[Review] Arcana Heart 3 – You Just Got Beat by a Girl
Available on: PS3; Publisher: Aksys Games; Developer: Examu; Players: 1 – 2; Released: April 19, 2011; ESRB: Teen; Official Website
Fighting games take all forms and certainly have given us some of the most memorable casts in history. You’d be hard pressed to find a gamer who doesn’t recognize Ryu’s waving headband or Guile’s gravity-defying hair. Arcana Heart 3‘s roster is memorable for a different reason; it’s devoid of any males. However, this is no one-trick pony. Arcana Heart 3‘s systems are complex enough that fighting game aficionados will have to take notice.
This is a chain-combo intensive game, meaning that players can just dial-a-combo by pressing buttons in quick succession. Although the basic premise is simple, any damaging combos that are worth damage will take a good deal of practice. Sadly, the game doesn’t include any challenge or mission mode like Marvel vs Capcom 3 or BlazBlue that will give players a good starting point. It’s a return to the old days where either experimentation or forum-searching for combos.
Once players get the hang of the combo system, the game becomes very fast paced and fun. Combined with the flying mechanic, combos can easily extend past their usual limits in other fighting games and will be accompanied by frantic button presses. Although most of the game’s mechanics aren’t unique, short of the flight ability, they all mesh together so well that it’s hard to nitpick on such a moot point.
Arcana Heart 3‘s signature feature is the use of Arcana, selectable spirits or deities who supplement a character with attacks and special properties. With 23 Arcana to choose from, the selection seems a bit overwhelming at first, but the potential for creativity is well worth the initial confusion. The Arcana provide a new dimension to characters, giving projectiles to otherwise melee-only characters or providing unique attacks that make certain combos possible only with a specific character-Arcana combination.
Right off the bat, it’s easy to tell what crowd the game’s visuals is supposed to appeal to: lolicon anime fans, or those who have a penchant for younger girls. The game features a full female cast, most of whom look like they barely joined high school. It’s something that non-anime fans can’t see the appeal of, but the cast are certainly colorful. There’s a girl who is half incased in a transformable blob or another who wields dual guns in a white dress.
There’s even more fan service for players when they win or lose a match, where animated portraits on the sides of the screen change into a victorious or beaten pose. Most of these are suggestive and perfect for the game’s intended audience. While the fighters’ portraits are all beautifully drawn, their respective sprites are slightly pixilated and blurry, which are definitely cringe-inducing upon first impression. It’s a shame seeing as how most other games feature 3D-generated characters or HD-rendered sprites.
Aksys Games once again gives us the netcode that makes arcades obsolete. Like in BlazBlue, netplay is preceded by a couple of slow motion moments of buffering, but is quickly followed by smooth girl-on-girl action. Combos were rarely dropped as a result of lag nor was lag ever an issue. Compared to my usual lag-hating, joystick-throwing self, I was practically giddy playing Arcana Heart 3 online.
Although it lacks any real single-player options like a challenge mode, Arcana Heart 3‘s flawless netplay and overall balanced gameplay is well worth checking out. Serious fighting games with a competitive player-base are few and far in between, making this game all the more important. While the $29.99 price tag is higher than most online releases, it is relatively on-par with other similar fighting games and should not turn off interested gamers.