You probably shouldn’t purchase Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!!, the most recent localized iteration of this popular anime fighter series. Not because it’s especially bad; it’s actually the best Arcana Heart available in English at this point in time. No, the actual problem is that Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX SIX STARS!!!!!! – yes, that’s actually what they’re calling it – was recently announced for Japan. It’s offering gameplay updates on top of a new character and Arcana. We’ll probably see that one over here, so you don’t want this one. Alas.
It’s kind of a shame, actually, because if you’re a fan of fighting games and you haven’t played Arcana Heart then you’re missing out. The characters are interesting and varied, the art is fantastic and the combat has a rhythm all its own thanks to a couple of gameplay systems unique to this series. Sadly, though, I simply can’t recommend this title when a superior version is going to be out before long.
The same couldn’t really be said for LOVE MAX!!!!! itself, even before the next revision of the game was announced. There’s no new characters or Arcana and the tweaks this revision makes to the Arcana Heart 3 formula are fairly esoteric. If you aren’t already a hardcore player, you aren’t going to see this as much of an upgrade over the base game; if you are, you probably already own LOVE MAX!!!!!, so I can’t really tell you not to buy it.
If you’re new to Arcana Heart: you select a character and an Arcana, basically a guardian spirit that offers an additional selection of passive abilities, special moves and supers. You then take your chosen pairing and beat the hell out of others in the traditional fighting game style. While each character has her own personal Arcana, you’re free to choose whatever you like. Generally, your character provides your basic moves while your Arcana provides your projectiles, enhanced movement abilities and other “powers,” though this isn’t remotely universal and there’s a wide variety of options available to suit your preferences.
Matching a character and Arcana to match your playstyle is the real highlight of the series, since you’re able to enhance your fighter’s strengths or cover her weaknesses to your liking. Slower characters might prefer Time, for instance, which allows you to warp around the screen or stop time. Characters that lack ranged capabilities might prefer Love, which offers projectile reflection and a variety of projectiles of its own. Each character is matched to her own Arcana and they generally work fairly well together as a default choice, though a little tweaking can usually lead to better performance.
As one of the premier anime fighting series, the game looks as nice and sounds as good as you could expect. Everything is animated beautifully, the fighters and Arcana all have their own unique aesthetics, there’s very little to complain about in terms of look and feel. The largest selling point of LOVE MAX!!!!! is the enhanced story mode, which offers plenty of content in which you can enjoy the sound and art. There’s over 300 scenarios to play through, so if you’re into story content in fighting games this is basically paradise.
For those of us who play fighters for the fighting though, I simply can’t recommend a game that’s going to be rendered obsolete soon enough. The series is great and Arcana Heart 3 LOVE MAX!!!!! is a great game by extension, but if we’re being honest with each other, you’re better off saving your money for the impending LOVE MAX SIX STARS!!!!!! instead.