and constantly evolving. If you then combine this with the interesting ideas and multiple subplots, you experience a unique and captivating visual novel.
Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers catches your eye.
Now, I know visual novels are renowned for striking and risqué imagery. However, Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers takes it one step further. Thanks to its crisp lines, neon-infused backdrops, and excellent character models, it really catches your eye. Furthermore, it doesn’t dip into the realm of absurdity where romance is concerned. It would have been easy for the developers to over-sexualise their game. But, instead, they have relied on the dialogue to enhance this portion of the game.
Alongside the excellent visuals are some cracking tunes. The audio is catchy, varied, and wonderfully electronic. What’s more, there are snippets of acting that add to the drama. These brilliant soundbites are unusual for this genre, but I loved hearing them. The delivery of each part of the script was excellent, and it was never hammy or wooden. Fiction Factory Games got this portion just right, and I applaud them for their efforts.
Simple controls and plenty of reasons to return.
Even though there are masses of dialogue choices, it is still easy to play. Like its peers, you can skip the text, set it to auto, or read it at your leisure. Whatever your preference, it is simple and relaxing to play.
Thanks to its multiple endings and 9 romance options, there is plenty of replay value and longevity. If you want to experience every ending, you must invest hours of your time. I have yet to see every ending, and this disappoints me. Subsequently, I’ll return to it casually to see how the game evolves.
Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is a fantastic read.
I didn’t expect to love a romance novel. However, Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is a fantastic read. Because of its eclectic blend of characters, many plot twists, and retro gaming undertones, I fell for its charms. It is for these reasons that I recommend you to buy it here! Will you become a pro, or is your team destined to fail? Whatever happens, you must beat your rivals, make new friends, and possibly fall in love.