Arcana Heart 3 is a 2D fighting game developed by Examu and published by Arc System Works. The latter being the same team responsible for the Blazblue and Guilty Gear games. When I realised the team behind one of my favourite 2D fighters (Blazblue) was helping to publish this title I was pretty excited about getting my hands on Arcana Heart 3. After some research it quickly came to my attention that Arcana Heart 3 is not as new as I initially thought it to be. Originally released in the arcades in Japan back in 2009, this 2D fighter has had to wait a long time to finally see a European release date. The trouble with this however, is that it’s going to be compared to some of the more recent fighting games that have set the bar for quality so high in this genre in the last year alone. Can it provide a story that is as satisfying to play through as Mortal Kombat? Do the 2D sprites move as fluidly as they do in Blazblue? And most importantly should anybody care?
When I first loaded up this game I was rather underwhelmed by the lack of options available to me. The very basic menu screen displayed the following: Story, Versus, Score Attack, Training, XBOX Live, Gallery and Replay Theater. As far as fighting games go this is the very least that we’d expect from the genre these days.
The story mode is very basic and yet somehow manages to make very little sense at all. The only part that I could make any real sense out of was the countdown after each fight telling me how many days are left until Japan will be obliterated. All the voice acting is in Japanese which is fine for purists, but I do like it when developers put a little more effort into localising a game beyond translating the subtitles into English.
There are 23 characters to choose from initially which I feel is a good number. Too many characters on a game like this and I instantly start thinking how many of them are clones with a different hair style. Interestingly every character in this game is female. After choosing my character I was taken to another screen to select an “Arcana”. This is where this game differentiates itself from other fighting titles. There are 23 different Arcana to choose from. These are essentially different elements that have various attack or defense properties; for example choosing a Fire Arcana will give your character high attack ratings but will have low defence. This element would be used by people who believe the best form of defence is a good offence. This is cetainly an interesting system as it means that even if you’re fighting against the same character you could have a completely different experience against them each time depending on which Arcana they have selected.
The training mode in this game is a very standard affair with, as far as I can see, no innovation at all. It’s an area where you select your character and practice your combos against an opponent that doesn’t fight back unless you change a few options. ~Unfortunately, your button presses aren’t even displayed on screen so you have no idea where you’re going wrong if you’re having trouble with pulling off any moves.
I tried this game out with two different controllers; the standard 360 controller and a Street Fighter IV fightpad. Out of the two I have to say that the game played much better using the fightpad as the enlarged D-Pad feels a lot nicer and more responsive than the one on the standard 360 controller. The game does play ok with the standard controller but don’t be surprised to find yourself not doing quite what you had planned from time to time.
When I first played the game online I was really worried. I started a fight and the lag was horrendous, luckily about 8-10 seconds in and the game seemed to catch up with itself and the fight carried on without anymore hiccups and to my biggest surprise I actually managed to win. After the match finished I decided it would be worth checking out where my opponent was from, they were from Japan. When I saw this I couldn’t help but feel a little bit forgiving on the game for the lag at the beginning of the fight. I did manage to get into a few fights with people from the UK as well and to the game’s credit it was completely lag free which is a huge plus in my book, as a game like this is virtually unplayable if it doesn’t run smoothly.
In conclusion I have mixed opinions on this game. I can’t really recommend it as an entry point into the genre and to fighting fans all I can really say is give it a go, its not really going to blow you away but if your looking for something a little different then you could do a lot worse than Arcana Heart 3.
One thing that does baffle me about this game however, is the choice to make it a full retail release. After hearing that in the US it was download only on PSN I decided to install the game to my hard drive; I discovered the game was only 2GB in size, smaller than some XBLA releases. Had this game been released on XBLA instead then I would have probably gone a bit easier on its visuals and presentation overall but by releasing it on disc I have no choice but to compare it to the likes of Blazblue which is a much better package. This game has clearly missed its window over here, had it been translated and released not long after its release in Japan in 2009 then maybe I would be singing its praises a lot more but as it stands it’s good but there are better options available.
MLG Rating: 6/10
Platforms: Xbox 360/ PS3 Release date: 19/08/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Arcana Hearts 3 for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.