Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Review: Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! (PS3)

Complete girl on girl battle action.

Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! (from here referred to as Arcana Heart 3: LM to save my exclamation key some work) is the upcoming updated re-release of the 2011 2D fighter Arcana Heart 3 from Examu, Zen United and NIS America, it is due for EU release on November 21st 2014 on Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita.

Review Format: Playstation 3
Thanks to NIS America for the review code.

Featuring combat rebalancing, new game modes, an expanded story, replay theatre, the return of stages from Arcana Heart 1 & 2 and newly arranged music for those stages, Arcana Heart 3:LM is ideal as an introduction to the series for new players but the question is will it be enough of a change to bring back the more hardcore players for another run at this fast paced anime styled fighter?

For the sake of the previously mentioned new players this review will be split into two parts. The first being a review of the base game itself, and secondly an overview of the new features and it’s impact on the whole.

Arcana Heart 3 is pretty standard fare for those who are familiar with the genre, featuring a manga of the same name, it features a roster of 23 distinctly different all female characters to fight with, each with their own weapon and style choices. What really sets Arcana Heart from other games of the genre is the addition of 23 supplementary “characters” called Arcana who provide the girls with a number of active and passive abilities. Although this may sound like a minor added extra, it really is a big deal as Arcana choice will make a big difference to the fighting style of the character and the special moves available to them.

The story continues on from the previous games but sadly if you are not familiar with either the manga or previous titles then the story feels like a pretty disjointed mess due to the fact there is little to no explanation of previous events, although this in itself is in no way unusual for the genre it can be very jarring and remove the push to care about the story or characters. The only thing that is directly explained is that celestial stones are coming through inter-dimensional rifts and that all characters want to round up 5 of them under orders to activate something that will either stop or cause the destruction of Japan in 5 days. Characters motives can be sometimes difficult to understand, but through repeated playthroughs of the main story small visual novel segments for each of the characters explaining a little of their backstories, which goes a long way towards clearing up some of the more confusing sections.

While the cast are exclusively typical young, attractive anime girlies, their voice acting and personalities really manage to set them apart from each other, meaning none mould into a homogeneous mess. The same unfortunately cannot be said for the backgrounds of the arena’s which in my experience all go by in a blur, this is not so much to do with a lack of different ones but more to do with them not being diverse enough to really stand out while the action is getting on.

The action is where this title really stands out against its Western counterparts. Colourful, initially sluggish but after practice extremely fast paced with seriously fluid combat that rewards the player for comboing and juggling their opponents in the manner of huge flashy screen filling special attacks. As your character and opponent duke it out you build up a special attack bar, with a quick button combo you can use a portion of the bar to activate a devastating special attack, dealing an amount of damage based on the Arcana selected, there is also a secondary time based bar which when used up changes the stage to match your Arcana for a short time allowing you to effectively super charge your specials and to activate higher tier moves.

When it comes to to normal combat itself however fast paced it might be, does not quite stand up to the combo’s and specials in level of chaos and uniqueness. Although technically it performs just fine and is perfectly responsive, beyond the animations of the characters it is little other than your standard light and heavy punches/kicks with an occasional throw, however the combination of throwing your opponent high into the air and using the homing skill to attack and slam them back down does go some way towards linking it all up nicely. The base game does suffer from some major imbalances with certain character/Arcana combinations being hugely overpowered, capable of knocking 70% of an opponents health bar in a single hit. The story mode also suffers from sudden difficulty spikes, one minute you are fighting somebody who stands there and takes your hits, the next you could be faced by a character spamming low level specials and not letting you get close.

Graphically the game is fairly easy on the eye, very colourful but touching on showing its age,  with all the characters and backgrounds having nice quality if a little rough around the edges 2D sprites and very slick animations. Between fights there are beautifully drawn anime visual novel style segments for the story “explanations” My only personal complaint with the visuals is the fact that either due to laziness OR technical issues, the gameplay segments are stuck in a 4:3 aspect ratio, a minor niggle that should have been addressed during the move from arcade to console. The effort has been made though to at least cover this up with “Anime-Link” which places animated bars on both sides of the screen showing the current state of both characters fighting, this in itself has no real depth but is better than big black bars. The story segments however are in a full HD 16:9 aspect ratio so that complaint will likely be forgiven by most

The soundscape is of an overall decent quality, the music is good with pop like synthesiser riffs and occasional heavier rock segments. The battle shouts although typically repetitive do not become too aggravating or offputting. As small as it may sound, the volume is also very consistent which is a plus as some Japanese games suffer from inconsistent audio levels when parts are re-recorded for a western audience. All voice acting is done in Japanese with no obvious English option which may bug some people but works well overall as there is not hours of text reading.

Changes made in the update.

New Game modes:

  • Survival Score Attack: Which involves attempting to defeat all characters without replenishing your health between fights.
  • Time Attack: As expected this just involves finishing fights quickly in order to complete as many in the allotted time.
  • Training: Pretty self explanitory but allows you to practice controls and combos without the opponent fighting back.
  • Replay Theatre: Watch back previous battles.
  • After Story: This is where the bulk of the added features resides, this visual novel is split into 26 parts of about 10 minutes each and tells a separate story set after the main story, each segment containing one battle to move it along. In itself the story was quite enjoyable and a lot easier to follow than the main storyline.

Combat rebalancing:

The update contains a lot of changes to the combat system, on the most part fixing the previously overpowered character combinations. Although nerfed, some characters still are somewhat too powerful, being able to pin from across the screen with repeated high powered specials, most of these can be countered with high level of skill but for new players this could become frustrating very quickly.

Migration of arena's:

Bringing all of the arena's from Arcana Heart 1 & 2 has almost tripled the amount available to fight in. Along with the arena's themselves the music for them has been arranged and re-recorded, a welcome addition for fans of the series.

Vita release. Originally Arcana Hearts 3 was only released on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

In conclusion Arcana Hearts 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! is very good and pretty fighter with a large and fun roster to explore with its high speed combat even if the main story is a little on the weak side and the combat oddly difficult in places for no obvious reason. For a fresh player this version is a perfect introduction to the series but the additions with the exception of Vita play may not be enough to encourage long time players to make an entire new purchase.

My score is lowered by 1 point simply because I have reviewed only the PS3 copy, and I don’t believe that the additions required an entire relaunch of the title on PS3, an update and DLC pack would have sufficed. Added with the fact that the online multiplayer is not currently active and trophies are not yet loaded.


Who should buy this:
  • Current Fans of the Series looking to get a little more story play.
  • Fans of high speed fighters
  • Players who enjoy anime styled games.

Who should avoid:
  • Those easily frustrated by extreme difficulty ramps.
  • Players who prefer 3D movement in their fighters.
  • Players who dislike Japanese only voice acting.


  1. It's a bit dissapointing needing to have followed the previous titles to truly enjoy this one. With only the first title getting localized and the second one being skipped, I can imagine people being confused with third entry into the franchise.

  2. OtakuGamersVincent19 November 2014 at 19:57

    I totally agree Nonscpo, even a short intro sequence or Visual novel recap of the overall story arc would have served well to open this series up to new players.