Title: Archetype Arcadia
Developer: Water Phoenix
Release Date: October 23, 2023
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Visual Novel
Exploring the Isekai Genre: A Review of Archetype Arcadia
The fantasy isekai genre doesn’t require an introduction, especially given that we’re at a point where people are reborn as vending machines. Anyway, the genre is extensive and encompasses some of my favorite high-fantasy narratives. Many of these titles originate as light novels, making them seemingly suitable for translation into the visual novel genre. However, it’s not always the case, but developer Water Phoenix takes a valiant shot with their visual novel Archetype Arcadia. While it delves into some profound themes, its length and reliance on flimsy plot devices detract from the experience.
Archetype Arcadia: A Post-Apocalyptic Adventure
Archetype Arcadia kicks off at the twilight of humanity. Two siblings, Rust and Kristen, embark on a quest to find any surviving individuals after a pandemic called Peccatomania decimated humanity. Through flashbacks and brief conversations, we learn about life before the disease and humanity’s struggle against it. Remarkably, to slow down the disease, infected individuals must immerse themselves in a VR game known as Archetype Arcadia. Each day, they must enter the game, though full recovery is a distant hope.
Kristen happens to be infected, while Rust is not. Consequently, she journeys daily into Archetype Arcadia, a place inaccessible to Rust due to his uninfected status. One day, Rust discovers Kristen unconscious and decides to defy the rules by entering the fantasy realm to aid her. Despite initial warnings, he wakes up in this otherworldly place, easily locating his sister. However, as knowledge of a potential cure reaches him, he chooses to stay in Archetype Arcadia in search of it.
Character Development and Pacing in Archetype Arcadia
The in-game Archetype Arcadia bestows Rust with certain abilities, a welcome advantage as he is attacked early on. In this world, users have special battle-ready monsters known as Avatars. The game’s concepts and their usage are adeptly explained at the outset, leaving no surprises during gameplay. While the core premise of the world and Rust’s mission appears straightforward, the narrative takes numerous detours, impacting the pacing.
With charming art and useful features, it’s a journey worth undertaking for fans of the genre; just be prepared to navigate some lengthy scenarios and awkward pacing.
To begin with, the cast is overly extensive for this type of story. The notion that more is better often holds true, but not in this case, particularly given the game’s lengthy 46-hour runtime. An abundance of subplots, while enriching the world, distracts from the more compelling aspects of the story. Many of these plotlines could have been explored in half the time with fewer characters.
Navigating the World of Archetype Arcadia: Player Choices and Features
Regarding Rust as the protagonist, I found him intriguing. It’s uncommon to encounter a voiced main character in a visual novel, so I expected Rust to be a distinct character rather than following the Player Self-Insert approach. However, his actions didn’t truly captivate me until later in the game. Additionally, there are moments when you witness events from different perspectives, a valuable feature that helps fill in the gaps of certain plot points. Yet, even these moments can drag on excessively.
It appears that Archetype Arcadia anticipates players skipping through a significant portion of the text. This is evident in the character interactions, featuring lengthy, overly explanatory scenarios that often reiterate plot points. Nevertheless, if you persist until the end, these lingering plot threads do come together for a fairly epic conclusion.
Art and Design: A Closer Look at Archetype Arcadia’s Visuals
The art style and illustrations aren’t what I’m accustomed to, but I eventually grew fond of the character designs. They are remarkably expressive, although the animations can be somewhat off-putting. Chibi characters frequently dominate the screen, jostling about, which can be distracting. Nonetheless, it does provide some entertainment as characters repeatedly emphasize their personality traits.
Throughout the game, players make choices that impact various aspects of the story. The game offers some useful features, such as an autosave option for revisiting choices, and I particularly appreciated the touchscreen controls in the Switch version.
Archetype Arcadia takes a courageous leap into the intricate world of isekai fantasy, offering a unique look at a post-apocalyptic world.
Archetype Arcadia takes a courageous leap into the intricate world of isekai fantasy, offering a unique look at a post-apocalyptic world. While the game’s substantial runtime and large cast tend to dilute the experience, patient players will find a rewarding narrative that eventually weaves together its many plot threads into an epic conclusion. With charming art and useful features, it’s a journey worth undertaking for fans of the genre; just be prepared to navigate some lengthy scenarios and awkward pacing.
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