It’s certainly not uncommon for titles of fighting games to throw on a lot of extras (generally, positive adjectives). This is even frequently mocked in fighting game parodies. That said, I can’t remember the last fighting game to use an exclamation mark in its name, and this game uses 5, so going into it certainly faced some expectations.
Although I’ve been playing fighting games since Street Fighter II got released on the SNES, I’m not fantastic at them, and I’d never played an Arcana game previously, so I was a little out of my element. The game has a cutesy all-female roster of fighters, and an army of “Arcana” to choose as well; although not quite as prominent as Persona are in P4A (Persona 4 Arena), in Arcana you aren’t locked to a specific one based on the character you’re playing as. With 23 fighters and 23 Arcana, you have 589 different “characters” to play as, depending on how much you’re willing to forgive palette-swapped fighters in games, with the Arcana impacting the fighter’s stats and adding some special moves, allowing a single character to have a multitude of strategies and playstyles with a simple change of the Arcana. The 23 fighters vary in appearance and fighting style, and use weapons such as bare hands, swords (big and small), firearms akimbo, or even a sidewalk drawing brought to life.
This game is quite old-style, to the point where the fighting arena is a 4×3 screen, with borders containing anime drawings of the fighters in the extra space. If you’ve played one of those re-releases of an older fighting game, like a downloadable SNK Neo Geo title, this is reminiscent of that. If you played 2011’s original release of Arcana Heart 3, there are no new characters, but the game has been tweaked and re-balanced, and offers three new modes: Another Story (what it says), Time Attack (a race-against-the-clock mode where you try to win fights as fast as possible), and Trial (a sort of challenge mode asking you to complete a specific objective in a fight).
Unlike most recent fighting games, there’s no tutorial mode whatsoever. There’s a training area with your standard CPU behaviour options and a command list of all of the special moves, but little else. Worse, many special moves chain into each-other and there isn’t really a good way of determining whether or not you’re timing things correctly. There’s a deep game here, and I could see a fight between two veterans of the game being an extremely interesting one, but it’s going to require a considerable time commitment just to learn the game at one might argue to be a “basic” level. The manual is somewhat basic and doesn’t really go much beyond explaining what buttons do what. Finding out how special moves combo and interact with each-other is firmly experimentation-only.
Although this game has your standard-issue Single Player modes, none of these are terribly compelling, and you’ll really want to either be playing online or have some pretty serious fighting game friends to play this with. There isn’t anything terribly unique worth mentioning for the single player, and the A.I. has issues. Playing with characters who have extremely long reach with their melee attacks, I was able to consistently defeat opponents on the highest difficulty by pressing a single attack button and nothing else, and rarely lost (especially if I changed things up a little).
The biggest problem this game has is its price point, as it’s in the same range as the newly-released Persona 4 Arena Ultimax which is much more “modern” game, has much greater mass appeal, as well as an RPG series to draw its characters and storyline from to keep things a little more interesting. Arcana has an undeniable lower budget feel, like with its 4×3 fighting arenas and lower-resolution graphics (somewhere between a Neo Geo game and something modern like BlazBlue resolution-wise). This coupled with its extreme depth of play means this is a game best reserved for fighting game obsessives bored of most other titles, and scoff at more popular games for being too “casual” or “mainstream”, and who have similarly-skilled friends who will play with them.
Do you know people who spend several hundred (or thousands) on a racing wheel or flight stick set and/or plays really obscure, meticulously-detailed games with sub-par graphics that cost more than most AAA games? This is the game you get if you’re the fighting game equivalent of those people. If you’ve never played with a fight stick or participated in fighting game tournaments this game might be beyond you. It’s still playable, but will definitely seem like a lackluster title as most of the “meat” of the game is hidden away and only available to those willing to put in the time. It feels a bit like being thrown a chess set with poorly-written and incomplete instructions with a pat on the head and wishes of good luck. There’s undoubtedly quite the game buried here, but only true fighting game obsessives need apply.
Arc System Works’ newest game, the rather slick-looking Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is also available in our store, and you can get it with eight art prints that our exclusive to us. Even if you’re in the EU, you needn’t worry about custom charges either. We’ve got your back. Grab it here.