By William Haderlie / February 28th, 2018
|Title||Arcana Heart 3 Love Max Six Stars!!!!!!|
|Publisher||Arc System Works|
|Release Date||December 12th, 2017|
|Genre||2D Air Dash (Anime) Fighting Game|
|Age Rating||T for Teen|
The latest fighting game release from developer EXAMU is a very difficult game to review, and as such I hope that I can be forgiven for needing to wear two hats for this review. Even as much as I love EXAMU fighting games overall, and as entrenched as I am in the fighting game community, I recognize that this game is likely to encourage very disparate views between the general public and fighting game fans. Even among the larger fighting game community, the Arcana Heart 3 scene is a very small component. However, for those of us who are fans (like myself), it’s one of the more fun games to both watch and play at tournaments. It is easily one of the most vertical of all fighting games, and the level of customization you have when you consider all the different Arcana combinations with each character is truly intimidating. People are always finding new technology with ever major tournament I watch. That being said, this latest release proves one thing more than anything else about this series; it’s past time for Arcana Heart 4.
Arcana Heart 3 Love Max was the previous entry in the franchise, and that was released on PlayStation 3 and Vita back in 2014. Steve reviewed the title for us, and while I liked the title a bit more than he did, I largely agree with his assessment. However, something not mentioned in his review (and he probably didn’t know) is that this version of the game, Arcana Heart 3 Love Max Six Stars!!!!!!, was released only a couple months later in Japanese arcades. While it would have been nice for them to just make this version available right away on consoles, Street Fighter V is the only non-indie Japanese fighting game to bypass any arcade beta testing or updates and go right to home consoles (and they were punished by the unwashed masses who don’t understand how that works, so it’s unlikely to ever happen again). Still, they really didn’t need three years of testing for this version of the game when the only major changes were one additional character and one additional Arcana (which requires much more balancing than the additional character does, due to the way Arcana work in the series). What they were really waiting for was funding. Hence why EXAMU decided to finally take their project to Kickstarter to see whether there would be enough interest to bring the game over to our shores. They were wildly successful in that gambit.
Like many other Kickstarter success stories of the past, the easy part is delivering the game promised by the funding goal. The more difficult task, in the long run, is delivering all the stretch goals that you promised before your campaign became unexpectedly successful. They offered to port the game to Steam for a very reasonable $100,000 goal, which tells me that Arc System Works probably matched a lot of the production costs and just needed some reassurances that their investment would pay off, but that is just my own speculation. However, they were able to raise over three times that amount, which unlocked many long term goals such as having a former boss character added to the playable roster of Arcana and two all new characters. This is good news, because an entirely new game with only one new character and one new Arcana is very sparse and a difficult ask at a $29.99 price tag. They were able to add an entirely new Story Mode for Minori, but most disappointing of all for me is that they did not add her to the After Story that was developed for Love Max. Because of that, she gets a lot less character development than anyone else. As such, even the three characters that were added for Arcana Heart 3 feel much more like members of the traditional cast by now than Minori was. Hopefully she will feel much more included in the next entry for the series. Unfortunately I have no way to review the other new characters, because they have not been added to the game yet.
As I said earlier, the overall impression I was left with is that we need a next game in the series. It’s disappointing that there is a whole new release with only one new character (so far), but really the major sticking point is that the fighting engine is really showing its age. There are some performance issues, some frame dropping, and the resolution is maxed out at 720p. But mostly the game just is starting to look really old. That doesn’t mean it plays bad: it still has the same great mechanics from before, and there are no major fighting mechanic changes. It’s just hard to go back to it after playing so many modern fighting games such as Guilty Gear Xrd and Dragon Ball FighterZ. That being said, I unequivocally want an Arcana Heart 4. I don’t want this series to fade into obscurity. Hopefully some of the success with the Kickstarter and the sales on Steam can be used to develop the new game, and hopefully they can licence an engine like Arc System Works did with Unreal Engine to help cut down the costs. As always with Arcana Heart games, there is a wonderful mix of zany visual novel story sequences combined with really solid fighting game mechanics, and I want that to continue going forward.
There were no crashes with this new version of the game, and the only bug I noticed is some frame dropping (that have released some patches working on it). So really the only thing left to talk about is the online multiplayer. This version of the game seems to use the same netcode as Love Max did, which is good and bad. It is certainly functional, but I had some serious frame drops and lag when playing people well outside of my region. This is rather common with most fighting games, since it’s a genre that requires such fast reflexes that any lagging is noticeable. But this one has a bit more noticeable lag than other modern fighting games even with its relatively simple sprite graphics, so that leads me to believe that there are relatively few international servers. It’s not unplayable, but the online infrastructure is also showing its age and could really use some work.
As a fighting game fan, and especially as an Arcana Heart fan, this is a title that I’m very happy got a release here in the West. However, for the general public, I’m not sure how much I can recommend this game. If you did not buy Arcana Heart 3 Love Max, but are a fan of anime air dash fighting games, I can definitely recommend this game. This is a very wonderful series. But if you already own that game I would, at a minimum, wait until the other characters are added to the roster. $29.99 is pretty expensive for just a single character and single Arcana addition. That being said, if you just look at the game itself devoid of any reference to the previous titles, this is still an extremely solid and enjoyable game. For a single Story run it will only take you about 15 minutes, pretty standard for most fighting games, but completing the After Story will last you at least an hour. After that you will have the fun of unlocking all the side content in the Gallery, which is a worthwhile amount of content featuring very cute girls.
Review Copy Provided By The Publisher
2D Fighting GameArc System Worksarcana heartArcana Heart 3Arcana Heart 3: Love Max Six StarsExamuPCSteam