Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! Is an updated version of Arcana Heart 3 that has already seen a release on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 back in 2011. The Arcana Heart series originated from Japanese arcades back in 2006 and boasts an all-female roster of fighters.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best at 2D fighting games; to be honest I’m pretty bad at them. Long gone are the days that you can uppercut your way to victory in Mortal Kombat, while not looking overly cool, it did the job, times, however, have changed and here comes Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!!
Being a 2D fighter all the essential elements are there, you have a story mode that contains the main meat of the game. Playing out in visual novel style, the story mode is fully voiced but only in Japanese. The storyline is a little simple and sees your choice of character try and stop the destruction of Japan, each characters story is essentially the same, made different only by their dialogue. It’s interesting to note that when fighting the final boss, there are two endings you can get. The good ending can be achieved by defeating the boss within the time limit, simple right? even if you die you get the chance to retry as you would expect. On the other hand, failure to beat the boss within the time limit will get you the bad end, where everything is destroyed and you have to redo the entire story again, super annoying!
The game gives you 23 different lovely ladies to choose from, each is well designed and pretty cute, so there is plenty to keep players busy. If experiencing the story with 23 different characters wasn’t enough for you, then there’s always After Story to get your teeth stuck into. This game really does give you your money’s worth.
The gameplay for people like me can be quite annoying, but luckily there is a choice of battle modes with normal mode for all the hardcore gamers out there and simple mode for those who are here for the story, making combo’s easier to pull off. These modes can be chosen at the beginning of a match when picking your character, with normal being the default option. As well as the vast roster, you also have the choice of 23 different Arcana too, although when using simple mode you are automatically assigned the official Arcana of the character you’ve chosen. Arcana is akin to an elemental alignment such as water, fire etc… with each Arcana boasting different stat boosts and special moves. In normal mode, you can experiment with any character/arcana combination you wish. Battles also contain statistics in the sidebars about your character and your opponents, these sidebars can also play host to a feature called Link Animations with each character having over 10 animations, it’s an interesting concept, but you’ll either be too focused on fighting to actually notice them or you’ll be distracted by them and get your ass kicked. Once a Link Animation has appeared you can go into Gallery mode and view it later on, just in case you did miss it, a very useful addition.
Modes such as Versus and Training are included as you would expect but we also have Survival, Score Attack, Trial and Time Attack which is a great plus. You can even play over PSN with ranked matches and leader boards or just a nice casual match against a random. The biggest gem though is found in Gallery mode, not only does it contain visuals and sounds, but has visual novel story elements. Playing through story mode will unlock the main story and sub-stories for each of the characters, with multiple-choice questions that will lead to different outcomes. These actually come from Arcana Heart: Card of Glory, a Japanese mobile game which has been combined into Love Max. It’s great to see a game giving players so much extra content, some won’t care for it, but others will want to unlock it all.
While 2D Fighters are not my forte I'll admit, Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! Is definitely enjoyable and with tons of extra content, it's definitely worth the money. Visually it looks fantastic, it's great to see sprites back in action, as the jump to 3D characters in other franchises has not always been a good thing. Having the option of a portable version is also a plus, as it's the kind of game you can pull out and play in short bursts.