Slowly but surely the Nintendo Switch has made me try a plethora of different genres in gaming that I never dreamed I’d ever play or even be interested in. I’ve played dating sim style games, and I’ve played narrative-focused visual novels, but nothing really quite like the mashup being offered in Arcade Spirits.
I was provided a free Arcade Spirits code on the NS for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.
Arcade Spirits is created by Factory Fiction Games and its got an adorable freshness to it that makes it such a memorable little gem with diverse lovable characters, witty banter, charming synth wave music, and the importance of following your dreams despite setbacks.
Arcade Spirits exists in an alternate timeline where the video game marketing crash of the ’80s never took place. The year is 20XX, and right off the bat you get to create your character, and while limited, it gets the job done.
The official description reads:
The description of the game reads:
Arcade Spirits is a romantic comedy visual novel that takes place in an alternate timeline. Set in the year 20XX, players start work at popular arcade, the Funplex, where they encounter a host of unique personalities. Offering a variety of customization options, players can design who they are and what kind of relationships they develop with each character they meet. Players are frequently confronted with decisions that will ultimately shape their character’s personality and their relationships with others, while guiding the storyline based on their choices.
Immediately, the smooth synth grabs you and gets you into the vibe this indie title is trying to make you feel. The music is fitting and serves as a nice backdrop to the title and your character. Speaking of your character, they have had a string of bad luck, living paycheck to paycheck, going from job to job, just trying to go with the flow. It’s something we all have experienced at some point or another.
Your longtime friend and roommate Juniper is the character you’re introduced to first. She does her best to try and get you on your path to find a new job. She recommends installing a success app Iris (get it? It’s Siri in reverse and basically on steroids). Iris is like a virtual genie in a bottle, assessing your personality, decision making, and emotions. As you make choices throughout this game she adjusts her analysis of you and determines how your playthrough will be as well as the outcome of your overall adventure while playing Arcade Spirits.
Besides that, Iris adjusts your goals and dreams. Iris determines that your best chance at starting on the road to happiness is getting you an interview at a little Arcade called Funplex. The establishment is run by a wise (retired) old woman named Francine. You meet your coworkers shortly after. There’s the uptight and business savvy Gavin, cosplay extraordinaire Ashley, and sweet, video game repairer and enthusiast Naomi. From there you meet some of the regulars including Percy (my favorite), B-boy Teo, and competitive gamer Queenbee.
This title allows you to make satisfying dialogue decisions. Do you feel like making a joke out of the situation to lighten the mood? Go for it. Feel like being rational and realistic? There’s an option for that, too. Wanna take a risk and make a gusty move? You can do that!
I found myself constantly changing how I addressed certain people or certain situations. This game supports you in any way you choose to be, which, to me, is a breath of fresh air. Many times I’ve found myself stressed at not quite finding a dialogue option I felt like I (or my fictional character) would go for or even worse, picking a dialogue option that sounded best only to find my character saying something completely different from what I had selected (I’m looking at you, Mass Effect).
Arcade Spirits does a great job of letting you know, “Hey, don’t be stressed out. Don’t be nervous about making characters angry or ‘ruining’ an encounter with a character.” I loved that kind of stress being taken away from me. I immediately felt myself relax and ready to enjoy all of the fun.
You should know that this game is also very queer and inclusive. Even the pronouns are customizable. During my playthrough, I found myself flirting with Gavin and Percy. Both of them reciprocated my feelings and were very open. It didn’t feel like I had to follow a formula of certain steps to get the romance options.
Everything flowed in a natural manner. From taking the plunge and asking Gavin out to dinner/lunch to connecting on an emotional level with Percy, certain moments gave me butterflies. The game never made me regret my decisions.
The story has you revisiting old memories and how easily the trauma of setbacks and less than perfect childhoods can have a lasting impact on a person. It can negatively affect their self-worth and their ability to dare to take risks. Constantly battling the inner saboteur that likes to constantly remind us that we aren’t good enough is a real thing for many of us.
I found myself cheering for my character when he found the strength to push those voices out and really be open to accepting his destiny and drive to aim for his dreams. One of my favorite moments was the advice given by a rather eccentric Gaming auctioneer named Hamza. He told my character, that in life, there are trade-offs. So, what are you prepared to sacrifice, what are you willing to trade, and what are you willing to never let go of?
Arcade Spirits is just so fresh. I found myself chuckling at some of the banter. The sarcasm was relatable and never felt forced or lost in translation. Everyone’s personalities and backgrounds are so different that they all felt memorable.
What more can I say about Arcade Spirits (official website)? It’s a lovely experience.
You can go ahead and get this title right now. Physical copies can be pre-ordered.
Author: Micah Carrillo
Micah is studying English and Digital Design. His love of geek culture spans across diverse mediums and genres. Comics, anime, films, you name it! He enjoys video games on the Nintendo Switch and Xbox.
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