Challenging, fun and a lot of cool characters and special moves. For those who love all-female Japanese fighting video games, “Arcana Heart” is definitely a game worth owning!
GAME: Arcana Heart (アルカナハート)
CREATED BY: EXAMU/AQI
PUBLISHED BY: ATLUS
CONSOLE: PlayStation 2
RATED: TEEN – Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence
When the announcement of “ARCANA HEART” coming out in Japan last fall, we did a lot of coverage on J!-ENT to promote the game.
The moe-style all-female fighting game that has spawned fighting tournaments in Japan was coming out on the PS2 with both the original arcade version and the patched, fighting balance corrected ARCANA HEART FULL version (FULL also allows for more color schemes for combatants and also the version used in fighting game tournaments in Japan).
As a fighting game junkie, when it came to female fighting games from the import “Sailor Moon S” on the 3DO to my favorite all female fighting game in the 90’s -“Asuka 120%” on the original PlayStation. But here we are more than a decade later with games like “Melty Blood” and “ARCANA HEART” being released in Japan, I never expected this game to come out in the US.
And ATLUS, being the coolest company to publish niche games and distribute in the US, they did it with “ARCANA HEART”. Awesome!
Before, I start let me repeat the ATLUS video game fanboy/fangirl message that many repeat over and over when it comes to ATLUS games: If you see it in the store and have a major interest in the title, buy it because chances are, you’re not going to see it again and if you want it later, you will be paying higher prices on eBay for it.
With that being said, let’s start with the my first glance review.
“ARCANA HEART” is an all-female “moe” (think of the word as a fetish or hard core passion to a certain character or genre/style for characters in a video game, anime or manga – typically I hear it used mostly towards female characters) fighting game.
There are a total of 11 maidens that you start out with such as:
- Heart Aino – Heart believes love can solve problems and a well-rounded, versatile fighter. Good at close combat attacks.
- Tsuzura Aiko – Best friend of Heart and always caring for her safety after she and a friend (Fiona) were swallowed by a dimensional portal. Aiko managed to escape and feels guilty for her friend’s disappearance. Another balanced character and good in close combat attacks.
- Kamui Tokinomiya – The Thousand Year Protector. A girl in a dark school girls outfit with dark boots with her long hair in a ponytail and carries her blad “Tamayorihime”. A character that can be very powerful if you learn her correctly.
- Konoha – Part human and canine. Ninja fighting style, short and fast.
- Lilica Felchenerow – Half human/half demon – All about speed and adaptability.
- Yoriko Yasuzumi – The witch and summoned the demon king ike which she has as a staff. She has a wide variety of attacks but they are not strong.
- Maori Kasuga – Practices rituals and assisting matters in the Elemental World. Great at fighting in a distance and uses her sisters to attack and set up combos.
- Lieselotte Achenbach – Crimson-Eyed Criminal who is cold hearted and wants to eliminate Heart for some reason. Fights with her sister (which is a wooden-marionette type of character missing her legs) Probably the most complicated character to use but once discovered, she can be devastating.
- Mei-Fang – Chinese-made humanoid robot. She is a close-range attack martial arts fighter.
- Kira Daidohji – Arrogant and condescending and rides some elemental blue bubble that can do a lot of damage and attacks.
- Sub-boss: Fiona Mayfield – A friend of Saki who was kidnapped into the Elemental World. Now serves Mildred. Powerful and wields a very strong sword.
- Boss – Mildred Avalon – Head of the Ministry of Elemental Affairs. Has two forms that you must go against. An elemental monster form which you need to use distance attacks. And her archangel/human form which takes a lot of strategy and planning (and losing) to figure out how to beat.
Now what makes this game so different from other fighters is that similar to a fighting game like “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures” which uses their own “STAND” (let’s say an enhanced secondary character you can employ to help you fight), with “ARCANA HEART” you get to select Arcana’s (think of it as a god or goddess that enable special powers for a character) before you fight.
This is what makes the game unique and also where you plot your strategy because you can have 121 fighter combinations and this adds to the replay value of the game because you can play with one character and play through the storymode and arcade mode using an arcana.
The Arcanas are as follows (please note that I have only used two Arcanas so far in this first glance review):
- Arcana of Love: PARTINIAS – Heart’s Arcana – But allows characters to have long range attacks and close range attacks. But great to use for mid-long range attacks. No depletion on the Super Meter.
- Arcana of Lightning: BHANRI – Saki’s Arcana and gives the power of lightning attacks and clash attacks in the air.
- Arcana of Time: ANUTPADA – Kamui’s Arcana, has power over time to stop clock from counting down
- Arcana of Nature: MORIOMOTO – Konoha’s Arcana, health regeneration
- Arcana of Wind: TEMPESTAS – Lilica’s Arcana and allows quad jumps and three air dashes
- Arcana of Death: DIEU MORT – Yoriko’s Arcana and physical attacks poison opponent and defense is increased.
- Arcana of Earth: OHTSUCHI – Maori’s Arcana. You can’t block attacks but defense is greatly increased.
- Arcana of Shadow: GIER – Lieselotte’s Arcana. Special attacks inflict more damage.
- Arcana of Fire: LANG-GONG – Mei-Fang’s Arcana. Homing in the air gives offensive fire shield.
- Arcana of Water: NIPTRA – Kira’s Arcana – No damage while blocking
- Arcana of Metal: ORICHALKOS – Fiona’s Arcana – Strength and defense increased
So, choosing an Arcana will definitely give you a variety of abilities and thus, each time you play that single character with a different arcana, it’s always something new. Definitely gives this game a lot of replay value.
This game has a story mode, arcade mode, versus mode, training mode, gallery mode and options
The game is a 2D fighter and similar to 2D games by SNK like “King of Fighters” (recent KOF games), you will see beautifully painted backgrounds and character designs more like anime-style characters. And before anyone asks, no this game does not have fan service. There are no animated video scenes, story is told via text and drawn still shots.
The game has rock music, to tell you the truth, didn’t pay attention to it. Similar to most fighting Japanese fighting video games, the characters talk in Japan before, during and after the game. But story mode is told via text but I do recall some parts with audio when a character you use meets up with a certain character (noticed audio with Kamui talking to Mike after the battle with Yoriko). You can access the music on the special options screen.
Going to options, you will notice you can access unlockable content such as gallery, music and other things which I still have yet to unlock. There is animation for special move attacks and arcana attacks which are opened during story mode and arcade mode and if you use them during battle.
OK, this is where it depends on the person. Many people like the arcade mode style which is A, B, C and Special buttons. I know people who have imported this game and people who bought this game who are hardcore into fighting games and want to be in that tournament mode and use joysticks. I have two joysticks but so far as of my first glance review, only used the PS2 controller.
Buttons go like this:
SQUARE (A BUTTON) – WEAK
TRIANGLE (B BUTTON) – MEDIUM
CIRCLE (C BUTTON) – STRONG
X BUTTON (S BUTTON) – SPECIAL
L1 – Arcana Force – A, B, C together
R1 – A & B Button
R2 – Throw – A & X Button
A lot of people go through fighting button configurations for this game and thus, you may want to change to suit your fighting style.
Part of the strategy of “ARCANA HEART” is utilizing your arcanas and their special moves. Using Homing, this is very important because you can hit a character straight up into the air and if that happens, hitting the X button (Special) will make your character home into that character and you can use your combo or special attacks for major devastation (unless the opponent is great at countering) and then there is Homing Cancel and Guard Cancel.
Similar to most fighting games that use a meter, you have your health meter on the top. But on the bottom, you have a homing meter which is three oblong shaped markers on the bottom. Using a homing ability, guard cancel or homing cancel will eliminate the three bars. But it automatically refills over time.
The second meter is the Super Meter which is indicated by a number. When the homing meter keeps recharging it builds your super meter which allows you to use a maiden or Arcana super attack. Once it’s used, you subtract from the total.
So far, for my first glance review, I will say right now that I love this game.
But what will kill it for many non-hardcore fighting game fans is the character of Mildred. The boss character. She is as cheap as an SNK boss. Lowering the fighting mode level is not going to really make things easier during the boss battles. So, this is a game that you will be playing a lot to figure out which arcana suits your character and strategies to overcome the enemy.
I play a lot of fighting games and so far I have beaten the game once with Heart and using her own Arcana. (using her long distance attacks for Mildred 1 and then sweep kicks and repeating the long-distance attacks but this time at short distance – using the three light ball attack and laser followup of her Arcana, no Arcana special move). And that was after losing 15 or so times.
I then started playing with Kamui and using her Arcana and then using Heart’s Arcana but after a dozen times, still have not found a way to beat Mildred. I did try to use Lieselotte but wow, she is difficult.
But I really do love fighting games that are not too easy and games where you have to work at it. Each character is not the same and button mashing really gets you nowhere (some may get lucky). This game is all about planning your attacks well. Coming up with strategies and knowing their strength and weakness.
Let alone learning how one of the eleven Arcana that you can choose, can benefit your attack and strategy.
All in all, awesome game and if you are a fighting game fanatic, especially hardcore and own several joysticks, then definitely give “ARCANA HEART” a try and hope to see this game considered for fighting game tournaments in the US.