Jahanzeb Khan
29 Jul, 2011

Arcana Heart 3 Review

360 Review | Import: First rule, you do not meow about Fight Club.
The fighting game genre has hit a serious saturation point, just like it did throughout the 90s. The current console generation started out with a draught with a few key 3D fighting games like Dead or Alive 4 and Virtua Fighter 5 filling the void, with 2D fighting games being almost absent. Then there was a sudden surge in 2D fighting game releases, and we now have a wide range of top quality fighting games available which include the likes of Marvel vs. Capcom, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, The King of Fighters and BlazBlue, now reaching a point of almost dominating the 3D fighting genre. There are still a host of new releases coming out this year and next, so much that fighting fans will probably need to replace their fighting sticks several times. Joining the already saturated lineup of fighting games is Arcana Heart 3, a quirky 2D fighting game that has a few unique gimmicks.

Arcana Heart series is an obscure fighting game franchise starring an all female cast of characters and there isn’t a hint of Y chromosome in this game. The characters of this game pay homage to just about every known female character stereotype that makeup the Japanese anime media, offering an assortment of cliché female archetypes to choose from, one to serve every taste of the otaku gaming community. The roster includes maids, athletes, mages, school girls, fairies and other oddities, and also has the usual exaggerated body proportions. Games like BlazBlue and Guilty Gear don’t perform as well in English speaking territories primarily because of their unorthodox and oddball cast of characters. So if you’re the type of gamer who thought a game like BlazBlue was too ‘Japanese’, then you were wrong, because the extremely niche otaku appeal of Arcana Heart 3 pretty much tops it.

There is a plot here that is portrayed via an elaborate story mode. The game takes place in Japan and revolves just about these maidens and celestial beings called Arcana, the plot being about these maidens battling it out, and also something about research organizations, a crazy rogue woman and the awakening of a powerful weapon-like creature. There isn’t anything particularly interesting and exciting here, but perhaps a certain type of fan base will enjoy the relationships that these characters have with each other, especially considering that there are no men.

There's got to be a bearded lady here somewhere....

There's got to be a bearded lady here somewhere....
While everything so far sounds very unorthodox and strange, Arcana Heart 3 surprisingly shines in the gameplay department. The fighting engine is extremely accessible and fluid, making the game a lot of fun to play. It allows you to chain together attacks and special moves with great ease, and like Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, it allows you to exercise your creativity in creating some really massive and spectacular chain combos. What’s also great is that there is a greater emphasis on aerial combat. You can dash freely midair in any direction like a Dragon Ball Z character, and pull off some crazy combos and special moves. Games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 allow for some serious aerial combat, but Aracana Heart 3 adds a bit more emphasis with its specifically assigned dash button.

The game is quite easy to play and almost seems casual. Anyone can jump right into the game and pull off the special moves and such, but expert players will certainly show you how to really mix attacks up for some complicated and consistent combinations. That said, the fighting systems tends to feel a bit too simplified and loose for the most part, and is lacking in fine precision, balance and polish compared to other 2D fighters out there.

Each of the 21 characters offers an interesting and unique play style and so you’ll definitely find your ideal type in the roster, be it a slow heavy hitter type, a weak but extremely fast combo expert, or even some strange oddities that are almost on the same level as Arakune from BlazBlue. What’s more is that once you select a character, you have to select one of the 21 Arcana creatures. Each Arcana has unique properties, usually elemental, and come with their own set of attacks and special moves, each assigned their own unique buttons. Players can call upon the power and mix the moves of their character with that of the Arcana. Each character is assigned to an Arcana based on the story, but the game doesn’t restrict you as you can choose any one of the 21 Arcana for your character. This allows for numerous possible combinations and you’ll find yourself experimenting till you find the ideal pair for your play style.

Squirrel Ninja versus Kindergarden Kid with Crayon Monster, a dream battle.

Squirrel Ninja versus Kindergarden Kid with Crayon Monster, a dream battle.
Arcana Heart 3 has a cool art style and you’ll find some really crazy character designs, like the swimmer girl who fights with a living pool of water, but most of them are fairly generic if you’re familiar with the anime/manga culture. The graphics of the game are quite weak, with the detail on the characters and the overall quality of the sprites and animation similar to a typical 2D fighter on the PlayStation 2. The graphics are a bit underwhelming compared to other quality 2D fighters currently out there, but are still serviceable enough. The one cool thing about the way battles are presented is that you get to see a large and detailed sprites of both fighters on each side of the screen, and these large sprites animate depending on how the character is performing during battle.

A noteworthy aspect of the game is the final boss battle against Ragnarok. It’s a really interesting battle where you go up against a behemoth creature, and have to win by destroying all his weak spots while fighting his minions, observing attack patterns and jumping on platforms. It feels like a traditional 2D action game boss fight, and is a lot of fun.

Yea, we're not too sure eiether.

Yea, we're not too sure eiether.
Arcana Heart 3 is a pretty nice package, and it has the usual modes of the play and a superb online mode. Our experience with the game online was quite smooth and enjoyable, and it was also very easy to find opponents. There is also a very large art gallery filled with art work and videos, most of the art being quite suggestive and as the otaku community would call it, ‘Echhi’.

Arcana Heart 3 is an interesting addition to the fighting game library. It has some cool ideas, including the Arcana system, the action game like final boss battle and the ease of engaging in aerial combat. However, with so many better options out there, it’s hard to recommend a game with a style and ambiance that appeals to a very narrow and niche community, and a fighting engine that feels a bit lacking compared to what you can find in a game like BlazBlue. If a fun and accessible 2D fighting game full of anime women sounds like something you would enjoy, then you’re probably going to have some fun with Arcana Heart 3. But for serious fighting game enthusiasts, there are superior options already out there.
The Score
Arcana Heart 3 is a fun 2D fighting game aimed at a particular type of gamer, one that is well versed in otaku culture. In terms of gameplay and visual presentation, there are far superior options already out there.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 years ago
Nice! I was kind of (KIND OF I SAY) thinking about getting it, but it look's like I'll be sticking to BlazBlue. Thanks for saving me $50 bucks.

PALGN wrote
...2D fighting game full of anime women sounds like something you would enjoy....
But then again... hrmmm... icon_razz.gif
2 years ago
Ooh, good review. I wasn't going to get it straight away but after reading your review, I might wait for a super special price before I think about it. Although witch girls!
2 years ago
Thanks for the review icon_smile.gif I've already got this pre-ordered and was hoping for a score of around 7.

I like that it is more accessable than things like Blazblue, as I'm a casual player of fighting games and the wealth of new things to get used to in Blazblue overwhelmed my small brain.
2 years ago
2 years ago
I don't get why the sprites look bad, I thought that any 2D fighter on the PS3 would look crisp like blazblue :/
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