It’s fighting with GIRLS!!!!!
Yeah, there is a lot of enthusiasm suggested in the title of Examu’s updated fighting game. Arcana Heart 3: LOVEMAX!!!!! carries enough exclamation marks to easily be forgiven for another genre of game, but nonetheless, this updated version of the much less excitable Arcana Heart 3 fighting game has arrived on the PS3 and the Vita. Let the shouting COMMENCE!!!!!
There are two aspects to LOVEMAX!!!!! that stand out, besides the silly name. The first is the massive and varied roster of fighters in the game. The roster is made entirely of women and there are 23 fighting ladies to choose from. Each of them look and fight differently, with some incredibly quirky options available. However, a players choice does not end there as they will also have to choose an Arcana for their fighter, a celestial companion that brings with it awesome fighting moves. There are a whole bunch of these aswell, each again varied from the last, giving the player a massive choice when it comes to how they play and which combination of fighter and Arcana to master.
The second aspect that stands out is the visual style. Almost throwing back to the older style of fighting games, LOVEMAX!!!!! chooses to make use of colourful and well designed sprites for the 2D brawling. The backdrops to the fighting are quite varied, and change with the use of the Arcana, and the fighting is interspresed with functional and good looking menus, and well made cut scenes. The game looks good. It is bright and colourful, and filled with enthusiasm. If I had to raise a complaint about the way LOVEMAX!!!!! looks on the Vita, it would have to be that the screen is too small. Don’t get me wrong, everything is very smooth and polished on the Vita’s always impressive screen, it is just that there isn’t a lot of real estate there and things do get a little tight.
So, loads of ladies and companions to choose from, and some very good looking, if slightly retro, visuals. Does any of this really matter in a fighting game? Surely the mechanics are all important?
Thankfully, LOVEMAX!!!!! brings with it a very competent fighting system. Three different strengths of attack can be combined to unleash different combos and put the hurt on your opponent, all while you wait to punish your opponent with your Arcana’s special moves. Beating the pulp out of your opponent won’t be that easy though, so mastering the counter system will also be a must. Underneath the cute visuals and silly name, LOVEMAX!!!!! hides a very well balanced combat system that does a good job of allowing the novice player to get their foot in, whilst providing the veteran videogame fighter a system that will take a long time to master. The amount of time a dedicated player could lose to mastering LOVEMAX!!!!! is amplified by the number of fighter combinations that they will have to work through to find the one that works best for them.
The best way to start finding that ideal fighter/Arcana combo is through playing the Story mode. This is a fighting game, so don’t go expecting a deep and meaningful story here. It is something to do with saving the world, which happens to involve a small number of fights. It’s okay, and if you happen to be drawn into the world then you can take a look at the After Story mode to further the narrative. Still, each of the characters gets their own spin on the short story and provides the perfect opportunity to try them on for size.
Beside the Story and After Story modes, there is plenty of fighting action waiting for the player. Training is available for practice, score attacks and time trials to compete against, and the all important versus mode takes the game online, which is where it really shines. Nothing really beats playing against another real-life player, and it is here that players will be able to perfect their skills and see just how good they are, or think they are. Playing online is smooth and lag free, although the niche nature of the game may suggest that finding games will become more difficult quickly.
And it is that niche quality that will be LOVEMAX!!!!!’s main barrier to success. It is a really good fighting game, but the all-female focus, the visual style and the quirky name will see the game appeal only to a niche audience here in the UK, which is quite a shame.
Arcana Heart 3: LOVEMAX!!!!! is a fighting game featuring a roster of varied female fighters and their celestial companions. It looks good and plays really well, offering a great level of challenge to the veteran videogame fighter. But it is still a niche title that will likely be overlooked by all but the fans of the previous games. However, if you happen to be looking for a fighting game on your Sony handheld and can look beyond the silly name, Arcana Heart 3: LOVEMAX!!!!! is certainly worth a look and won’t disappoint.