The New Challengers Review – GameSpew

We like Arcade spirits when it released in 2019. Now, three years later, we have a sequel to love, too.

Well, we say “sequel”. Arcade Spirits: the new challengers may be a sequel to the original visual novel, but it’s not exactly a sequel. It features new characters, new locations, and an entirely separate story. Its themes are familiar and there are a handful of returning characters, but for the most part you can jump into The new challengers without having played Arcade spirits.

If you liked the first game as much as we did, however, you’ll probably be good to go here. The writing remains more engaging than ever, and its video game-centric story will likely draw you in. As before, the story revolves around a character you created, where you can decide their gender and appearance. Whoever you create is a young adult completely obsessed with an online fighting game: Fist of Destruction II.


The premise of Arcade Spirits: the new challengers, then, revolves around this (fictional, if in doubt) game. Your character doesn’t just want to play it for fun; they want it to be their job, their livelihood. Thus begins a quest to find a willing esports team and rise to the top.

The first familiar face you will meet The new challengers is your AI assistant, Iris. Just like the first time, she is the cog that sets all the narrative wheels in motion. It’s Iris who pushes you to find a Fist of Destruction II team, and she’s the one who guides many of your decisions.

Arcade Spirits: review of the new challengers

And, just as in Arcade spirits, Iris also tracks your relationships and choices throughout the game. For each main character, she will keep tabs on how your relationship is progressing. She will also monitor your main personality traits, shaped by the decisions you make.

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Because the choices you make in Arcade Spirits: the new challengers matter. This is not a linear tale; it can be shaped by your decisions. At a granular level, that means choosing who you want to be friends with — or even a romantic partner. All in all, this means choosing a sponsor for your team: are you selling entirely to the gods of commercialism in exchange for bigger sums of money, or are you choosing a smaller, healthier sponsor? Hell, you can even choose to win or lose Fist of Destruction matches.

Arcade Spirits: review of the new challengers

There are several endings to The new challengers, then, but in the end, it’s the journey that gets you there that’s most important. Even if things don’t turn out enough as you hoped, you will have a great time getting there. Honestly, we didn’t warm to the characters as quickly as we did with the original cast, but this wacky group of competitive gamers grew with us. Eventually, you’ll end up taking care of them all, which will make you think carefully about every decision you make. After all, you probably want to do your best not to hurt or upset anyone.

There are strands of sci-fi that run through Arcade Spirits: the new challengers. The urban legend of Polybius rears its head – like in the first game – offering a supernatural plot thread. And, of course, Iris’ superpowered AI is set entirely in the realm of science fiction. Despite this, the story feels incredibly grounded; the characters you meet face relatable issues and are written in such a neat and likable way that they easily feel believable.

The same scarecrow Arcade spirits persists in The new challengers, yet. It is partially voiced, with characters sometimes speaking full lines of dialogue. Spoken lines seem completely random and out of nowhere; it’s a little shocking when you’re used to reading and all of a sudden a voice explodes the dialogue. For the most part, dubbing is decent, but there is an obvious disparity in recording quality between some characters. There’s also the odd sound bite that doesn’t quite match the on-screen text. Ultimately, when it comes to voicing, we feel like all or nothing is better. The odd spoken line really doesn’t add much to the experience.

Overall, however, the good far outweighs the bad. Arcade Spirits: the new challengers does a great job of living up to its predecessor, delivering an almost equally engaging and lovable story and cast of characters. Whether or not you played the first game, this is an interesting visual novel for anyone who loves the arcade scene and wants to immerse themselves in a narrative enriched by gaming culture.

Arcade Spirits: the new challengers Review – GameSpew Score

This review of Arcade Spirits: the new challengers is based on the PS5 version of the game, via code provided by the publisher. It is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC.

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