Remember that teeny, tiny, little, HUGE video game crash that happened in 83, partially because of the E.T. game for the Atari 2600? Well I don’t because I wasn’t born at the time. But I do know a thing or two about it. At times I wonder what video games would look like these days if that hadn’t happen. Well that’s the world in which the story of Arcade Spirits takes place. In the not so distant year of 20XX, in the form of an indie visual novel.
You step in the shoes of, well, yourself. Or whoever else you decide to create. You get to customize your name, pronoun, skin tone, hair style, hair color, eye color and clothing color. This gives you the freedom to play as whoever you want. I personally like to create myself in these types of games because that way It’s easiest for me to figure out what my character would do.
The story starts off with you, out of a job, in your apartment that you rent out and your childhood bff Juniper. She supports you through your tough situation, despite the fact that you don’t seem to be bothered by it. Then she encourages you to try an app that she is using, that might help you find your dream job. It turns out that phones are a bit more advanced in 20XX and they allow 3D holograms to be displayed. You install the app and out pops the hologram of a young woman. Shen then explains that her name is IRIS and she can help you with most things you may need help with throughout your day. With her help you find your supposed dream job in the Funplex game arcade where you meet your new coworkers, friends and potential love interests.
It is a visual novel so the gameplay is not “action packed” and does not require lightning fast reflexes, but it does influence the story and the outcome in a meaningful way. IRIS tracks your stats, which are Quirky, Steady, and Kindly, to Gutsy and Basically. These stats form your character, in a way and are gained based on decisions you make when interacting with people. In general a balance of all stats is the best choice in my opinion, because always being quirky may be fun for some people but may annoy the hell out of others.
At the Funplex arcade you meet a colorful array of characters with which to build relationships. Francine, the kind and slightly weird owner of the arcade. Gavin, a sharp dressed and sharper minded man who enjoys crunching numbers and helps keep the arcades finances afloat. Naomi (my favorite), cute girl responsible for all the arcade cabinets working, who is shy around crowds but happy to tinker alone. Teo, center of the Spotlight Stage universe. He organizes the game’s community but prefers avoiding the spotlight where possible. QueenBee, the slightly sassy champion of Fist of Discomfort, who is shooting for the top of the eSports community. Percy, the retro game aficionado who is quietly reaching for the world record of an old game. But there may be more to why he is trying to get the world record than meets the eye. And Ashley, the always sunny aspiring cosplayer who at work takes the shape of Pinky the Funplex Flamingo. This forms the main cast of characters in the game. Plus you and Juniper of course.
Made with love
It’s easy to tell that this romantic visual novel was made by passionate people who love the project and want it to the best it can be. The art is pretty and easy on the eyes. Little details like the quirky facial expressions and all the penguins littered through the game make a big difference. The music in all scenes fits perfectly and even the little sound effects are done very well. Things like the voice acting shows that they wanted to go the extra mile. They could have just let it be all text but they knew that this would give their characters that extra bit of life. It is done professionally and all voices fit the characters nicely. The game is full of pop culture references and noticing them was a joy.
In general I’m not a big fan of visual novels and romance games. Maybe the hundreds of hours in the Dark Souls series beat it out of me and took my innocence. But I have to admit that Arcade Spirits was a blast. Any fan of romantic visual novels or arcade games will surely enjoy playing it for hours. It’s quirky nature and interesting, fleshed out characters will not get old easily. In just a few days you will be able to buy Arcade Spirits on Steam. Until then you can try out the free demo they have there and on itch.io. Also check out their website over there ———————–> HERE.