|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ecole||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 10, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Arcana Heart is a game with a very simple premise: girls beat the snot out of each other. Once you understand that, then you're ready to play Arcana Heart. These girls may not be as curvaceous or bouncy as the Dead or Alive girls, but the basic idea is still the same.
In fact, Arcana Heart perhaps takes out the style of DOA and replaces it with substance. One of the first things you'll notice about the eleven lovely ladies of Arcana Heart is that they all resemble a different anime girl or "moe" archetype. There's the maid character, the temple girl, and the gothic Lolita; the gang's all here. This game is definitely a coup for fans of anime girls. Not that this is a bad thing, but I am letting you know that if you're looking for something other than stereotypical females in your fighter, Arcana Heart will disappoint.
However, if you don't mind a cliché-filled character roster, you may actually get some enjoyment out of it. The game's fighting system is fairly unique and uses a distinctive character combination system. When you select characters, you are able to select an Arcana, or elemental spirit, for them. This arcana gives your character special magical abilities and will work together with your character's prepossessing features to create a custom moves set. This is a pretty good system and gives you quite a bit of freedom to play around with different characters and strategize.
Characters themselves are actually pretty diverse and have widely varying styles. The game's titular main character, Aino Heart, is probably the most well-balanced character with easily accessible magic and physical attacks. Then there are characters like Yoriko Yasuzumi, the resident occult specialist, who rely solely on magic attacks and have almost no physical attacks at all. And of course the reverse is true for characters like Kamui Tokinomiya, who has attacks that are sword-based and utilize almost no magic at all. No matter what style you end up liking, there is definitely a character that you will end up liking.
The main mode of play in Arcana Heart is the story mode, which has you playing through the game's story through the eyes of one of the eleven characters. Some are good, some are evil, and even though you may not understand the story at first, as you play through the different characters' stories, you'll gain a larger grasp of what is going on in the universe of Arcana Heart. And while the overarching story is not particularly compelling, I found myself interested enough to continue playing.
In addition to the story mode, there is also a training mode, an arcade mode, and a versus mode. These are all pretty straightforward, and once you learn the mechanics of the game, you'll be able to jump right into any of these modes. There is also an extras mode where you can listen to music from the game, watch some intro videos, and even look at some art content.