Game developer Arc System Works continues to develop some of the best 2D fighters in the industry. Their most recent effort – Arcana Heart 3: No Boys Allowed – is a continuation of Arcana Heart (released Stateside on the Playstation 2 in 2008) and Arcana Heart 2 (which never received a North American release).
Arcana Heart 3 follows the story of 23 female fighters as they battle each other across Japan. Their goal is to retrieve Celestial Stones that have been emerging through planar rifts all across the country. According to rumor, those that wield the stones will have their wishes granted. The story may sound typical, but that isn’t important; what matters is the gameplay.
After selecting your female fighter, you must choose from 23 different Arcane powers. These abilities vary in both attack and defense and also change the way the fighter reacts in combat. The Spirit of Tyr: Gottfried Arcane power, for example, offers balance in both attack and defense, while the Arcana of Evil has strong a strong attack, but weak defense. With so many choices available, it takes hours to find the right power best suited for your play style. This adds additional depth to the gameplay.
The fighting engine is extremely smooth; it’s very easy to chain together a large combo with very little effort. Special moves work without flaw and finishing moves usually consist of half circles and more than one attack button being pressed. There is also a feature called ‘Simple Mode’ that makes this much easier, especially if you’re new to fighting games. The Arcana powers – while useful – can severely imbalance a fight if abused.
The Arcana power gauge for each fighter is located at the bottom of the screen. In most fighters, power gauges fill slowly to prevent any unnecessary abuse to the opponent. In Arcana Heat 3, the gauge fills rapidly, allowing your opponent to unleash a barrage of Arcana powers and special attacks.
This can make a match interesting, if not frustrating at the same time. During a single-player game, the CPU has a tendency to use the rapid gauge replenishment to its advantage. Once you reach the end of the game, fighters like Scharlachrot will dish out punishment that will make any veteran of the genre gnash his/her teeth in frustration.
To its credit, AC 3’s difficulty prevents the experience from being too short. Thanks to responsive controls, the gameplay feels fluid and the fighters and their moves never seem to falter.
Fan service is very important when it comes to a series like AH3, and Arc System Works delivered. Animated drawings of the combatants appear on either side of the play field; they react to the action happening on-screen. There are cinemas that explain the planar rift incident that is gripping Japan, and subtitles are used instead of voice dubbing. When selecting a fighter, there is an option to choose between 5 different outfit colors. The variations range from bright colors to moody blacks.
AH 3’s graphics will surprise gamers who are used to the hi-res visuals in Blazeblue. The graphics look mid-res, giving the game a classic feel. While it isn’t always evident, some of the sprites suffer from pixilation. This seems to be caused by the lower resolution. Despite all this, the graphics are still beautiful. They’re bright, colorful and vibrant — and they stand out in 1080p. The music and sound effects are the same high quality found in every Akysys Game release.
As a fighter, AH3 can be considered a niche title because of its content and fighting system. While some reviewers will blatantly tell newcomers to steer away from niche titles, this does an injustice to both the gamer and the game in question. While it’s true that AH 3 is difficult to pick up and play, newcomers will still enjoy the fast-paced action and unique fighting system. Fans will appreciate what Arc System Works has done to the series. In a market that is saturated by 3D fighters, Arcana Heart 3 stands out as a crowning jewel achievement. This is one fighter no gamer should be without.
Platform: Playstation 3 (Available on PSN)
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Aksys Games
ESRB: M (Mature)
|The 2D graphics are beautiful.|
|Great music and sound effects; Arc System Works doesn't disappoint.|
|While challenging, the gameplay will keep you entertained for hours.|
|Arcana Heart 3 comes highly recommended; buy it.|