Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers was developed by Fiction Factory Games and published by PQube. On behalf of the Handheld Review panel, I thank them sincerely for the review code. This game is a visual novel, and is a sequel to Arcade Spirits. You can buy both games on the Nintendo eShop.
The year is 20XX and in this alternate universe the video game crash never happened in the 80s. In fact Arcades are still very popular. So much so that professional eSports team play these games competitively. That is how we get introduced to Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers. It turns out that the professional teams that play a game called Fists of Discomfort 2 is looking to recruit some amateur players to their ranks. You find out that your friend Hunter has been recruited to a professional team, and did so by using an illegal app called IRIS. That is how you get started in this game.
This game is in many ways a lot like every other visual novel. One of the things that stood out to me as soon as I got to the character creation screen was that you can create yourself however you would like. You can choose to have any combination of male or female anatomy, and more over you get to choose your pronouns. As a cis-gendered male, I opted to create my character accordingly.
The game will have you make decisions that will score you points if you make decisions that complement the characters you are interacting with. You will also be given options with labels like a star, a scale, a heart, or a smiley face. These represent different character traits such as gutsiness, kindliness, steadiness, or quirkiness. The balance you develop will come in to play when you play the minigames. Also they will help determine which characters you get along with better.
This game is primarily about choosing how you handle different situations. I can’t say there is one right way of handling any of the situations, just what I felt was the best. The game lets you be as moral or immoral as you choose.
An interesting Gameplay Element that the devs obviously put a lot of thought into was the Fists of Discomfort mini-game. Initially when this first game up, I didn’t pay much attention to all of the details, and as a result was totally confused when I started to play the mini-game. I ended up going back to a previous save and paying closer attention to the details.
Whether or not you choose to have to play through the mini-game is up to you, but I definitely recommend choosing to have to play it every time. Feels like you have more immersion into the story.
The graphics are very sharp and detailed. Obviously, the graphics are going to be relatively simple given it is a visual novel. However each character has a lot of their own detail. As stated before your character has lots of customizable features. The NPCs have just as much details, and really stand out. The game in general has a great 80’s look to it.
The sound in the game is fine, but doesn’t stand out all that much. The voice acting on the other hand is actually very good. I have found myself getting really invested in each of the characters, and that is due in part to the voice acting.
The story in Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is very well told. I think it is because they made the main character very relatable. I understand that is due in part to the choices I have made early in the game. But every step of the way through this game, I have found each of the tasks to be engaging, and bringing on a feeling of engagement. The choices you have to make are well balanced and feel meaningful. For each decision that I make I feel obligated to consider the feelings and possible reaction of the npcs on my team. If that isn’t a sign of an engaging story then I don’t know what is.
The one pain point in the game is the controls. There is just something off about the controls. They are not terrible, but just seem a little loose. While in a conversation you don’t really notice it, but when you are in the menu where you save and can review the history of conversation, it is a little awkward to navigate around. It is an unnecessary roadblock to an otherwise phenomenal game.
Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers was released on May 27, 2022, and is 19.99 on the Nintendo eShop. I think that this game is worth every bit of this price. I have found the game to be engaging, heartwarming, and generally just brilliant. Is it for you? I guess that depends whether you have played visual novel games in the past. There will be minimal action in the game, and it is basically an interactive choose your own adventure novel. For the price you should at least give it a try and then, who knows, maybe your eyes will be opened to the wonderful world of visual novels!
Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is a refreshing visual novel for the Nintendo Switch. It is refreshing because of all of the customizing you can do to your character to really make them yours. Its story is well told, and will engage you. The game runs very well on the Nintendo Switch despite some awkward controls in the menus. I have enjoyed this game so much that once I am finished with this game, I am going to pick up the prior entry Arcade Spirits.