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Game Review: Arcana Heart: 3 LOVE MAX!!!!!

As a self-proclaimed gamer, I happen to play games every now and them without knowing if they will be good or not. The very Japanese 2D fighting game ‘Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!!’ is a good example of this.

Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! is the PS3 and PS Vita update of the original Arcana Heart 3 that went live last month. For AVO, I decided to check out the PS3 version!

FANSERVICE!!!

Fans of the characteristic, detailed Japanese drawing styles are in the right place with LOVE MAX!!!!!. The game gives you fantastic animated art full of colour and a summer vibe from the moment you start up the game. But that’s not all! Throughout the whole game you have the possibility to unlock beautiful still and still your hunger (if you have it) to fan service.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJyyo8CusTY]

Of course there is more to do than just staring at pretty pictures. Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! is a fighting game filled with game options, that keeps you busy for days with it’s hard and challenging gameplay. The menu alone gives you 11 different options, including Story, Versus, Trial, Time Attack and Training, but also After Story, Survival Score Attack (fighting people online via PSN), a Replay Theatre and the Gallery. For those who think the game is over after Story-mode; you better think again!

Fighting girls and super powerful summons

If Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! stuns you with the game options, you haven’t seen the arsenal of playable characters you can choose. LOVE MAX!!!!! has 23 fighters who are playable from the beginning. The latter seemed a bit weird to me, especially because I’m used to games where you have to do crazy things to unlock new characters, but it’s fits perfectly for LOVE MAX!!!!!. Here’s the thing… besides choosing a character, you have to connect her to an Arcana, a sort of summon who gives your girl extra combo’s and attack power. Furthermore, there are as many Arcana’s as girls, making you have a lot of possibilities (and combo’s)!

Once you start a fight, you do bump into a disadvantage. The stages and characters look really pixelated and for that reason they don’t look from this time. It becomes even more painful when the moving banners (the so-called ‘LINKS’) who are on both sides of the screen, DO come in HD quality. LINKS are pictures of the fighters who give you basic info about your rank or move along when you conduct a special move, get hit or win or lose. They look very slick and bring something special do the genre, but they do unnecessarily minimize the screen and tend to distract you from time to time. You can turn of the movements, but there isn’t any possibility to make the screen bigger and that is a pity.

Not to be trifled with

A big plus to Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! and something that characterizes the series in a good way, is the very challenging gameplay. You want to win? Than you better make time to learn all the characters and combo’s, because there is no way you’ll get through this game alive with button-bashing (I can know, I’ve tried). Combo’s are made by combining your 3 attacks (light, medium and heavy) and summoning your Arcana spirit. Are you a bit far away from you opponent? Than you have an X-button (also called the homing-skill) that automatically pulls you towards your opponent or target.

Everything in this game requires your ultimate focus and one wrong move can make you lose. If there is one game where I believe you need ‘skills’ for, it’s Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! for sure. But what if you’re a beginner who just wants to play and unlock pictures and stories for in the Gallery? Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! offers, besides the Normal mode, a Simple mode. In Simple mode you only get to choose a fixed character x Arcana couple, and the fights are made easier for you by simplifying the combo’s. Hereby every gamer can enjoy the game! Who thinks that this means you can button-bash your way through and win, is still wrong. Your opponents are still as difficult and despite the fact that you can easily activate combo’s by pushing a few buttons, getting to know your characters is still a fun challenge.

Who wants to test their skills on the outside world, can always go to the PSN mode, which gives you the chance to fight others who are on about the same level as you. Who likes to keep track of how they make their opponent cry, can always record the match and rewatch it in the Replay Theatre.

The story?

The story is… special. That the least I can say about it. To be honest, I still understand very little of it. For as far as I see it, there are planetary disruptions going on who are being researched by your character, while a bad girl is collecting crystals to summon an immense gundam-like weapon to destroy Japan with a very childish reason. Quickly it becomes a race against the clock to get as much of these crystals yourself by fighting people on your path, in order to stop that crazy bitch. But your own search for the crystals is only helping the bad guy and the only option is to beat the final boss before it’s completely loaded and able to change Nihon in a black hole. A poor story, but completely voiced in Japanese with English subtitles.

Get to know the girls

The main story is a bit thin, but with the upgrade to LOVE MAX!!!!! also came a lot of new story content. In ‘After Story’ you get to know the relationships between the girls in a completely new story, where a mysterious new crystal is discovered in a hot-spring. After Story works with a form of ‘chapters’ where completing a chapter unlocks the next one. Fights are more spread out through the chapters and they are better framed in the story.

Who wants to get a look into the girls’ past earlier can always go visit the Gallery. Besides possibilities to look at stills of characters and listen to music, the Gallery also offers an own set of stories who have to be unlocked in Story Mode.

Conclusion

Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! is a fun 2D fighter full of lethal gameplay and a lot of fan service. But if you love a good story and sharp graphics more, than I have to let you down. Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! focuses, despite adding more story, mainly on the in-fight gameplay and strengthening the skills. Do you love quick, dauntless and challenging fights, Japanese voices and a ton of combinations and don’t care how the game looks? Than Arcana Heart is perfect for you!

Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! has been in stores since November 21st for PS3 and PS Vita.

Info:
Title: Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!!
Genre: 2D Fighter
Developer: Examu
Publisher: NIS America (Europa)
Rating: 73/100

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