Arcana Heart 3 Love Max is the expansion to the latest installment in the popular Japanese 2D all-female arcade fighting game series from developer Examu. Just like its vanilla version, the game takes players through a heavily anime-influenced fast and fun fighter with a surprising amount of depth. The game brings new rebalanced gameplay as well as updates to the game’s cast.
Love Max offers the same story from its vanilla version, which takes places two months after the events of Arcana Heart 2. Around that time, the organization “Drexler,” whom once distributed demonic arts throughout Europe during a certain war, had continued its operations all over the world. The secret branch in Japan was destroyed by the West Europe Spirit Agency and they established the branch office “Rosenberg” there in its place. Immediately following that, a large dimensional disruption was observed by many.
The timing of this event was most unnatural, and there were rumors of secret activity from the defunct Drexler branch. In order to resolve these events, the Japanese Spirit Agency has dispatched their Sacred Maidens. The Rosenberg office also sent their Sacred Maidens but in their way stands a new enemies, opponents that have been granted the powers of a Sacred Maiden, Valkyries.
Story Mode offers different story paths per character. From the moment you choose your character, you will be given the option to choose your opponent per stage which offers a special dialogue between those characters. Players will fight different characters that lead to the final character, which is Scharlachrot for the most part (unless you play Scharlachrot’s story mode). After their final opponent, players will face the final boss.
Love Max includes an “After Story” which covers the events after each heroines’ tale after they’ve saved Japan. This mode is presented in a form of a visual novel, which can be enjoyable if you like the genre. If you like the game’s cast as well as interested in their after events, you may want to check this mode out.
Personally, even with the addition of “After Story” in Love Max, plot isn’t the game’s strong suit. While it could possibly appeal the typical anime fan, it’s easily forgettable. Even if the story isn’t the strong suit for most fighting games, when a game dedicated an entire mode dedicated to a story, it’s harder to miss. However, even after you played both the game’s main story as well as the After Story, and enjoyed it, then you might want to check out the Gallery as it offers additional backstory.
After beating the game’s story, you can play various modes such as Survival Score Attack, Trial, and Time Attack. Survival Score Attack is the combination of both Survival and Score Attack, which requires you to defeat all characters without replenishing health. Time Attack requires the players to finish battles as quickly as possible and in Trial the player must complete a specific objective in each fight. Overall, they are fun modes that add to the game.
Online Mode has been improved as well. When searching for matches, you are now matched with an opponent of an appropriate skill level and allows you to hop into a lobby with five other players eager to beat the super-cute stuffing out of each other. Most importantly, the netcode is great as most of my online matches were lag free. At the end of each battle, the game will prompt you to save a replay of that battle, which can be later played in Replay Theater mode.
Unfortunately, PlayStation 3 and PS Vita owners can’t play among each other. Also, like a lot of games available for the PlayStation 3 as well for the PS Vita, the game isn’t cross-buy either so you would have to buy the game twice. While the latter isn’t really an issue, the lack of cross-play only alienates the fanbase as well as gives players less people to play the game with.
Just like its vanilla version, Love Max uses a five-button control scheme, which three of them which are used for or attacks of increasing strength. The fourth button activates the game’s unique homing mechanic, and the fifth button is an attack that varies depending on the player’s chosen arcana (the Arcana being celestial beings based on the major Arcana in a Tarot deck). The game also offers a simplified control scheme but it makes it difficult to execute some of the more advanced combos, and I wouldn’t recommend it for players who want to play the game seriously.
This version added some overall improvements to the already good gameplay such as character improvements, some system changes including Extend Force (which you will instantly recovery your current Arcana Guage when activated), the two frame gap where you could not block is now cancellable and more. Overall, the gameplay improvements made in this update is one of the main factors to get this game.
In 2014, you would expect that games, especially a 2D anime fighting game to look decent. Unfortunately, the sprites of the game look heavily outdated. Not to mention the game is only limited to a 4:3 screen while the sides shows a higher quality stock animation of the character called “Link Animation” that reacts to different situations that happen during battle, such as executing an attack or receiving damage. While the originally vanilla version had the same feature, you had the option to make the game 16:9. However, the good news is that like a good fighting game should, this one runs at 60 frames per second.
Is Arcana Heart 3 Love Max worth the upgrade? I would say yes. Despite the exclusion of Widescreen, as well as the same boring story, what’s most important in a fighting game is the gameplay and nowadays its online features. Additionally, the extra modes such as Survival Score Attack, Trial, and Time Attack are worth it as well. If you enjoy cute anime girls as well as a solid fighter, you should definitely give it a try.