REVIEW – Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! [PS3/Vita]

This fall is practically a godsend for fighting game fans.  While the genre has seen a plethora of games throughout the year, the second half of 2014 has a great deal of titles available to fans of 2D fighters.  Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, Guilty Gear Xrd Sign, and other smaller titles all strive for fans’ attention, and with such terrible dry spells in the past, this deluge of games to play is a wonderful thing.

To kick it all off is Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!!, an updated version of 2011’s Arcana Heart 3, with some re-balancing and an After Story to enjoy.  Does this fighting game deserve your soon-to-be-divided attention?

Like any good fighting game, special moves are super flashy.

Like any good fighting game, special moves are super flashy.

The story to Love Max is the same as the original… which is to say, it’s sort of difficult to piece together.  A girl is collecting celestial stones that are appearing in the area to launch some sort of deadly giant robot.  And a bunch of other girls are fighting for the heck of it, collecting the stones for themselves for… well, different reasons, from thinking the stones are dangerous to them being shiny to wanting to get pets from their ‘master’.

Love Max‘s Story mode isn’t going to win over fans of BlazBlue‘s or Persona 4 Arena‘s extensive plot lines, but it’s serviceable as a way to try out the various characters and get used to some of the series’ unique mechanics.  The main mechanic that the Arcana Heart series sports that is different from the norm are the various Arcanas you can use.  Every character has a ‘default’ Arcana they use, but you can pick whichever one you want before a fight.  Most characters’ default Arcanas are meant to compliment each character’s move sets, but more advanced players can use the Arcanas to work with their own play style.  The system allows a lot of room for experimentation, and is very rewarding for those that work to find the right Arcana to match their favorite character and playstyle.

...Yes, that's a blob of water turning into a boot.

…Yes, that’s a blob of water turning into a boot.

But, thankfully for the abnormal fighting game fans that play fighting games for the story (like myself), there are additional scenarios to work through.  First is the After Story, which is an odd story involving all the girls trying to get to some mysterious hot springs that they saw on TV.  Each character’s part of the story only has one fight, and it’s on the easy side, so the After Story is more for some character development than anything.  The plot might be a little weird, but it does provide more back stories for the various characters that are difficult to see otherwise, so it’s a nice little distraction.  Also, you don’t have to beat any character’s Story Mode to access the After Story, so veterans of the original can jump into the new content immediately.

Additionally, as you play with each character, you’ll unlock some of their Memories, which you can access in the Gallery.  Memories are split into two groups–Main and Sub Stories–and provide even more characterization for the girls of Arcana Heart 3.  It’s a nice touch, though most people are only going to see the Memories of their favorite characters.

Other than the additional story modes and some character balancing, there isn’t much that has been changed from the original version of Arcana Heart 3.  There aren’t any new characters to try out, and with the various combinations of characters and Arcanas available, the re-balancing is going to go largely unnoticed by everyone but the most dedicated of fans.

Yes, that's a ninja dog-girl.

Yes, that’s a ninja dog-girl.

So, should you pick up Love Max!!!!!?  If you and your buddies are hardcore fighting game fans that always pick up the latest version of Street Fighter, then you’ll be the one that benefits the most from Love Max.  If you want to learn more about the various ladies of Arcana Heart (and are left a little confused because the second entry never left Japan), this will provide some additional entertainment for your money.  If you never bought the original Arcana Heart 3, Love Max is certainly the definitive version to pick up.

For everyone else… well, with so many fighters coming out throughout the rest of the year, it’s really difficult to recommend Love Max flat out.  It’s a good game, but judging by how some of the big name fighting games are looking and playing, Love Max might be outclassed relatively quickly.  If the unique parts of this all-girls fighter interest you, I recommend picking it up for the Sony system of your choice, but otherwise it might be better to wait to see how well the rest of Arc System‘s stable of fighters perform throughout the year before taking the dive.

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