Eiji: What Are Little Girls Made Of?
2011 was an awesome year for video games. A lot happened and many great games were released this year that even I couldn’t keep track of everything. And then, big boss asked me to write about my Game of the Year.
Really? Game of the Year?
I bet ten thousand bucks that at least one of my fellow writers will pick Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Dark Souls, L.A. Noire, or one of those popular and shiny first-person shooters as their GOTY. And the aforementioned are great games. I am even tempted to give GOTY to Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland due to its unique take on RPGs, where the story isn’t epic or about saving the world, and where your character’s level doesn’t ruin the game for you, but instead makes you depend on your ability to cook up the right items and use them when needed. Or Catherine due to its nostalgic Q*bert-inspred mechanic, with a plot that puts the real M on Mature. Or maybe Star Wars: The Old Republic because I friggin’ love Wookies and lightsabers.
I found it difficult to choose my GOTY so what I did was I listed all of the games released this year that I was able to play across all platforms available and then spent the days-off playing them for 15-30 minutes each just get a hang of each game’s mechanics. And guess which game, I thought, was the most skill-dependent and mechanic-driven?
I’m a game mechanics guy. If I find a game’s mechanics interesting, I will give it a go. If there’s a genre where mechanics make or break a game, it’ll be fighting games. A shining example of a great game mechanic is found on Arcana Heart 3.
A game with good mechanics gives the player three things; diversity – the trait which gives the player a huge variety of challenges to surmount; replayability – which provides enjoyment to the player for extended amounts of time repeatedly; and technical adeptness – where the player use the acquired skills to play a game in ways no one can ever imagine. Arcana Heart 3 hit the cherry on all three, and no AAA one-player title released this year matched its depth.
529 Ways to Rock the Other Girl Senseless
Diversity is one of the strongest points of Arcana Heart 3. With 23 characters, 23 Arcana, hundreds of moves and strategies, the possibilities are endless. A certain character using a certain arcana played by a certain opponent will always play differently. It’s as if Examu studied each fighting game playstyle out there and integrated them into the Arcana to enhance the players already high efficiency levels in a match. This in turn blurs character tier lines, which are apparent in its more popular fighting game contemporaries, allowing players to literally head to the lab and experiment, get creative, stick to a style for a certain character and formulate strategies when engaging certain types of players.
Plays Well with Others
With such diversity, the window for replayability and competition is so huge, it’s like breaking through your condo unit’s curtain wall and leaping out to feel the excitement of being pulled down by gravity to the surface. A fighting game with a diverse playstyle environment is worth playing over and over. Competitive nature will always inch in as the player dives into a fray of fellows of varying skill levels, hoping to be the best and the most unique among the bunch of seemingly ‘individual’ players. Think of the Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 community, but a lot more diverse. This is evident in the thriving community where I personally encounter a lot of different characters and Arcana being used. The netplay is also seamless and smooth, so you can be sure we won’t be dropping those combos.
Form of…Me Kicking Your Ass!
As a player, knowledge of mechanics is needed to play a game pretty well and use these mechanics to reach the goal quickly and efficiently. Arcana Heart 3‘s strict input method encourages the player to become precision machines, knowing when to push the right button at any given instance. A skilled player utilizes the Homing mechanic to his advantage, either by creating space or opening up opportunities for combos. Choosing the right Arcana for a certain character guarantees victory too, as there are Arcana which are just too good for a character and effective against other Arcana. Breaking off potential lethal combos through bursting gives players a second to breath and plan for the next move, but denies them of Extend Force, the game’s reusable but short-lived ‘X-Factor’ mechanic.
Not Enough Love to Go Around
Many fighting game fans are put off because of Arcana Heart 3‘s all-female roster and anime aesthetic. It’s disheartening to see that players judge games by their presentation and not by their mechanics. It’s disheartening too that a lot of fighting game fans are missing out on a solid, fun game due to their disgust for dated, low-quality 2D sprites and animated sidebars. Games without great mechanics are just interactive movies after all. Shiny games with awful mechanics are still awful.
I really wish people would just see beyond presentation and dig deeper into games with great mechanics. With Arcana Heart 3‘s success in North America and Europe (with the game being one of most downloaded PlayStation Network games last summer), I expect Examu to pull the stops again with their next fighting game project. Currently they’re promoting the new ground-based fighter AQUAPAZZA in Japanese arcades. Developed together with eroge company AQUAPLUS, it looks closer to a current-gen 2D fighter. This makes me wish they get on with a new Arcana Heart game sooner with high quality sprites. It is their flagship fighter after all, and its been two years since the arcade release.
The game may not have a neat catchphrase, but I’m pretty sure this game got me in the knee.