Friday, October 3, 2014

Arcana Heart 3 LOVEMAX!!!!! (PS3) Review

Arcana Heart 3: LOVEMAX!!!!! is an all-girl anime fighter.  Most of the graphics are really good in the game.  The menu, character select, and character art all look great.  The animations of the in-battle characters are good, but the sprites themselves look a little blocky and blurry.  It's not enough to deter my enjoyment, but they do stand out against everything else looking crisp.  The audio is in Japanese only, and a fair amount of the story lines are voiced.

The game is basically a five-button fighter, although one of those isn't an attack, but a dash/tracking move.  That said, it is really made for an arcade stick, since many commands require multiple buttons pressed simultaneously.  It is playable on the PS3's default controller, as I was able to beat the game without an issue.  When using an arcade stick, the multi-button presses became easier.  So thankfully it controls pretty well on both the Dualshock 3 and an arcade stick.

As stated before, there are five buttons for fighting, and the rest are set to different combinations of them.  Each character has a weak, medium and strong attack that can be comboed together.  There is also a homing attack, but it just dashes or floats you toward your opponent.  You can attack from it, but it's not really an attack on its own.  The arcana button will allow you to air launch and wall bounce your opponent, plus helps unleash the special move of your chosen arcana.  The attacks and special attacks flow pretty well from each other, making combat fluid.  The biggest gripes I have are the slow walking movement (necessitating the homing attack to move quickly) and that the homing attack always goes toward the opponent.  It would be nice if it could be used to dash away from them, but I suppose then it wouldn't be "homing".  There are a lot of special attacks to play around with though, and each arcana has a different trick, so being able to pick which one you want is nice.

Thankfully, there is a good amount of single player content.  There is a story mode, that while not super deep, allows you to pick who your next opponent is from a few choices.  Add in some special dialogue when certain characters battle, and you get some decent replay as you make your way through with the different fighters.  While there is a fair amount of dialogue, it feels more like other fighting games' arcade mode.  The story for the After Story mode is much better.  There is an overall narrative, with each girl's story intersecting with the others, so playing through them all gives one big story.  Unfortunately, each story only contains one fight of one round, with lots of dialogue around it.  More fights would have been better, but I like the way After Story was presented and how the stories would weave between each other.

There is still some more single player stuff to the game, though.  There are Trials, which pits you against another fighter, but also gives you a task to complete, like landing a ground combo or doing jump cancels.  It's harder than other games' similar modes, simply because you have to do it while fighting, not in some pre-set scenario.  No fighting game would be complete without a survival mode, and Arcana Heart delivers it combined with a score attack.  To round it out there is also a time attack mode.  While the last two are hardly revolutionary, they all add together to give a healthy amount of single player content to go through if you don't want to fight your friends or people online.

All that single player content aside, a lot of the allure of fighting games is playing against others, especially online.  I played a few matches, and didn't have much trouble finding games.  Non-peak times were much leaner, which is to be expected of a niche fighting game.  The matches I played had barely any lag that I could tell, and it felt pretty smooth once the fight started.  I still got completely destroyed, since I'm not very competitive (or good at fighting games), but it wasn't lag that got me killed.  Of course there's also a local versus mode if you don't wont to go online and have people to play with.

Lots of things are unlockable in the game.  The most obvious are the nice CG images shown throughout the various stories and endings.  There's also the different animations that can be displayed on the side during the fights (since the battles are not in widescreen).  It's better to view them here since they can be quite distracting during combat.  You also unlock "Memories" for the characters, which are separate text-based stories told in several parts.  They aren't necessary to the overall package, but they are kind of fun to read through once.  Trophies run the usual fighting game gamut, from winning x amount of battles online, completing the trials and going through the story modes.  There are many character specific ones which require you to utilize their unique talents and mechanics.  The list is mostly skill based ones, with a few grind-heavy trophies thrown in for good measure.

While not the best fighting game I've played, Arcana Heart 3 LOVEMAX!!!!! is pretty fun.  If you dedicate enough time to it, there is a deep combat system at its heart (pun not intended).  I'm not very good at fighting games, but there was enough single player content to keep me playing for awhile.  The few matches I played online ran well, so I have no complaints there.  Even if you aren't a competitive person like me, there is still some fun to be had going through the story modes and unlocking different extras.  If you like the more methodical fighting games like Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, give Arcana Heart 3 LOVEMAX!!!!! and all its exclamation points a try.

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