Have you ever missed the old days where you were at the arcades playing games, chilling with friends and making more friends a long the way? I bet that you have always thought of going back to the good ol’ times but you couldn’t. Then I have the perfect solution for you, Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers, a visual novel of love and pixels, in which you seek friendship and romance while working in an arcade. Now the tables are turned, as you seek friendship and romance while PLAYING in an arcade!
In the distant future year 20XX, an alternate timeline where arcades never went away but instead they remain as a constant and popular presence within the gaming community, shaping the technological and cultural scenes in the technological and cultural scenes in ways both familiar and nostalgic in scope.
In this alternate timeline, you’re an aspiring gamer searching for esports glory on the Fist of Discomfort 2 Pro Tour with the assistance of a personal virtual assistant program called Iris to help get you on the right track. Seeking a partner to play with, you join a team of players who hang out at Good Clean Fun, a combination pizzeria / laundromat / arcade. It’s up to you to rally the team, learning more about who they are and how best to support their dreams along the way. Defeat rivals, conquer tournaments, build relationships, and uncover a strange arcade conspiracy as your team walks the road to victory!
Instead of having a presetted protagonist, Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is a highly interactive and choice-heavy visual novel that gives you plenty of freedom in how you want to approach its storyline; instead gives the players free range on creating their own protagonist with their new massively expanded character creator, which is really user-friendly and has a cool vaporwave vibe to it! Options for customizations range from name, body type, hairstyles, accessories, clothing to pronouns which is really nice to see especially during the recent years, people are trying to be accepted for the way they are so it’s great to see that the developers try to include everyone in. Not only you are able to create your own protagonist, but you can also create your arch nemeis who will stand in your way. Or will perhaps love bloom between these two enemies…?
How does Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers differentiate itself from others of its genre? Well, it’s not that different and it doesn’t offer anything new that has not already seen in other visual novels.
Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is ,in essence, actually quite the same like other visual novels such as: Doki Doki Literature Club!, the NEKOPARA series. Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers plays like all other visual novels that’s being progressed by listening to dialogues between individuals then pick whatever responses given you think is the most appropriate. With the addition of a personality system which measures the players’ personality using Iris, your handy virtual assistant. You can be Kindly, Steady, Quirky, Gutsy, or Flexibly!
While the story of Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers isn’t something that’s new, revolutionary, groundbreaking or award-winning, it instead follows a common archetype of a rag-to-riches or zero-to-hero story which is fine thanks to the great writing of dialogues that make you more engaged in the story and the choices that make sense and are accurate to their presentation, but not so predictable that the engagements feel solved before choosing. Personally, I truly feel like my way of thinking is expressed through the narrative and dialogue options provided.
Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers really has a lot of things going for it, such as: aesthetic, art desgins, sound, writing and etc. But damn, I gotta give credits to the artists of the game. They really have outdid themselves with the fantastic looks, feels of the game. The incorporation of the old 80s/90s vibe (Vaporwave) with the aesthetics of the future is just *chef’s kiss*. The world, UI, and sound bytes of this visual novel harken to the heyday of a bygone era in our world: with bright, neon colors and an aesthetic reminiscent of the eighties and nineties. Every single scene and level is a treat to look at and gives a great immersion into the future where arcades triumph over mostly everything. A great art style usually isn’t enough to elevate a game alone, and that’s where soundtrack comes into. Again, the developers at Fiction Factory Games really outdid themselves with the sound design of Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers. The sound effects and background music are also very appropriate and fitting for the game and its atmosphere, a banger of a synthwave soundtrack starting at the menu that is kind of a dreamy nostalgia that doesn’t necessarily reflect the era’s realities.
Suprisingly enough, there are any major faults that Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers did. I consider myself to be quite an avid visual novel gamer thanks to a massive amount of hours spent in the NEKOPARA series to the point that I was called a “Visual Novel Connoisseur” and usually nitpick over every single details. The only nitpick that I kept experiencing throughout the game is I don’t know if it’s a preference for each person or what, but I find that the storyline of a female protagonist is more likeable and enjoyable more than the male’s.
Overall, I love Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers for how choice-heavy it is, the amount of replayability provided. It’s an unique and entertaining experience for fans of visual novel, with a colorful and diverse cast you can’t help but fall in love with. Going through it was more than a pleasure!
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on PC