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Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . While not as deep as I would have liked, Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! is an exciting fighting game with an all-female cast. Colorful characters aside, this quirky arcade port is bogged down by dull cinemas and claustrophobic levels. Even with a few problems, Arcana Heart 3 is a girl fight I can get behind. Rating: 64%
Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!!
Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!!
  • Review Score:

  • B-
Fact: It's almost impossible to take your eyes off a girl fight. You can call me sexist and scoff all you want, but the moment a teenage girl picks up a shovel and starts swinging, the internet begins to buckle from everybody rushing to YouTube.

Despite our seemingly unquenchable thirst for girl fights, few game developers have been able to parlay this obsession into genuinely fun games. Past efforts have resulted in everything from Strip Fighter to Rumble Roses, both of which were focused more on the sexual fetish than quality gameplay. Arc System Works' newest Steam release is Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! (their emphasis, not mine), and it's the first all-girl fighting game I've played that doesn't feel like a horrible gimmick.

Let's start with the bad news: The world is going to end in under a week and we're all going to die. No, this not a drill. It's up to you to spend the next five days collecting enough stones to save the planet. There are 23 wildly diverse women to choose from, each with a different take on the impending devastation. It's an exciting set-up that quickly devolves into a series of questionably translated conversations and dizzying one-on-one fights.

With nearly two dozen characters, there's a fighter for everybody. The cast is decidedly zany, offering everything from a pint-sized magician to bunny-eared girl piloting a giant mech suit. It's an anime fighting game where you can fight with a sidewalk chalk outline, angel, demon on roller skates, ninja and even a woman fighting in Jell-O. I was immediately drawn into the crazy cast of characters, even if their stories left me underwhelmed.

Like many other anime fighting games, the gameplay errs on the side of simple. Each character has a weak, medium and strong attack, as well as a series of combos and special moves. The action is quick, but never chaotic to the point of being hard to follow. The quarter-circle commands will be familiar to anybody who has played Street Fighter in the last 25 years. But even when I knew what to expect, I found Arcana Heart 3 continued to surprise me.

Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

With so many characters to square off against, it took quite a while before the game started to become repetitive. While not every fighter is as interesting as the last, they all have over-the-top moves I couldn't wait to see in action. As somebody who somehow missed out on the first two installments, there's a real sense of discovery with every combination of characters.

Unfortunately, that sense of discovery slowly turned into a real sense of monotony. Sure, the game offers a lot of characters, but only a handful of them are genuinely interesting. What's more, the gameplay is so basic that it sometimes comes across as shallow. The addition of Arcana helpers goes a long way to add depth, but it isn't enough to keep the game from becoming repetitive.

The claustrophobic arenas don't help matters much. Because the action is presented in a 4x3 window, the fights tend to feel unnaturally crammed together. It could be that I wouldn't even notice this on an old standard definition television, but the spacing felt weird on my widescreen monitor. This is especially noticeable when you're playing one of the larger fighters. There are times when I wished the camera would back up just enough to give everybody some breathing room.

Arcana Heart 3: LOVE MAX!!!!! (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

For those interested in the story, I'm happy to report that there's a lot of it. Not only does every character have their own adventure, but there's a completely separate mode called After Story that, you guessed it, continues the story. Other modes include the typical versus, survival, score attack, training and time trial challenges. Fans will have a lot to work through in this PC release.

The visuals are sharp, but occasionally feel a bit dated. The character sprites aren't as high-res as the rest of the game, a relic from the 2009 arcade game. Once my eyes adjusted, I had no problem getting into the chaotic action. I like the design of the world and how diverse the characters are, though I could have done without the gratuitous up-skirt shots of ambiguously aged schoolgirls.

Aside from its more fetishistic flourishes, Arcana Heart 3 delivers an enjoyable fighting experience with a strong cast of characters and good visuals. Some fighting fans will be disappointed by the shallow gameplay, while newcomers will be confused by the nonsensical (and often dull) storyline. Even with a few problems, this is one girl fight I can get behind. ΔZEAL
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