Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers’ subtle ambition

It’s no secret that we love visual novels here at Rice Digital. We’re one of the most vocal champions of the genre out there, so we’re always eager to see a new title released into the world. A game like Arcade Spirits, which had a unique aesthetic and, more importantly, a beautifully detailed world was always crying out for a sequel. Fortunately, Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers, is exactly the kind of sequel that the original game deserved.

Lilia did a great job of talking about the game upon its release but, like every other geek, I’ve got opinions and I love sharing them. While the original was a masterclass in visual novel production, here we can see that nearly every aspect of the game has been tightened and improved.

Levelling up with Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers

Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers

Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers has some interesting tricks up its sleeve that might not be immediately obvious to players as they go through the game. Player choice is absolutely paramount to the experience here; everything from deciding how you spend your time at the Good Clean Fun arcade/pizzeria/laundromat to who you decide to speak to first is up to you.

Small changes to dialogue pop up depending on which order you approach the main crew in the opening chapter, which certainly wasn’t necessary but reminds the player that they have more freedom than usual here and, with it, more responsibility.

As I played, I was reminded of some of the more fun aspects of my all-time favourite game, Chrono Trigger, which reminded players early on of the impact even small decisions could have on the game’s world. That same philosophy is implemented here to good effect, making each choice, both big and small, feel relevant and important.

The first game was funny, with a delightful cast of characters that brought the unique world to life, but I would argue that the humour in Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is a bit tighter and better implemented. Subjects like disabilities, which are difficult to broach in fiction, are handled with both care and humour in a way that honestly caught me by surprise.

Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers Jynx encounter

The character Jynx, whose medical condition requires her to use a cane and makes standing for long periods difficult, is one of the first core characters the player meets. As her disability is revealed, the player character immediately puts their foot in their mouth with how they broach the subject. It is awkward and slightly uncomfortable for both the player and the character but also a realistic way to represent that kind of interaction.

There is also the inclusion of save data from the first Arcade Spirits game that is done in a unique and subtle way. If you elect to import your previous save data into Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers, it has an impact on not only how the world is set up for you to explore but also how previous characters are introduced and even the amount of backstory that is given on the world around you.

Normally, when save data is imported to a sequel, it is easily on display in the form of a previous character showing up, waving and smiling for the camera before being whisked off by plot devices. Here, it is present but intended to influence how much backstory the player receives. The world’s history, for example, is more quickly brushed over if you import your save data while returning characters in a fresh game will show up in a different context and with more information about why we should care about them.

Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is a very good game and an excellent stand-alone sequel to the original. It features a solid cast of characters and plenty of pizza bagel-related facts mixed in, but the thing that I found most exciting was the way the writing had evolved since the first one. This is an ambitious game, with a narrative design that takes risks at almost every corner. Once again, I find myself excited by both the world and the story on offer from the developers at Fiction Factory Games.

Want to get stuck into your own arcade nostalgia-fuelled adventure? Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is available for purchase right now.

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