I was sold from the moment I heard that Aksys would be publishing an anime fighting game. Imagine my delight when I got my hands on the title and learned that it was a deep fighter with tons of characters and options. Make no mistakes: while this game has the same publisher as BlazBlue, the two were handled by different developers. In other word, this aint no BlazBlue.
The visuals are bright and colorful. The character and Arcana portraits are simply beautiful. The stages, although static and fully 2D, are pretty interesting. The sprites are pretty detailed and while they aren’t as sharp as in BlazBlue, they are still bold and beautiful. It isn’t surprising, since the title is in HD.
The next thing you’ll notice after the absurdly colorful opening, is the all female cast. I didn’t count them, but there were something like two dozen playable characters and they were all females. Just as interesting, they are all unique. You’ve got the anime templates such as the young school girl and lady samurai. There are also some much more unique designs, such as a wizard-like girl with a puppet inside a briefcase and a shaman looking character who rides a white tiger.
After you choose your chick, you can pick out a color scheme and also choose between a standard and simple control scheme (more on the latter later). Afterwards, you are taken to what looks like another character select screen. Here you must select your Arcana. These creatures vary in appearance and utility, but they are all animated wonderfully. Your character will get a special ability depending on the Arcana you choose. Some give a speed boost, others increase the utility of the homing button (more on that in a moment) and many more have various effects. To maximize your character’s effeciency, you should choose an Arcana that compliments your characters play-style. Faster, more aggressive characters may favor an Arcana like lightning or time, for example. They also give you a special ability called an extend force, which varies from Arcana to Arcana.
Then the fight begins. The game uses a five button scheme. What immediately seperates this game is the number of movement options character’s have. The mobility is absolutely crazy. You can chase characters through the air and zoom in on them, regardless of their position on the screen. This is due to a homing feature. The ability to pressure – and escape pressure – has been multiplyed thanks to this feature. Homing probably wouldn’t be so useful if it wasn’t for the very tall screen. The higher into the air you go, the smaller the characters seem to become. The camera follows the action into the sky, which is unlike anything I’ve seen in a fighter. They don’t simply vanish into the air off screen, the fight is simply carried into the sky.
The simple mode in the game seems exceptional. Like BlazBlue: Continuum Shift and the more recent Marvel vs. Capcom 3, a simple mode has been included for those of us who don’t have dozens of hours to whittle away becoming good at the game but still want to play and have fun. It works really good here folks, as I was performing chains like a champion after just a few minutes. I decided to spend the rest of my time with it on simple mode, and I completely enjoyed myself.
You also get to watch these cool animations which are in panels on either side of the screen. According to the attendee, the game was made for a rather small screen, so the anime side-bars were added to fill the screen.
After playing Arcana Hearts 3 for something like an hour, there are lots of things that I want to learn and try. I am particularly excited about trying out the rest of the characters and Arcana. I can’t wait to get my hands on this title when it hits the PS3 this spring.