If there’s one thing that you can rely on when it comes to fighting games, it is the possibility of a re-release in the future with additional content. That is exactly what has happened with Arc System Works title Arcana Heart 3, three years after its original console port, and five years after its launch in the Japanese arcades.
Arcana Heart 3 Love Max!!!! takes place in a future day version of Japan, with fantasy elements that exist as part of reality. A corrupt organisation known as the Drexler Institute is planning to destroy the country in less than a week, so it is up to the character that you choose, known as an angel, to save the world along with their partner Arcana. Each story mode allows you to branch off, picking different locations and paths along the journey. This option allows you to feel like you are in control of the events, and made the outcome slightly more satisfying.
The same cannot be said for the After Story Mode, which has been added to the Love Max edition. Each chapter felt entirely too short, and comprised of more cutscenes than actual gameplay. Whilst the character interactions were pretty much the same as in the main story, these newly created epilogues felt like a stale afterthought, rather than a vital inclusion into the narrative. The same sense of deja vu can be applied to Love Max, as it does not include a lot of new content aside from the After Story, but this is not really a surprise, as it is only an update, rather than a new entry in the series.
If you like your fighting tournaments to have a large character roster, then Love Max will fill your needs. There are twenty three “Angel” characters to choose from, ranging from Eko, a purple haired girl with a not so imaginary friend, to a cat eared girl named Nazuna with a raven and a white wolf for company. Each of the Angels have a specific themed Arcana, the game’s equivalent of a support character. Each of these are based on animals, mythological creatures and folklore, and your attack and defence points will change depending on your preference. If you would prefer to not be burdened with a storyline, then you can use the additional modes brought in for the console port, such as Time Attack, Survival Score Attack, Training and the local and online multiplayer. All the options you would expect are included, so you can change the amount of rounds, the time limit for each match and the handicap of each player at will.
The design of each of the Angels and their partner Arcana is vibrant and unique, with very few of them feeling out of place or unnecessary. The same can be said about how each character controls as you move them around the arena. The physics of Love Max seem to be fairly accurate, and for the most part, there were no problems with control delays or collision detection. I did not experience much lag during online multiplayer sessions either, which was a pleasant surprise given the sometimes unreliable nature of internet based gameplay. If you would prefer to stick with your characters default Arcana, you may do so in the Story Mode, but at all other times you will have to choose which one best suits your needs. As well as your Arcana, you may change your colour scheme from a wide selection, and choose whether or not to have an animated avatar of your character appear in the borders surrounding the screen. This is presumably to hide that the original release was not designed with widescreen in mind, or to give the player a feeling of nostalgia from seeing portraits of their characters on the outside of the arcade cabinets.
Unlockable content is sometimes ignored in fighting games, but fans of the genre will be pleased to learn it is not the case here. Although the entire Angel and Arcana roster is available at the start, you can view additional cutscenes, listen to the game’s soundtrack and look at bonus artwork in the Gallery, as long as you have met the required conditions. While you do not gain special bonuses for the main game as a result of your actions, it is nice to be awarded with a recognition of your efforts. There is a lot of content to be found in game, so if you are a gamer who likes to unlock everything, you will be in your element with this release.
Graphically, Arcana Heart 3 uses a mixture of high resolution animé artwork, with the characters rendered as Street Fighter II style sprites. The blend of these two styles works very well, with some characters looking better in sprite form than they do in their anime portraits. The audio is very much a Japanese pop affair, with the majority proving to be quite interesting compositions, rather than the sometimes average elevator music you can sometimes experience. There is no English dub to be seen either, with only English subtitles giving an indication of what the characters are saying.