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Visual Novel / Arcade Spirits

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Welcome to the Funplex!

The year is 20XX, 20 Minutes into the Future, and arcades are mainstream. The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 never happened, and as a result, arcades never declined in popularity, remaining a permanent part of popular culture. That doesn't make running one any easier than running any other small business, though.

Enter the protagonist, a jaded twenty-something searching for work. When their best friend Juniper suggests they try a new semi-virtual reality app named IRIS to help them get a job, they are offered a chance to work at an arcade. Though skeptical at first, they decide to revisit that bastion of their fun-filled childhood and apply for the job as a floor manager. There, they meet all manner of quirky and attractive coworkers, plus a few serious regulars, each of whom is in love with arcades in one way or another, despite all being very different people. Through their work, the protagonist will re-learn what it means to find happiness in the world, and make a bunch of great friends along the way - and maybe even love.


Arcade Spirits is a Visual Novel by Stefan Gagne, creator of Sailor Nothing, and Aenne Schumann. The full version of the game was released on February 12, 2019. The website can be found here.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adorkable: Naomi can become obsessive over fixing and restoring arcade games, and doesn't do very well in crowds, but is still very friendly and helpful.
  • Affluent Ascetic: Percy doesn't really hide the fact that he's rich, but he has no interest in buying expensive things so he lives a modest life. He only got rich to pay for his sister's medical needs, but now that she's passed, he continues trading stock to provide himself financial stability while he chases the Mr Moopy high score, and he donates much of the extra to charity.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: If romanced Ashley will confess that she doesn't feel like she's 100% a girl or boy; she adopts a feminine presenting appearance throughout, and uses "she" and "her" pronouns.
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  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: During the final chapter, you're given options by all your friends on how to track down Sue in order to ask her to help you take down Deco Nami. Each choice leads to you playing as someone other than the protagonist you created in the beginning of the game. For example, choosing to go to the police to ask for help tracking down the Ghost Monsters leads to you playing as Gavin.
  • Asexuality: It's possible to play your character as aromantic by telling IRIS at the beginning that you're not interested in flirting at all. This will lock out romance, but still let you befriend and hang out with the characters.
  • Big Bad: Deco Nami, the owner of the massive entertainment complex Deco's Palace. He prioritizes ticket and redemption games that have really unfair prices, treats everyone and everything in terms of how they might make him money, outright destroys games he thinks aren't useful instead of letting less profit-oriented people enjoy them, and he hires a street gang to sabotage your second arcade's opening. It's this last misdeed that gets him arrested in the end, since it's a crime.
  • Big Name Fan: Used in-universe, Teo is the big fan of Spotlight Stage, as he organizes a lot of the big meet-ups and events.
  • Casual/Competitive Conflict: In-Universe, Queen Bee and Percy are both very much on the competitive side, the former being a streamer of a multiplayer fighting game and the latter being a retro game scorechaser, while Teo and Ashley represent the casual side, the former being more interested in the community around fun games than playing to win and Ashley mainly just into the cosplay. However, while the former two and latter two do get along quite well, there's never any sign of conflict between any of them based on their different approaches.
  • Challenge Gamer: Percy, who is trying to achieve the new world record for Moopy's Magic Maze.
  • Character Customisation: The protagonist can be given a name, pronouns (she/her, he/him, or they/them), a hair length (short, medium and curly, or long and straight), a skin colour, and a variously coloured hoodie. Unlike most examples, there are no different body types (the hoodie hiding whatever might be under there), and the character is actually directly shown quite a bit. It's also possible to customise the character's personality via the Identity Identifier System, which judges your character on a number of traits: Quirky, Kindly, Steady, Gutsy, and basically. This not only affects how the character interacts in general, when you get to especially meaningful scenes later on, you're only able to respond with the traits you've cultivated most throughout the game.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The red-haired woman yelling at a little boy on the protagonist's first day at the Funplex also turns out to be an "arcade critic" that will visit your second arcade later.
    • Likewise, the little girl crying over her stolen tickets on the protagonist's first day turns out to be the younger sibling of one of the Ghost Monsters, and will help you track down Sue if you have Percy and Juniper ask about her at Deco's Palace.
    • Sue, the purple-haired woman the protagonist first meets upon going to Deco's Palace for a business discussion, will end up causing trouble for the protagonist later, but she also turns out to be the key to finally taking down Deco Nami.
  • Childhood Friend: The protagonist's roommate Juniper is also the protagonist's best friend; they both grew up in the same town, and left to find happiness. Also, Juniper is a romance option, and can thus become an Unlucky Childhood Friend or a Victorious Childhood Friend, but it's not apparent right away since Iris doesn't keep track of Juniper's affection unlike the other cast members.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Ashley is the biggest of the main cast, inexplicably fond of the terrifying mass of pink that is the costume she wears for work, and prone to long leaps of the imagination.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Mandatory when Queen Bee is playing, though it's censored out.
  • Cool Old Lady: Francine, the owner of the arcade, and a video game fan from way back.
  • Cosplay Otaku Girl: Ashley, who is more interested in creating costumes and dressing up than the specific games themselves.
  • The Cynic: The protagonist starts as this, but comes to slowly see on the brighter side as they come to feel at home at the Funplex. Gavin also feels forced to be this to keep the Funplex in the black.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • The protagonist comes from a family that has a history of suddenly having happiness ripped away due to a supposed "family curse", so the family has learned to compromise, settle, and go with the flow. The arcade is the protagonist's chance to pursue happiness instead.
    • When discussing the protagonist's family and when convincing Sue to stop helping Deco, Juniper will reference her own bad home life and state that her parents weren't very loving.
    • Gavin comes from a family that brags about supposedly being self-made, but actually inherited their wealth from Gavin's grandfather, who actually was self-made. So Gavin left and chose to work in a struggling arcade, so he could turn its fortune around and become self-made himself.
    • Percy is pursuing the Moopy high score because his little sister Stella wanted that high score, but tragically died of a hereditary heart condition before she could obtain it. So Percy is pursuing that high score in Stella's memory.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: The protagonist at the beginning. Working at the arcade ends up becoming the passion they need in their life, though not without difficulty.
  • Dialogue Tree: The player regularly gets to choose how the protagonist will respond, which will affect Relationship Values and the character's personality.
  • Dirty Communists: Zombie Meltdown has you fight radioactive communist zombies and Uranium Enriched Stalin to save America.
Player Character: Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?
  • Doujin Soft: At the convention, you can meet an indie game producer working on a highly anticipated schoolgirl-themed game called 'Magical Moon Cuties'. If you go with Teo you'll also get to experience the indie room, where the protagonist will express amazement that there are so many amateurs making games.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Hamza, a relation of Saudi royalty, who spends all of his time keeping up with arcade games that will soon come up for sale and organising snap auctions. Gavin finds him very difficult to deal with because he can be quite unpredictable, accepting strange bids and refusing to explain his processes.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The protagonist is put through a lot of hardship along the way, and at a couple points all seems lost, but in the end, Deco Nami is finally arrested for his crimes and the protagonist finally gets a happy and bright future as the manager of a successful arcade, with their loved one (or best friend Juniper if you didn't romance anyone) by their side.
  • Everyone Is Bi: All love interests can be pursued by anyone, regardless of chosen pronouns. The dev made this choice deliberately, deciding to allow the characters and player to express themselves through their choices rather than interrogate whether they chose this character over that because they're gay versus bi or whatever else.
  • Expy: Some of the in-universe games seem clearly based on real-world versions, but interestingly averted with Spotlight Stage, which is compared to Dance Dance Revolution but distinguished from it.
  • Fandom: A major theme of the game, with every love interest representing a different side of arcade fandom, from Naomi who loves the physical machines themselves to Percy who loves score-chasing to Teo who just loves the associated community and having fun with friends.
  • Final Boss: The final confrontation with Sue, who is secretly Deco Nami's daughter. The goal is to convince her to turn against her father and reveal evidence of his crimes, which will get him arrested. How this confrontation plays out depends on your character's personality:
    • If your character is Gutsy, you have to challenge Sue to a one-on-one gaming match using whichever videogame Hamza gave you as a gift earlier in the game, either Phrase Invaders, Wyvern Keep, or Zombie Meltdown.
    • If your character is Kindly, you have to engage Sue in a verbal debate, with about 4 chances to persuade her that her interests are better served if she helps you than if she helps Deco.
    • If your character is Quirky, you have to engage in a pizza-bagel-eating contest with Sue's friend Clyde, and Sue raises the difficulty by having you eat badly-cooked bagels and bagels with hot sauce on them.
    • If your character is Steady, you have to play a variant of "tag" in a maze of arcade games, with the goal being to pick up all the plush dolls in the maze before the members of Sue's street gang tag you.
  • Fission Mailed:
    • No matter how you handle the conversation with Deco Nami, unfortunately circumstances beyond your control will cause Deco to gain ownership of Francine's Funplex regardless, seemingly snatching the protagonist's dream away. All seems lost, and you even get a "Game Over" screen—but if you keep playing, you then get a "Continue" screen, and then everyone from the arcade stages an intervention to pull the protagonist out of despair, and the story will still continue as the protagonist gets the idea to establish a new arcade.
    • Later on, no matter what you do, due to sabotage by a gang hired by Deco, the new arcade's opening will be trashed and the protagonist will be injured protecting either a co-worker, Sue, or the critic. Again all seems lost, as it seems the bad publicity will close the arcade—but surprisingly the critic, having seen the protagonist's courage, will hold off writing a review for a week, giving the protagonist a chance to turn the arcade's fortunes around after all.
  • Gamer Chick: Queen Bee is the clearest example, but overall this trope is essentially averted - because the great video game crash never happened, gaming is seen as a pretty universal hobby, so nobody blinks twice at a girl being interested in it.
  • Gender Flip: Wyvern Keep, one of three possible videogames that you can choose as your player character's favorite, is based off the real life "Dragon's Lair" videogame, but with a female adventurer whose goal is to save the prince.
  • Good Bad Translation: invoked 'Fist of Discomfort' was deliberately titled to come across as this, as though it had been translated badly out of Japanese and so sounded a little inappropriate.
  • Guide Dang It!: Juniper is the most difficult character to romance, because Iris does not keep track of Juniper's affection. Here is how to do it: first, when Juniper accidentally forgets to tell you about a job opportunity, choose to forgive her. Next, when Juniper is deciding whether she should pursue an independent designing career or whether she should stay in her current office job, tell her to pursue her independent dreams. Later, at the beach, hang out with Juniper and when she and Francine disagree about whether ghosts are real or not, choose to agree with Juniper that ghosts are indeed real. Finally, when you get another opportunity to hang out with Juniper and are given a choice of what gifts to give her, choose to give her a painting of the ocean. Juniper will later appear on the list of potential "dates" in the evening.
  • Heroic BSoD: Deco Nami will gain control of Francine's Funplex no matter what you do, sending the protagonist into a spiral of despair. Fortunately, the protagonist's friends stage an intervention to lift the protagonist's spirits, and the protagonist will snap out of it and come up with the idea to establish a new arcade.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Ashley is fun-loving and sometimes goes off on tangents due to her vivid imagination, but also struggles with depression and struggles with figuring out who she is.
    • Gavin prioritizes profits and pragmatism, but also wants to protect people's dreams, and he joined a struggling arcade instead of one that was already successful because he wanted to actually be a self-made man for real, unlike his family who brags about being self-made even though they inherited Gavin's grandfather's wealth.
    • Naomi is shy, but will become very talkative if speaking of her passion for retro games and arcade games in general. While she normally has trouble being around people, she isn't afraid to speak her mind and passionately defend and argue for what she believes in, and in the endgame, she is willing to interact with crowds of people online if it will help the protagonist.
    • Queen Bee is very self-confident and loves to compete, but on her route it's revealed that she's been dealing with sexism in the gaming community, and has had to work much harder to prove herself as a result, especially since her esports team, L7, is very strict about mistakes. She is also embarrassed at her real name, which is why she goes by the name Queen Bee. On her romance route, she gives the protagonist the choice of whether to call her by her real name or whether to continue using the name Queen Bee.
    • Percy has a relaxed personality, and spends a great deal of time trying to get a high score on Mr. Moopy's Magic Maze, or Moopy for short. This is because his sister Stella died before she could get that high score, and Percy himself has the same hereditary heart condition that took his sister's life. Percy's relaxed personality is because he's made peace with his upcoming death; he'll only seek a potential treatment/cure and fight to live if either the protagonist romances him, or romances someone else but Percy has a high enough friendship score to remain at the arcade in the epilogue.
    • Teo is friendly and flirty, but is also very community-involved and community-focused. He also sometimes works himself ragged, so the protagonist can recommend to Teo that Teo should take a little more "me time".
  • Local Hangout: Hole Story, the combination book and coffee shop next door from the Funplex.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The story leaves it ambiguous as to whether the protagonist is actually suffering a "family curse", or whether the protagonist's family coincidentally just had a lot of bad luck.
  • The McCoy: Naomi tends to think with her heart first, and often gets so caught up in building a perfect menagerie of game consoles that she loses track of real-world money constraints.
  • Murder Simulators: One of the new games you can get at auction was controversial for being so violent, and Gavin warns that it might not be as popular or profitable because of it.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: At several points you can choose to pursue a steady job instead of pursuing your dream. This will indeed mean that the protagonist will get a stable career, but it will also prematurely end the story, as the protagonist wistfully wonders if they're really happy doing what society wanted. If you're playing the Steam version, you will also get "The Good End" achievement.
  • Office Romance: If you romance Gavin, Naomi, or Ashley. In Gavin's case, his late game conflict revolves around worrying that the protagonist won't be able to treat him objectively because of their relationship, with good reason. You're also given a choice at the beginning whether you want to flirt with your coworkers immediately or just get to know them as friends before anything romantic comes up.
  • Pair the Spares: If Naomi and Gavin both have high enough affection scores not to leave the arcade in the epilogue, but the player character didn't romance either of them, then Naomi and Gavin will hook up in the epilogue, having finally worked out their differences for the most part.
  • Perky Goth: Juniper loves her blacks and purples, but is also very kind and caring.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: On the protagonist's second arcade's opening day, the protagonist will get into an unavoidable argument with their love interest (or with their roommate and best friend Juniper, if the player isn't romancing anyone), and won't be able to resolve it before they have to open the arcade. The argument only gets resolved when the protagonist gets injured later, prompting their love interest (or best friend Juniper) to visit the hospital and apologize.
  • Pursue the Dream Job: Working at an arcade can be this for the protagonist, considering how much they loved arcades as a kid. However, they admit when they apply that they're not actually sure this is their dream job, but they're willing to try and see.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Francine is very kind and understanding, and will hire the protagonist even if the protagonist answers they're unsure why they want to work in the arcade, because the protagonist's past lifeguard experience legitimately qualifies them for the stresses of the job. Later in the game when the protagonist is about to go to a meeting with corporate businessman Deco Nami, Francine will tell the protagonist that the protagonist is allowed to sell the arcade if they think it best, Francine will leave the decision in the protagonist's hands.
    • Also, while Gavin initially seems to be cold on first meeting, he actually turns out to be this—to give an early example, during the birthday party, when a little girl's tickets get stolen, Gavin is in favor of just ignoring it in order to avoid causing a scene. However, if you stand up to Gavin or tell him to have a heart, Gavin will back down and admit you're right, justice for the little girl is more important and the thief shouldn't get away with it. Gavin will then make the thief give the girl her tickets back.
  • Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: When the protagonist opens their second arcade, events spiral out of control partly due to sabotage by a street gang Deco Nami hired, and the protagonist gets injured and hospitalized. However, this also prompts their love interest (or best friend) to visit the hospital and apologize for an earlier argument, prompting the protagonist to apologize as well and salvage their relationship.
  • Relationship Values: IRIS tracks your closeness to the different dateable characters (save Juniper, whose values are hidden) and can be seen at any time in the top right hand corner. This actually exists in-universe as well, and when the protagonist comes to express their feelings for someone, they admit to feeling kind of weird about something so personal and subjective being reduced to numbers. However, IRIS explains that this really just tracks the choices you've made, attempting to discern the amount of affection you've shown for someone, and you're totally able to ignore it all and just choose who you feel like anyway.
  • Retro Gaming: Percy loves Mr Moopy's Magic Maze, and hates when older games are panned just for being old, but also appreciates newer games too.
  • Sequel Hook: The mystery of the haunted "Polybius" arcade game is never really solved, opening up the possibility for it to be solved in the sequel. Also, if you complete all the routes, you'll get a scene that in-universe advertises a sequel to Fist of Destruction, while out-of-universe also putting forth the possibility of a sequel to Arcade Spirits itself.
  • Shout-Out: The street gang Deco Nami hires to sabotage the second arcade's opening has names in common with Pac-Man's ghostly enemies—Blinky (red), Pinky (pink), Inky (blue), Clyde (orange), and Sue (purple). However, unlike the original game (where Blinky was the leader) and unlike the cartoon (where Clyde was the leader), Sue is the leader of this gang. This is further emphasized by their hideout, with their arcade machines and neon lights being arranged in the shape of the Pac-Man maze.
  • Shown Their Work: One of the minor characters is a professional Fist of Discomfort player called 'The Demon', who talks about how you cannot be results-oriented in your thinking when it comes to playing games professionally. At least one competitive gamer (albeit one for Magic: The Gathering rather than a video game) has called this "a healthy mindset to have."
  • Shrinking Violet: Naomi is a Downplayed Example - she prefers machines to humans, and is pretty introverted, but she is more socially clumsy than socially anxious.
  • Spirited Competitor: Queen Bee loves the fictional game Fist of Discomfort, and is always up for a challenge. Unfortunately, since streaming is her job, she gets anxious about playing against anyone too good, because fans don't like seeing their player lose, and doing too badly could put her in real-world money trouble.
  • The Spock: Gavin, who tries to keep everyone else in the Funplex grounded, but can become overly cynical if he loses sight of why he enjoys arcades in the first place. Naturally, he and Naomi fight. A lot.
  • The Stinger: After the credits, you get a different "stinger" depending on whether you've completed all the romance routes yet:
    • If you haven't completed all the romance routes yet, you get a scene of Deco Nami being interrogated by an agent about the haunted Polybius game you played earlier in the game.
    • If you have completed all the romance routes, you get a scene of an unknown character playing Fist of Destruction, and then seeing a teaser for a possible sequel, Fist of Destruction II, which will introduce team play. The unknown character wonders who to team up with...
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Odd in that Iris is an AI that doesn't need to eat, but she never stops singing the praises of pizza bagels. "When you've got pizza on a bagel..."
  • Trash of the Titans: The protagonist leaves their apartment very messy, and in most routes it just symbolizes the protagonist's listlessness and the "go with the flow" attitude the protagonist had before joining the arcade. But if you're doing the friendship route or Juniper romance route, it eventually causes an issue, as Juniper gets fed up because since she and the protagonist are roommates, whenever the protagonist leaves the apartment messy, Juniper has to clean up after them, which Juniper finds annoying.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Ashley dresses up as a butler for the convention MAX, and the protagonist is given the opportunity to dress as the corresponding maid character with her regardless of gender.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: Unfortunately, Francine's Funplex will always end up being sold to Deco Nami regardless of your choices. In order for the protagonist to earn a happy ending, the protagonist has to open a new arcade and then persuade Sue to turn on Deco and provide the media with evidence leading to Deco's arrest.

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