Arcana Heart is a 2D fighting game with a lot of style and depth to it and there's girls, in fact only girls. Every character in Arcana Heart is a young girl with ages ranging from 10-17. As you'd probably expect from that, Arcana Heart seems to have fanservice in mind and was probably geared slightly towards males with a loilita complex. However Arcana Heart shouldn't be judged by that, while it is lacking a bit of dignity, it does keep the fanservice to a minimum and on top of that presents a fairly unique and deep fighting system.
As mentioned before, Aracana Heart is a part of the 2D fighting pantheon. All the graphics are rendered in colourful 2D sprites and your character is restricted to just one plain of movement. The gameplay is fairly similar to it's peers in that regard but Arcana Heart adds a few interesting things of note. One of the core abilities that every girl has is the ability to home in on opponents by holding down a button, this allows you to make quick follow up attacks whenever you knock a girl away. To avoid this you can perform a recovery by pressing another button at just the right time, this allows your girl to pull out of a fall so she perform a defensive move. Assigning these commands to single buttons helps keep the game fast paced and simple, but they have very strategic uses which are hard to master.
Another system at the core of Arcana Heart is the Arcanas, which can be thought of as guardians which you can put to use to give yourself different attacks and certain passive abilities. There are a total of 11 girls and 11 Arcana, all of which can be mixed and matched to best suit your particular play style. The only problem with the gameplay is that it can degenerate into mindless button mashing if you let it, being that all the girls generally have very short range with their basic attacks you may find yourself just constantly firing off special moves since they reach further.
Arcana Heart is upon first inspection a very pretty and well presented 2D game. It has colourful visuals and every character has a distinct look and personality to them. Though the graphics are not HD quality along the lines of say Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, it still looks very very nice for a PS2 game. The girls don't always animate in what I would call a fluid way, but it is still apparent that a lot of work still went into it. If however you think that 2D graphics have long since been a thing of the past, this game will not do anything to convert you.
The music and sound in Arcana Heart is going to be very love/hate with some people. The soundtrack consists of very upbeat guitars and j-pop style rhythms that are very typical of anime style games like this. I personally enjoyed the music but if say the music in Sonic's stages in Sonic Adventure got on your nerves, you aren't going to like this. What sound that is present is generally good, everything sounds right and the girls do have voice actors in Japanese only. Most of the voice overs have been removed however, in fact about 90% of the voice work is missing, most likely due to trying to localise the game for a western audience. If that was the plan though it would've been better to just go out and hire a few anime voice actors and have them record some lines, there isn't much dialogue anyway.
Modes of play consist of a Story Mode, a standard Arcade mode and VS mode and a Training mode. The story is perhaps the main focus and while it's very much lacking in what you would call a 'story' it does competantly piece together a simple narrative to move you forward. This is accompanied by a map on which you can choose locations from and where your next opponent will be waiting for you.
All in all Arcana Heart is certainly an above average 2D fighter and comes highly reccommended to fans of the genre and it'll be good to tide yourself over until Blazblue and KoF XII. If you aren't a fan of this kind of game it is much harder to reccommend, but then violence and cute girls in one package has never been a bad thing.