Why you need to care about Arcana Heart. Part 2: The combat
- ZEN United
- Arcana Heart 3
- Arc System Works
In part one of our Arcana Heart 3 preview feature we looked at the history of the franchise, which reaches the UK for the first time on 19 August on Xbox 360 and PS3.
In part two we take a look at the all important fighting mechanics and explain just why Arcana’s little lass scrappers are more than capable of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Street Fighters, Tekkens and BlazBlues of the gaming world.
For a game with such a cute visage, Arcana Heart 3 is startlingly complex, but in a simple way. If that makes any sense at all.
You start any match by choosing a character, as you’d expect, from a cast of 23 girls that fall into the expected styles including the heavy grappler, the speedy but weak brawler, and the yellow bellied projectile spammer. So far so expected.
However as soon as you’ve chosen a character the game starts to show it has more than just a buxom character roster to its name, it’s at this point you’re asked to choose your Elemental Alignment, or ‘Arcana’ as we mentioned in part 1, and this element instantly adds obvious depth to Arcana Heart 3's fighting system.
But before we get into that, let’s have a rundown of the controls.
We’ll start simple. You have three main attack buttons labeled A (light), B (medium) and C (heavy) and, like BlazBlue and Marvel vs. Capcom, the core fighting mechanic sees you unleashing a simple onslaught by inputting that famous Jackson 5 lyric. It really is as easy as one, two, three.
Next up is the all-important ‘E’ button. This input activates your Arcana, the E stands for Elemental you see, and while a basic stab will activate a character’s default E attack each Arcana has its own set of unique special and super attacks found through holding the button and inputting specific motions.
Last but not least is Arcana’s pièce de résistance, the H button. This is not a direct attack but it is the most crucial cog in Arcana’s combo machine. Tapping the H button at any time will send your character hurtling towards your opponent with no regard for their safety, with you able to tempter travel with directional inputs and cancel it through attacks.
Homing maneuvers quickly become an essential part of play. They allow you to chase an opponent you’ve sent flying for a continued combo, quickly surprise an airborne foe, or using homing feints to try and coax an opponent into a failed assault that you can make good of through harsh punishment. Learning to tame the homing attack is just one of Arcana Heart’s satisfying niches.
It’ a Kind of Magic
But controls are only half of the Arcana Heart 3 experience; the other is nailing your choice of character and accompanying Arcana, 23 Elemental powers based on characters from the Tarot.
As already mentioned characters fall into the expected fighting styles, complete with special moves activated in the time honored fashion of quarter circles and super moves that eat up a meter sitting at the bottom of the screen. However the Arcana you choose is always your ace up the sleeve, a tool used to compliment a strength or conceal a weakness.
Take the ‘Sin’ Arcana for instance, a quick quarter circle back and E places a timed mine of sorts that can be used to cover a projectile spamming character from assault by interrupting a foe who moves in to attack. Meanwhile the ‘Fire’ Arcana can launch a ground-based projectile with a simple Hadouken motion that can be used to cover the start of a homing attack rush down. Choices choices…
Yet the Arcana you choose doesn’t simply grant new moves and attacks, they even go so far as to alter your girl’s statistics. Improving your defence, changing how quickly your super meter builds, adding health. Some even remove health from your opponent, how devious!
Yet alterations aren’t limited to behind the scenes numbering, some Arcana add clear extra elements to the battlefield such as how the Magnetism Arcana pulls your opponent towards you on activation, or how the Love Arcana lets you float in the air. The impressive depth of Arcana and character design mean there is a lot to consider.
Finding not only the character to suit you but the Arcana to match your style, all the while getting a grasp on the system’s myriad of other elements such as Arcana Bursts, Homing Cancels, Clashes, and Extend Force’s, creates a delirious rabbit hole of fighting goodness. Not to mention it makes versus matches all the more interesting as you’re trying to cope with another players individual character and arcana combination.
But most important of all is the way this depth is all tied down to a fighting system built on the standard foundations of jabs, pokes, and special attacks that is given distinct clarity through the all important homing attack.
It’s fast, brutal, and unbelievably deep if you decide to dive in but at the same time it’s easy to enjoy the simple spectacle of two anime lass’ ricocheting around the screen with the ferocity of a bouncy ball in a pinball machine, enjoying the intimate combat that is elegantly emphasized through the homing mechanic. Don’t let the moe anime babe cast and daunting character/Arcana combining element put you off, while it is exquisitely deep for those that want it, the clever control scheme means Arcana Heart 3 is unique and hugely entertaining fighting brilliance at any level.
If you’re still unconvinced we’ll have a full review of Arcana Heart 3 ready as soon as we can stop playing the game to tell you all about it.
The Arcana Heart 3 release date is 19 August.
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