For many gaming is something of an escape, but that doesn’t mean there needs to be a total disconnect from reality. Some of the most powerful experiences are not those outlandish stories where you save the universe, but rather, grounded in reality where you overcome a vast but realistic obstacle. In a lot of ways, this is how Arcade Spirits presents itself. With a relatable story that combines the magic of arcades with the mystery of love, is it a winning combo or something better in concept?
Arcade Spirits starts by giving you a chance to make your own character. While the options are rather limited, there is enough to give you some level of personality and, if nothing else, find the pronoun that best suits you, before stepping into a rather brief introduction.
After you’re introduced to the marvels of 20XX, your story begins with a rather relatable struggle. After being fired from a job you hated, your roommate and best friend urge you to ultimately peruse your dream job but like a lot of people, that is something of a mystery. With no direction, your friend suggests an app that contains a virtual assistant that will help you achieve whatever you’re looking for and determines your dream job is working in an arcade.
Where Arcade Spirits start to stand out is a strong focus on being yourself. Sure, you’ll eventually need to change if you want to see every possible outcome, but most of the decisions are in line with achieving whatever outcome you’d like. And, a lot of times, the questions exist to just gauge your personality. Sometimes you might want to be snarky, other times passive but they all shape the person you want.
There is also a lot of humor, which reminded me a lot of Life is Strange. The jokes are less structured to be funny, as much as sarcastic comments or seriously surprising statements. Not a whole lot of the adventure is on the surface and really hinges on how much you want to explore the narrative.
At first, a lot of the characters are overly direct and their motives are rather overt. This is to give you a rather basic understanding of what they’re all about. As your relationships progress and things continue, you’ll either get to know them or have a better understanding of what is going on. That being said, Arcade Spirits struggles to get past the most basic hurdle, being more than the gimmick.
While the setting offers plenty of jokes and attempts to be silly, without really being out of place, Arcade Spirits probably won’t speak to people that don’t care for this genre. It’s very much so an adventure about personal discovery and interacting and forming bonds that, despite taking place in an arcade, is more of a springboard to the usual tropes. This isn’t to dismiss what Arcade Spirits is trying to do, as much as highlight the situation.
This also leads to a rather bland world. Some of the scenes are just hilariously poorly done, with other ones having a generic background as someone monologues. In a lot of ways it’s typical of the genre, yet doesn’t make as many steps forward as you might expect to stand out, it just requires a fair investment to get there.
Arcade Spirits Verdict
In the end, Arcade Spirits isn’t a bad game, it’s just a rather quirky and romance filled visual novel. Even though it can’t transcend genres in the way Steins;Gate and a few others do, the strong focus on following your heart gives players something to enjoy. Toss in some silly references and genuinely interesting characters and it’s honestly interesting if you can put in the time to see more than just the surface.
[Editor’s Note: Arcade Spirits was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]