Arcade Spirits is a charming visual novel set in the near future about arcades, romance, friendships, happiness, and finding your dream. Figure out how to save the arcade you’ve started working at, get to know your coworkers and arcade regulars, and maybe even find love.
Arcade Spirits, a romantic visual novel, follows an alternate timeline set in the year 20XX where the 1983 video game crash never occurred. After a turbulent work history, you are granted employment at the Funplex, a popular arcade, home to a host of unique personalities and customers. Where will this new-found employment take you? Who will you meet along the way? Will you find the romance you’re seeking?
You can get more info and buy this visual novel here!
I feel I should be honest and say I got this as part of the Racial Justice Bundle on itch.io, so I didn’t pay full price for it. Also, I have to admit this was a lot less sci-fi than I thought it was going to be. I thought the titular spirits were going to be the spirits of arcade games come to life, or something like that. Turns out it’s actually a story set in a slightly altered near future (that feels like current times) about the people who work and play in an arcade.
All that being said, I thought this was a charming and heartwarming game! I didn’t love everything about it, but I enjoyed it enough to play through all the endings, and it did often put a smile on my face.
It took me about 13.5 hours to get through my first playthrough and probably somewhere between 20 and 30 hours total to play through all the routes. Though it might take other people a little less time because I was mostly using TTS.
Now, onto my likes and dislikes! (I’m sorry this ended up so long, but the first sentence of each bullet point should give you the gist!)
– There are some customization options for the player character. They used an androgynous face and body that can’t be changed, but you can change hair length and color, eye color, and skin color.
– The game is LGBTQ+ inclusive. You can choose he/she/they pronouns for the player, and you can romance men, women, and one possible nonbinary character. There’s also an option to not romance anyone, focusing on friendships instead.
– The characters are diverse, including POC characters (Black, Japanese, more I’m not sure of), one character who is confused about gender and possibly genderfluid or enby, and one character who has a terminal illness. I especially loved that they included a character who was actually questioning their gender and said they might never figure it out or find the perfect label, because you rarely see any sort of confusion or questioning represented in media like that.
– There’s good replay value. Not only are there seven character to romance, there’s a personality system, and whichever trait you’re most dominant in gives you a slightly different route near the end.
– The art is pretty and bright. And each ending has a cute custom artwork (though no gallery to go back and see them later, at the time of this review).
– There are lots of save slots (though no ability to save on decision screens, at the time of this review).
– It’s a very stress-free game. You can fail the ending, and I assume you can fail at asking someone on a date, but it’s easy to succeed. Plus, all those save slots.
– Characters actually get consent before hugging, and I honestly loved that.
– The story is nice, and the characters are all sweethearts once you get to know them.
Dislikes (because as much as I hate to say anything negative about such a sweet game, I want to be honest):
– For a dating sim, the romance felt very rushed, like I barely knew the character and then suddenly we were professing our love to each other. (It felt this way for every character, except maybe two). Each romance storyline also had one point where some sort of relationship issue would come up, and it almost always felt forced and/or out-of-character, either for the player character, the love interest, or both.
– I was uncomfortable with the storyline about *SPOILER* convincing a teenager to betray her father in order to save our arcade. Yes, he was a shitty father and a shitty person, but that just means he was all the more likely to take out his anger on his daughter, and we had no way of knowing how the situation might turn out, no way of knowing how he might treat her, and no way of keeping her safe in the aftermath of our confrontation. *END SPOILER* I know it’s just a game, so I wouldn’t say this is a reason not to buy it, but I felt compelled to mention it regardless. It was a really weird turn for the story to make, in my opinion, especially after everything else about it was so aware and full of good messages about supporting your friends, mental health care, social issues, etc.
– There were some typos and random verb tense changes. Not enough to truly bother me, but mentioning it in case it bothers others.
– Not necessarily a dislike, but a warning: There is some heavy stuff. Depression, character death, terminal illness. *SPOILER* The character death is the elderly woman who owns the arcade, not one of the romance options. The terminally ill character, depending on your relationship with him, either goes back to his home in England or does a treatment that extends his life, leading to a happy ending. *END SPOILER*
This was cute! I had some issues with the writing and the story, but I still had fun playing this.
*This game is fully accessible for blind and visually impaired players (I checked on PC, I don’t know about Mac). Just press V once the game window has opened. Text will be read aloud, and you can navigate using the keyboard, including the menu. There are also sound effects and descriptions of important visuals when using this mode. Note that you cannot customize your character if this mode is turned on, but you can turn it off before you get to character creation and then turn it back on after.*
– Diversity among romance options
– LGBTQ+ inclusive, including a no romance route
– Pretty, bright art
– Stress-free kinda game
– Sweet characters
– Rushed romance
– Some heavy stuff
– Fully accessible for blind players
– Overall cute and heartwarming!
(May not include everything)
– Fully accessible for blind / visually impaired players and screen reader users with Ren’Py self-voicing mode (press V to toggle), including menus and stats. There are also sound effects for the personality system and descriptions of important visuals when using self-voicing mode. Note that you cannot customize your character if self-voicing is turned on, but you can turn it off before character creation and then turn it back on after.