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Arcana Heart - hands-on

2D sprite fighters are a dying breed and so are new games on the PS2.
That’s why Arcana Heart should be exciting news for fighting fans as it just might be the last new old school 2D fighter they’ll see for a long time.

Ported from the 2006 Japanese arcade game, Arcana Heart is a combo-centric fighter that puts a lot of emphasis on juggling the opponent and getting into aerial scuffles. At first glance, the game looks a lot like its more famous predecessor, Guilty Gear X - except without the awesome ‘squeedly vs meedly’ guitar soundtrack and with a lot more Sailor Moon knockoffs.

While the basic gameplay seems similar to other fighters you’ve seen, Arcana Heart has a few unique tricks up its sleeve. The Arcana system allows for a large amount of customization, which lets you choose one of 11 elemental ‘Arcanas’ to supplement your character in battle.

Think of the Arcanas as your personal assistants in kicking ass. You can choose one that’ll make up for one of your weak spots or boost natural advantages even further. Playing with a slow brawler type? Try the lightning Arcana, which gives your character extra speed and a much needed ranged attack. With 11 characters and 11 Arcanas, that gives you 121 possible character combinations, enough to keep any fighting fan busy for weeks.

Welcome to Anime 101 class; for your first assignment we'd like you to study this picture

There are a few quirky characters that stand out in Arcana Heart’s all-girl roster - like Kira, a megalomaniacal 12-year-old with a Ph.D. who rides her huge pet slime around in battle. Sadly, every other character can be lumped squarely into the following: anime school girl, anime ninja girl, or the classic anime girl with boobs bigger than her head. Feel free to mix and match.

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