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Arcana Heart 3 Review

Fate certainly hasn’t smiled upon Arcana Heart 3. Relegated to niche status by the franchise’s fetishized roster of teenage girls, the third entry in the series was released hours before the Playstation Network outage. Most stateside gamers with the slightest interest in pitting moekko against each other had to wait more than a month for the privilege, as the game abstained from a disk-based release in the U.S. While this extended delay isn’t likely to kill the cravings of hardcore otaku, players accustomed to more mainstream fighters might be tempted by the flash and fanfare of imminent titles like Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition. Yet, for any gamer looking for a deep fighter, neglecting Arcana Heart 3 could be a critical transgression.

As an reoccurring entry within Japan’s Tougeki – Super Battle Opera tournament (a competition rivaled only by EVO’s level of prestige), Arcana Heart certainly has the fundamentals of fighting down. Players have access to weak, medium, and strong attacks, which when used in conjunction with directional pad maneuvers, can deliver a robust selection of combos and special attacks. Beyond the archetypical quarter circles, double-taps, and z-motions common to Capcom and SNK titles, Arcana has a pleasing number of additional particulars which give the title a unique vibe.

After choosing a combatant from the game’s roster of 23 fighters, players also pick an Arcana- which affects both the potency of your strikes, as well as protection from enemy attack. Supplementing an already defensive-oriented character with a resistant arcana might be an ideal combination for turtlers, while more offensive-minded players might prefer a more aggressive amalgam. With 529 permutations, the title offers a pleasing amount of customization, since each manifestation noticeably alters the aptitude of your character. Additionally, arcana’s endow a fighter with both a few standard attacks as well as the Arcana Blaze- which provides a screen-filling, devastating wallop.

One mechanic that is nearly as essential is the Homing Dash, which allows players to quickly remove the distance between an opponent. A press of the ‘X’ button sends airborne or ground-based players darting toward their opponent. Since the ability isn’t tied to your Arcana Gauges, it can be used incessantly by players, to bolster combos and quicken the tempo of the game’s tussles. Smartly, Arcana Heart includes momentum reversers such as Homing Cancels (which abandon sweeps or launchers for homing attacks) and Guard Cancels (which covert a block into a brief period on invincibility), which are constricted by a meter.

Graphically, Arcana Heart 3 is effective, with each vibrantly colored fighter drawn with an ample array of animation frames. While the pixelation and slowdown found in previous franchise installments has been excised, the game lacks the sheen of its fighting contemporaries, with backgrounds only coming to life once Arcana are summoned. Beyond a widescreen output, players also have the option to fill the game’s borders with animated characters, or wallpaper. Fortunately, Aksys didn’t muck with the game’s audio, the entire game is in Japanese, using subtitles to translate the game’s dialog.

Story Mode employs a hackneyed plotline where an apocalyptic scenario is the impetus for a fighting tournament. Beneficially, the narrative is delivered with enough energetic absurdity to make the who excursion worthwhile, at least until players confront an unsporting final boss. For true masochists, Arcana‘s Score Attack Mode culminates in an even tougher opponent, capable of drawing the ire of even the most patient player.

Hardcore fighting fans would be wise to overlook Arcana Heart 3‘s understated visuals. Hidden beneath an unassuming roster of twenty-three teenage combatants is a astoundingly deep title which has the all the technical minutiae of a Guilty Gear or BlazBlue game. Although the game became mislaid during the PSN breakdown, Arcana is a worthwhile addition to any combat connoisseur ‘s library, especially for its thirty dollar price.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. I totally forgot this got released. Poor Aksys, I bet others did too.

  2. Little girls fighting? Total Deagle game, but I’d like to try it anyway.

  3. It’s Aksys, so I have to ask how much DLC going is going on with the game?

  4. Edward Penishands

    It totally looks like they stole their characters from every other fighting game.

    • Yep, I really haven’t seen an original fighting game in a long time. Even BB has a Harry Potter kid in it.

  5. lonelywonderboy

    Is this an Arc System Works game? Cause I love BlazBlue and can’t wait for another Guilty Gear (I heard they got the rights back)

  6. Witches, maids, samurai and a girl in rabbit ears and a leotard controlling a giant fat mech. What’s not to love?

  7. 23 fighters for $30? I might have to use my CC on PSN again. Let’s hope Sony made some real changes.

  8. Deagle, seems like youre really getting into fighters these days.

  9. I heard you could get the EU version for cheaper than the download. All territories for the PS3 one.

  10. No tag team review for this one? You and BlueSwin make a good fighting game pair.

    • At this point, I’d be content with just being able to play it. I don’t have a PS3 (or PSP, for that matter), so I am one of the MILLIONS…..*Crowd Chants “AND MILLIONS”*….of Fighting game fans on the Xbox 360 unable to play the game. There was a reason it didn’t come to the 360 and I don’t think it was because of Aksys’ lack of interest.

      • So what’s the reason, then?

        • I can’t offer anything factual. 🙁

          • From the Aksys forums:

            “We made every effort to release it on all possible systems, so that Arcana Heart 3 might reach the largest number of fans new and old. Unfortunately, this was ultimately not possible, for a variety of reasons which I’m not at liberty to discuss. We understand and sympathize with your frustration, but sadly a multiplatform release just isn’t in the cards for North America.”


  11. I wish I could have got this instead of Wipeout and Dead Nation from Sony.

  12. So it’s all Japanese schoolgirls? sounds faptastic.

  13. How the online? I assume there online matches…any lag?

  14. Maybe we’ll see a sale on it, or is Aksys stingy about deals?

  15. Bought this last night, but couldn’t play it because of Sony slowass servers.

  16. Yeah, I’d really like to play this on 360.