Arcana Hearts 3 is an adorable fighting game with a fairly steep learning curve and big payoff. The gameplay is enjoyable with cute characters that encompass a wide array of fighting styles and personalities. I confess that I have not played previous incarnations of the Arcana Hearts series, however I found that this did not hinder my enjoyment in any way. Arcana Hearts 3 is absolutely a stand-alone game and one that can be picked up quickly—if you’re someone with fighting game experience.
Some of the character’s fighting styles rely on combination memorization that are definitely on the upper levels of gameplay and might pose a challenge for a more casual fighting game player. If you’ve ever been a fan of fighting games by SNK or Capcom however you’ll find it a breeze to pick up. One of my favorite aspects of the game is how much different content it offered when using different characters as your main fighter. Instead of feeling like an endless loop of gameplay, whoever you are using as your “story” character, the game tailors itself to offer a unique experience. As an avid fan of the genre, it was a delight to experience a “2D” fighting game in a very photo-realistic gaming world.
The artwork and character designs are a definite throwback to 90’s arcade style and while the graphics have an excellent modern smoothness, the character design and content takes me right back to Playstation 2 days (which is apparently the last time an Arcana Hearts had a US release). As for the plot, it’s a fairly simplistic anime-tinged storyline about the destruction of Japan and the need for the “maidens” to fight against a great evil. If you’re looking for beefy dudes bashing the crap out of each other you’ll want to look elsewhere—every single playable character is a teenage girl! The character’s styles range from dark gothic to adorable frills and it’s a lot of fun seeing which ones have a specific fighting style (spoiler: the cuter they are the stronger they tend to be!).
Beyond the simplistic fighting game “story mode,” Arcana Hearts 3 offers Survival Score Attack, After Story and a new Training Mode that allows the player to test out the aforementioned combos. Overall, the game is a straightforward Japanese Arcade fighting game with little to offer beyond cute visuals, fun combos to learn, and the quirkiness of an all-female roster.
– Amy Macabre