Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers set to offer the queer gaming future of our dreams
Arcade Spirits is in love with video games. And you might just find love through the game too.
The 2019 romantic visual novel is receiving a sequel, The New Challengers, that’s set to continue the first game’s fondness for gaming puns and a very welcome dose of inclusive romance.
A demo is now available for the sequel, with the full game arriving next year, so you can experience its future nostalgia for yourself.
It’s the year 20XX and arcades are the centre of gaming culture. It’s where the hottest games are, it’s where the top esports teams play, and it’s where people find friendship and romance.
Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers is heavy on 80s nostalgia, from its neon-soaked visuals to its awesome synthwave soundtrack from composer Greg Mirles. And while its fictional arcade minigames are decidedly retro, the distant future of 20XX provides a fun imagined setting.
You’ll play as a gamer who joins the arcade team Good Clean Fun (their arcade triples as a pizzeria and laundromat, its name the first of many puns in the game) and rallies their teammates to esports victory, defeating rivals and forming relationships along the way.
As a visual novel, it plays out on gorgeously detailed backdrops and your dialogue decisions help to shape your own character and the bonds they form. Will you be a gutsy leader? Or a kind and agreeable diplomat?
With its cartoon aesthetic and fun, relatable characters, the game has a Saturday morning cartoon vibe. But beneath that is a more serious message about acceptance and love.
That begins with the character creator. With your character now visible on-screen throughout the sequel (unlike the first game), developer Fiction Factory Games has vastly expanded their character creator. Body types, hairstyles, clothing choices and more can all be chosen without gender binary and there’s a full array of pronouns to choose from. The same goes for your rival, who’s also custom designed and will play a big part in the story.
The members of Good Clean Fun are also a diverse bunch of gamers, varied in gender, sexuality, race, body type and ability. One member can only play racing games with their hands, a disability that’s sensitively depicted. And you can date anyone you like, regardless of pronouns – or just focus on friendship.
Sure, this leads to a central message of the importance of teamwork and celebrating difference that’s perhaps a little overwrought in the short demo. But the game is so far so vibrant and bubbly that a little cliché can be forgiven.
Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers offers a future of acceptance and diversity that celebrates the friendly communities and rivalries of gaming culture. It’s a future we can’t wait to see more of.