Combining the unlikely worlds of tech and jazz, Watercress and Somnova Studios’ new visual novel Arcadia has players overcoming the challenges of life in a throwback jazz club. The setting and music certainly tread new ground for the genre – can the story keep up?
In a world where the cars and even the trash bins use AR technology, the protagonist Roman looks to get away from it all at the throwback jazz club Arcady. Things are a stark contrast here compared to his software development role at ARTech, but this fresh start is something he desperately seeks. However, things quickly change when his former coworker Eris is hired as a performer. They both have a less-than-ideal history with one another, and always seem to be at each others’ throats.
The tale found in this visual novel is a fresh change of pace – unlike the overly cutesy scenarios and anime stylings that plague the genre, what is here is grounded and mature. As players progress, people will learn more about Roman, Eris, and the boss Parker’s history through their actions. No one character is without fault, and it is through these frustrations and heated moments that the characters truly shine. This is one title where even the rare bit of salty language adds to their personality, rather than comes across as crude.
Taking place around the course of an hour and a half, the story is neatly bound without overstaying its welcome. Though more content would have been appreciated, it still does what it sets out to do and leaves a lasting impression when the title is complete and all words are read.
The entirety of the title takes place within the halls of Arcady, and though there are limited backdrops and character portraits, the expressions used fit the characters quite well. Drawings are done with a fair amount of detail, with realistic proportions that still have a unique stylistic choice all their own. The music deserves credit as well – the jazz music is absolutely mesmerizing, and fits the game like a glove.
In true visual novel fashion, players will be reading for the majority of the title. The occasional choice can be made, but the choices are often clear cut. Though these options are welcome, these forks in the road somewhat feel like an afterthought, rather than something on the scale seen in titles like Telltale Games’ body of work.
Rounding things out is an incredibly polished presentation. Though the idea of clean menus and brief interludes comes across as trivial, the attention to detail that went into everything shows that the developers really care about the overall game.
Once all is said and done, a number of extras can be experienced in a standalone mode. Concept art, a jukebox, and a few other bonuses can be checked out, and provide some insight into the development and the world of the game.
Treading new ground in the visual novel genre, Arcadia’s fusion of technology and jazz provides an incredibly fresh experience that leaves a lasting impression.
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