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Arcana Heart 3
 

 

STORYThere was a dimensional distortion that occurred in the Kanto region, caused by the primordial being known as Angelia Avalon - The international Holy Spirit Institutions suffered harshly after the "Great Kanto Incident", but restoration has begun and about two months have elapsed. In this time, a family had received technical assistance during the war in Europe. Now the family has created "The Drexler Institution" to resume its activities around the world. The Drexler Institution was hiding in Japan. Western Europe was devastated by the Office of the Holy Spirit led by Mildred who had since defected. The West Branch of the Holy Spirit Rosenberg Agency had to be completely reconstituted.

Shortly thereafter, a large number of dimensional distortions were observed throughout Japan. "Drexler" is a little unusual and unnatural with its authority behind the scenes too. Japan has embarked on a convergence of the Holy Office to gain control of the situation. They are looking closely into part of an area in Japan that educates several "Maidens". A "Maiden" has begun her activities from the branch in Rosenberg. This newcomer has been given the ability of a "Maiden." With the authority acquired from Drexler, a major order has been given: .... To the sinking of Japan, after seven days.
 

Arcana Heart 3's character selection... 23 anime chicks. 

 
REVIEW
The majority of 2D fighting game fans probably haven't played a localized version of Arcana Heart since the original title debuted on PS2 in April of 2008. Exactly 3 years later, Arcana Heart 3 finally made it's way overseas and to next-gen systems. This installment introduces three new characters to the franchise: Weiss, Eko and Scharlachrot, making for a total of 23 playable characters. Arc System Works brought several new features to the console version, including: Story Mode, Online Mode, HD anime cut-ins during super moves, "Simple Mode" for beginners, and to compensate for the game's original 4:3 aspect ratio, cool animated borders featuring all of the game's characters fill the screen with extra eye candy. 

Besides Blazblue and King of Fighters, there aren't many fighting games around these days with "old school" 2D graphics. Keeping things traditional, Arcana Heart 3 presents large, well-animated 2D sprites and huge 2D backdrops, all hand-drawn. Arcana Heart 3's main draw is it's wide variety of colorful female fighters, each a variation of the moe archetype (AKA a popular style of character in anime/video games). After choosing a character, players then choose an "elemental alignment" AKA Arcana. On top of a solid selection of special moves per character, each Arcana offers it's own unique set of special attacks and abilities for the character, in addition to affecting a fighter's overall stamina and power. With 23 girls and 23 Arcana, there are obviously a ton of combinations available (529 to be exact).
 

Scharlachot is your new badass evil chick archtype.

 
Arcana Heart 3
sets itself apart from many other 2D titles thanks to it's unique combo system and air-dashes. Each character has an air-dash that tracks their opponent wherever they are on the screen, presenting a distinctive style of 2D fighting that distinguishes itself from games like Blazblue and Guilty Gear. All in all, the gameplay system is solid and because the series has seen it's fair share of sequels and patches, you know you're getting the most balanced characters possible. As a very casual Arcana Heart player, I can't notice very much difference in the gameplay mechanics since playing the original title and, more recently, Arcana Heart 2: Suggoi. However, I did notice some differences in how certain characters play, which is more or less the most significant change in this sequel.

If you're not familiar with the character roster of Arcana Heart, you might be in for quite a shock. Not only are all of the characters girls, they're also adolescents. Yes... this must be a Japanese game. The character designs are most definitely a diverse bunch, each presenting fighting styles that have very little in common with other fighting game characters. There are a small handful of fighters who seem inspired by classic icons in the fighting game universe, but the majority can be described as "obscure" and are guaranteed to turn heads. Eko, for example, fights with her own crazy drawing that constantly changes shape, and Kira fights with a giant blob that can grab her opponents and perform pro-wrestling moves on them. The roster is certainly a mixed bag and you're guaranteed to either find them vividly entertaining or mildly disturbing... or possibly a little of both. 
 

Select Eko for instant "WTF moments"... ^o^

 
Arcana Heart 3
is an arcade fighting game to the core, meaning it doesn't contain many modes or extras. The simply designed main menu features: Story, Versus, Score Attack, Training, Online, Gallery, Replay and Option. The console-exclusive Story Mode is really more of a glorified Arcade Mode than anything else. Within Story Mode, character voiceovers are in Japanese, but luckily there are subtitles on most dialogue spoken in the game. Even though Arcana Heart 3 will look and sound foreign to most people, it has a certain appeal that only a genuine Japanese game can offer. One of the things I liked about Story Mode is being able to select your opponents. You have a choice between 5 different characters to fight against in the first few rounds. There's also some character specific dialogue before each fight and while most of it might fall under the "anime nonsense" category, it has a certain charm to it... especially if you can make out a few words of Japanese.

The overall presentation is modest, but the "Japanese arcade fighting game feel" proudly comes through. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is a bit tinny, random, and sometimes sounds like it could come from a 90's television kid's show. Also, the incessant high-pitched sound of young Japanese girls squealing and crying may cause you to lose a few brain cells over time, and thus, can become quite annoying; that coming from someone who greatly admires the Japanese language. Thankfully, there are a few "badass" gals with deeper voices which help to break up the monotony. Finally, the boss of Arcana Heart 3 is a huge mech called Ragnarok who (more than) fills the screen and it will not be an easy battle... Ragnarok is one of the more exciting and challenging fighting game bosses I've fought against in recent times.

Visually, Arcana Heart 3 doesn't shine quite as much as Blazblue or King of Fighters XIII due to it's smaller sprites and lower resolution. To compromise, the console version's exclusive animated borders help to create an absorbing visual experience. The in-game characters are portrayed in all of their anime-ish glory on each side of the screen and feature an impressive amount of animations which actually correlates with the action! If the borders aren't to your liking, you can also play the game in widescreen mode which also looks surprisingly sharp on an HDTV considering the lower resolution. The hand drawn backgrounds are exceptionally sharp, massive, and noticeably alter & acquire new details when Arcana abilities are activated. The art direction is obscure and screams "Japan," and if you give it a chance, it can grow on you.

An update to the arcade version, titled Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! (holy shit someone wants attention ) was first released in arcades on May 8th, 2013. The update includes the same number of playable characters from the original, but features rebalanced gameplay and new modes, including: Survival Score Attack, After Story and new Training Modes. It was discovered after the launch of AH3: LOVE MA!!!!! in North America that the game lacks cross-region netplay... a rare
absence for a fighting game of this era. Aksys also stated that there are no plans add cross-region netplay via an update or patch.

Page Updated: September 9th, 2015
Developer(s): Examu, Arc System Works
Publisher(s): Arc System Works
Designer(s): Sakuraitooru
Platform(s): Arcade, Playstation 3, PSN, Vita, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date(s): Dec. 22nd, 2009         ( Arcade)
Jan. 13th, 2011
          
( PS3/360)
Apr. 19th, 2011
          
( PSN)
Aug. 19th, 2011
  
       ( PS3/360)
May 8th, 2013
            
( Arcade - AH3: LOVE MAX!!!!!)
May 29th, 2014
         
( PS3/Vita - AH3: LOVE MAX!!!!!)
Sept. 23rd, 2014
       
( PS3/Vita - AH3: LOVE MAX!!!!!)
Sept. 29th, 2015        (Steam - AH3: LOVE MAX!!!!!)
Characters Heart, Saki, Weiss, Scharlachrot, Eko, Kamui, Konoha, Maori, Mei-Fang, Lilica, Lieselotte, Yoriko, Kira, Fiona, Petra, Catherine, Dorothy, Zenia, Elsa, Clarice, Nazuna, Akane, Mildred, Angelia, Parace, Ragnarok

Featured Video:

Related Games: Arcana Heart, Arcana Heart 2, Arcana Heart 2: Suggoi!, SNK Gals Fighters, Skullgirls, AquaPazza, Blazblue: Continuum Shift 2, Guilty Gear: Accent Core Plus, King of Fighters XIII, Yatagarasu, Chaos Code, Xuan Dou Zhi Wang
  

Gameplay Engine  7.5 / 10
Story / Theme  7.5 / 10
Overall Graphics  8.0 / 10
Animation  8.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  5.5 / 10
Innovation  6.5 / 10
Art Direction  7.5 / 10
Customization  8.0 / 10
Options / Extras  6.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  6.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  6.0 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  6.5 / 10
Characters  7.5 / 10

BOTTOM LINE

 7.6 / 10

 Review based on PS3 version

 

Final Words: Arcana Heart 3 makes a solid downloadable fighting game for next-gen systems. I'm not sure AH3 would fare very well as a disc-based title against the current leaders of the fighting genre, so going digital was a very smart move by Examu.

While it doesn't offer the best 2D visuals in the genre, Arcana Heart 3's obscure and vibrant cast of female fighters and fast-paced gameplay style should warrant a purchase to any 2D fighting game enthusiast who has a keen taste for Japanese games. And for the modest price of $29.99, it's even more appealing.

I know I'll never play Arcana Heart 3 "seriously," but thankfully it's a game that can be enjoyed on a casual level. On the flipside, the gameplay engine is clearly smooth, deep and satisfying for players who want to put the time and practice in. While it might not be everyone's cup of tea, Arcana Heart 3 offers a simple and straight-forward Japanese arcade game experience.

One more thing worth mentioning is the obvious stigma that may come with playing Arcana Heart. Girls have nothing to worry about, since Arcana Heart seems like it's meant to appeal to 12-15 year old girls (or perverts). lol. However, if you're a straight male over 18 and you're going to play a fighting game with a roster made up of adolescent girls in public, it's probably beneficial to your reputation to have a steady girlfriend and have her sitting next to you at all times.

True Story: After my girlfriend watched me play a few rounds of Arcana Heart 3, I jokingly asked her, "What if I was an Arcana Heart player instead of a Tekken player?" Her abrupt response was "You would be gay and we wouldn't be dating." I guess that about sums up the stigma part. lol.
~TFG Webmaster
  

 
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