Chances are, your first impressions of Arcana Heart 3 won't be too great. Blurry, low-res sprites shuffle around rather slowly, their roughness emphasised by the pretty-but- simple HD backgrounds.
The nippy, delicate battle animations are initially confusing, and impacts feel fluffy. With minimal English translation and no in-depth training modes, it frankly feels like a rushed, bare-bones port of some kind of muddled training-wheels version of Blazblue - or worse.
The game even has almost exactly the same four button control scheme. Basically, you'll wonder what the point is.
Note though, that we did say "almost the same control system." The point, you see, will hurtle headlong into your unsuspecting face as soon as you press Arcana Heart 3's fifth button. Automatically zipping you through the air towards your opponent from any position on-screen, Arcana Heart's homing button suddenly cracks the whole fight wide open, and out of it comes pouring a big load of delicious goopy air-game. It tastes a bit like Cadbury's Creme Egg.
Where Blazblue reserves its more complex juggles and mid-air duelling for those with razor-sharp reflexes and clairvoyant reaction times, Arcana Heart's air combat, instigated with a simple Marvel versus Capcom-style launcher move, is far more accessible, easier to start experimenting with, and at times even more spectacular.
You'll start out simply enough, maybe leaping up to a flailing opponent with Zangief-style grappler Kira, before pulling them down with a mid-air spinning pile-driver. But then you'll discover the quicker characters, like Mei-Fang, along with the joys of quick hit-strings comboed into 40-foot dragon punches.
And then the versatility of the homing system will open up a world of cheeky multi-directional cross-fourups, immense verticality, and multipart mid-air juggles. You'll find yourself flitting around your opponent like some kind of homicidal caffeinated humming-bird, five screens up. And then you'll realise that Arcana Heart's ground game is initially disappointing because it isn't necessarily meant to be played on the ground...
With a nimble, mash-friendly combo system augmenting all of this, along with some brutally powerful and arresting (but telegraphed and interruptible) super moves, Arcana Heart 3 is a breezy, accessible and always entertaining fighter.
It might lack Capcom's polish and Blazblue's tightness (and it would certainly have benefited from a more honest budget price), but what it does have is fun. That's enough, right?
Order Xbox World 360 magazine here and have it delivered straight to your door
A bit of fun, a lot of violence. Despite the cheapo presentation, we give it a nod.
- Fun air-comboing
- Fuzzy low-res sprites
- Dump training mode