Arcana Heart Hands-On

We take a look at an upcoming PlayStation 2 brawler that combines deep gameplay with cutesy 2D visuals

Japanese fighting fans have been able to play Arcana Heart in their local arcades for more than a year now, but those of us in North America won't see its release until next month. In the meantime, Atlus has been kind of enough to send a preview version our way so we could get a feel for what this upcoming PlayStation 2 release has to offer.

It won't take you long to realize that Arcana Heart is a game of contrasts. The 2D visuals are filled with cutesy female brawlers, each featuring sparkling eyes and bright costumes. It seems every female anime archetype is represented in the game's 11 playable characters. However, the fighting isn't nearly as lighthearted because it offers a deep move set and plenty of element-based customization to help appeal to the hardcore crowd.

Story is usually an afterthought in fighting games, but Arcana Heart's plot helps to explain one of the more important features of the gameplay. The female brawlers are known as the maidens, and it's their mission to keep the world we know today from merging with the elemental world (the result of this fusion would be disastrous). Oddly enough, they go about doing this by actually teaming up with spiritual beings from the elemental world known as the arcana. This means that before each match, you select both a character and an arcana to supplement your roster of attacks with elemental special moves. It's an interesting twist that lends a lot more variety to the characters than you would otherwise see.

Aside from this mix-and-match aspect, the core gameplay is fairly traditional. Basic attacks are mapped to the square, triangle, and circle buttons. The X button is used to dash and execute arcana abilities. Many of the attacks require multiple buttons to be pressed at once, so it's often a better strategy to keep three fingers over the face of the controller rather than just your thumb. The quick pace of the battles and the fact that each character has a wide variety of moves means you'll need those fingers to dance rather frantically. In our experience, the controls felt nice and responsive, although mastering the directional sequences with the joystick could take some time.

Adding more variety to the combat are the aforementioned arcana abilities and a number of miscellaneous techniques. Your arcana can be summoned in grand fashion--temporarily putting a hold to the action with a quick but dramatic animation sequence that contrasts nicely with the cutesy 2D characters--to effectively double your number of special attacks. You'll also need to grasp the game's homing, homing cancel, and guard cancel techniques because proximity, as well as timing, are very big factors. On top of this, the levels can get very vertical, so there's also an aerial element to deal with also. All in all, Arcana Heart feels like the sort of game that's aiming for the seasoned veterans of the fighting genre.

This PS2 port of Arcana Heart will give players the option of using the original version of each character or the "full" one (the latter option comes from an arcade patch that was released to address some character balance issues). Whichever you prefer, you'll be able to check out Arcana Heart when it's released on April 8.

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Discussion

43 comments
Aqua_Mirage
Aqua_Mirage

A good game, its hard the combo system when you start..but is easy to leran to! various styles of chars!!

hellpolice
hellpolice

The game is out for months! and I want it!

WitteKraai
WitteKraai

I just bought this game, and it seems really awesome so far. My arcade stick is really taking a beating, though. ^_^v I'm playing Saki w/ Tempestus atm.

98KOF_EISON
98KOF_EISON

this game is owesome new combos, new girls give it a try you'll love it 2d fan all the way 3d not even close sorry.

Dualmask
Dualmask

All female cast...sign me up...unless it sucks.

Jacava
Jacava

Does anyone have any ideas about when, or IF, this being released in Europe? I can't be bothered/don't have the funding to get an NTSC PS2 or make mine multi-region or whatever.

danwarecritic
danwarecritic

Would not knock with the most cliched insult. Yery, very unique 2D fighter.

megadisc
megadisc

whoa....the game is unbeliveable

Gregomasta
Gregomasta

Hmm, even tho the roster is all Chicks I can dig it.

Gregomasta
Gregomasta

this looks more like a 2d fighter

V-Nine
V-Nine

...now if they could bring over Melty Blood as well....

M4574
M4574

Awesome full of cute looking grlz. I like it ^^ it might be better than x2 but we´ll see about that .

666sinboy81
666sinboy81

x2 was awsome I wish there were more rpg's with female casts I wanna c hot girls wen I play not guys that might as well be girls maybe thats why I liked bullet witch also finaly geting to play seperate ways on the wii Ada is sexay!

danwarecritic
danwarecritic

I'm a huge fan of female characters in video games. For example, my favorite RPG is Final Fantasy X-2, and when I play Tekken 5, I almost always play Asuka. So this is a must-buy for me, automatically.

danwarecritic
danwarecritic

This isn't really a girly fighting game. Actually it's something anyone, even us guys, can get into. The 2D visuals are solid, the combat shows a lot of promise, heck, it's the deepest fighting game i've seen since Tekken. You owe it to yourself to buy it. I do even if I'll a little late to the party.

Mantiskilla007
Mantiskilla007

Melty Blood is a better fighting game (Got Act Cadenza ver B for PCand original for japanese PS2) but Arcana Heart is a good game. Much slower than Melty Blood but not terrible. I like to pull off the crazy midair combos though.

666sinboy81
666sinboy81

the female characters are always my fav in 2d fighters ..cammy.. mai from kof..and you know who from darkstalkers so I pretty much reserved this title instantly I'm happy to have it released in the u.s. in any form .. online play would be a really nice bonus but 2player action in the living room is always fun ..I'm a long tym fan of 2d fighters not so much 3d but I'm am very excited about sf4 and I'm really enjoying bleach4 on psp game is crazy anywho fighters are great this title will be great there's nothing really like it out in the u.s no brainer for me thanks atlus

O2k4
O2k4

Yippiee!!! a girlie fighting game.... yuck

VagrantChild24
VagrantChild24

Don't have the funds right now to get it what with Baroque and P3: FES but eventually I'll be sure to pick it up.

lowkey254
lowkey254

@ litafan4ever I'm still waiting for the U.S. release too. You guys should check out Big Bang Beat, that's something i've been into.

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

I can't get into the characters, so I'm gonna have to pass.

metal_gear269
metal_gear269

I just wish they would make games like this for PSP...

3anks
3anks

I farted. It smells pretty bad.

MamaLukuBuku
MamaLukuBuku

What a fun game. Imagine Hakoto NO Ken and MvC2 combined and that is this game. I am lucky to have this game at an arcade in Chinatown and I have an imported version for my PS2... Doesn't me I am any good at it though lol.

tandukbadak
tandukbadak

a pretty good 2D fighting game. If you prefer Guilty Gear than Street Fighter and King of Fighter, than this is a game you should looking for. As it is released by ATLUS, I do hope for one thing. I hope they didn't change the Japanese voice or at least add dual audio option.

noxian
noxian

@Craft2299 1) it would be rather odd for it to come out on the XBox marketplace seeing as its a PS2 game 2) i could be mistaken but as far as i can think of, the PS Network has only put PS1 titles up to date, not PS2 titles, thus once again, making it not an option

Craft2299
Craft2299

Why cant this game come out in xbox live market place? or ps3 market place, thingy?

optimusprime18
optimusprime18

@ bjmage16 - "The low price shows that they know this won't sell well. They want to entice people to buy it. What would entice people to get a fighting game is making the controls simpler as to appeal to more people, yet keeping the depth and skill. Fighters could learn a lot from games like SSB." no. Brawl has alot to learn from the original smash brothers. brawl has awesome fan service and presentation but lacks everything else

optimusprime18
optimusprime18

man, I know this is off topic, and Im sorry, but did the PS2 kick the crap out of the XBOX and Dreamcast or what? I mean its been out for 8 years! I love this thing! sony fanboy for life

CasinoOutlaw247
CasinoOutlaw247

It does look like an interesting game. I am glad the PS2 is still coming out with games and I'll be watching this one.......

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

it's cool that they're still releasing interesting looking Ps2 games, like this.

09231991
09231991

@ bjmage16 - "The low price shows that they know this won't sell well. They want to entice people to buy it. What would entice people to get a fighting game is making the controls simpler as to appeal to more people, yet keeping the depth and skill. Fighters could learn a lot from games like SSB." Ummm, no they shouldn't.

magicquebec
magicquebec

They should release this on the PSN, i'M sure they would sell a lot more!

bjmage16
bjmage16

The low price shows that they know this won't sell well. They want to entice people to buy it. What would entice people to get a fighting game is making the controls simpler as to appeal to more people, yet keeping the depth and skill. Fighters could learn a lot from games like SSB.

-PresidentEvil-
-PresidentEvil-

I was excited from the beginning, and the $30 price tag seals the deal for me, but I kind of think it's time for the PS2 to die. I mean, PS3 came out and PS2 is still selling like hot cakes and a lot of games are coming out that I want [FES, P4, along with a few others], and so many that I want that have already came out. Just an opinion though.

gamerush
gamerush

looks sweet! Im glad they are still making games like this for PS2. Atlus you ROCK!

Lord_Daemon
Lord_Daemon

I'm just so happy that small games like this make it over on occasion. I was going to import the game but then I was surprised to see it was making its way here and so now I wait.

09231991
09231991

Wow, I've never seen or heard of this and I'm interested!

galerian86
galerian86

This game is hardcore. Very hard to master, just like Ninja Gaiden (if NG is a fighting game)