The world of Arcade Spirits asks interesting what-if questions. What if the video game crash of the 1980’s never occurred? What if arcades and game cabinets never went out of style? What would that world look like?
Arcade Spirits PS4 Review
Put Your Quarter Up
Arcade Spirits is a visual novel that takes you on a journey of self-discovery set in 20XX. A timeline in which the video game crash of 1983 never occurred and arcades never lost popularity. The game leans heavily on 80’s nostalgia, there is neon aplenty and the graphical design gives it a retro feel. The game is filled with references and callbacks to both modern and classic video game culture. Many of these are subtle but rewarding when you catch them.
While Arcade Spirits is not fully voiced the cast does an excellent job of bringing their characters to life. Each of them do an excellent job of embodying their characters traits. The music of the game also adds to the ambiance and immersion. It is upbeat and full of pop-tunes reminiscent of the 80’s. You really feel like you are standing in an arcade, surrounded by the beeps and boops of games. The tones and chimes that occur during dialogue provide a way to break out from intensely reading the dialogue.
Arcade Spirits also handles tone well, though there are some plot twists that give the game a great deal of emotional depth. You feel the impact that your decisions have on the world around you. For example one of the characters is dealing with a terminal medical issue and is trying to achieve a milestone before their appointment with the reaper. By interacting with the character more you can learn more about the circumstances regarding the issue and provide encouragement and hope for the character. This is not the only issue that plagues the characters in Arcade Spirits. None of them are sugarcoated and each is handled with what I feel is the appropriate gravitas.
Being a visual novel, Arcade Spirits presents you with different dialogue options that are defined by certain categories. These categories are Quirky, Steady, Kindly, Gutsy, and Passive. As you select more and more responses in a certain category, your level in that category increases. You can check to see how high your level in each category is at any time and it is also displayed at the end of each level. How high you are in these categories determines your characters personality, which is important as there are are some situations where you will only be able to respond based on your highest categories.
Characters that share personality traits with what you have chosen will also react better towards you. Your personality also affects your chances of romancing the different characters. Arcade Spirits also encourages repeated play and contains different endings that can be unlocked over multiple playthroughs. The storyline is linear, but that is a plus in this case as there is no real fail state until the final confrontation.
I was impressed with the care and concern that went into telling this story. While there will always be a final confrontation, unless you choose one of the alternate endings, the way that confrontation is executed is made different by the choices you have made throughout the game. The art direction is incredible with little re-use of assets beyond backgrounds and the like. The primary characters that you interact with are fleshed out not only by excellent writing but also superb vocal work including the villain of this tale.
Arcade Spirits is available on the PlayStation Store.
Review code kindly supplied by the publisher.