Japan Trip 2017–2018: Million Arthur Arcana Blood
I love fighting games so much that even on vacation I’m probably going to get in some fightin’ time. Obviously I did not lack for choice in the Akihabara arcades, but after nonstop beatings in Guilty Gear and Gundam (my favorites!) I eventually settled on the game I was actually doing well in. For the sake of my wallet.
This game turned out to be Million Arthur Arcana Blood, a brand new arcade fighting game from Square-Enix based on their mobile game Million Arthur. The developer of this game is credited mysteriously as “Team Arcana”, very clearly the folks at Examu (Arcana Heart, Nitro Blasters) working under the least stealthy possible alias.
The gameplay is unmistakeably Examu, adding a sprinkle of the chaotic assist-driven Nitro Blasters to the deliberate, spacing-oriented play of Aquapazza. Controls are the same as Blazblue: light, medium, and hard attacks along with a special attack button that does something different for every character. However, Million Arthur is neither quite as fast nor nearly as technically demanding as BB. It’s a very easy game to pick up, and I believe that’s at least partially the reason for all the folks I saw trying it out.
The other is probably the appealing online setup: pay 300 yen and get five matches, win or lose. On one hand it kills “winner stays”, but on the other most players don’t get 5 games out of 3 credits in the first place. Put it next to Gundam, the 60-second 100-yen killer, and it starts to look generous. Couple this with the friendly gameplay and it’s a really easy thing for any casual fighting game fan to blow a couple thousand yen learning the ropes of this brand-new game.
I picked a very easy character, Liese the spear-wielding valkyrie, and was quickly able to acclimate myself and start winning after just a few practice games. This would have been impossible or very costly in a game as heavy as Guilty Gear or Blazblue.
I found Million Arthur really grew on me. Like Examu’s Aquapazza, the core play is pretty universal: anyone who’s played a fighting game or two can work this one out. The character I chose was, as a friend described, “braindead easy”, so I was able to work out a solid foundation in about five minutes of play. From there it was smooth sailing. I was really getting my ass kicked by veterans at Gundam and Guilty Gear, so it was kind of a comfort to play against players who were also discovering a new game.
I played the game without watching anybody else at first, forming my own combos and strategies. Then I stopped by HEY and watched a top rank (the rank is of course Million) player use my character. After taking notes and switching to the same assists that he used, I became a total monster, doubling my wins and steamrolling any newbie I got matched up with.
With a new fighting game, you get that rush of progress really fast. You learn the basics, you master the basics, you shoot up the ranks. The hard part, as I have learned from my SFV career, is sticking with a game past the point where everybody understands everything already. I was honestly just depressed every time I played Guilty Gear or Gundam in Japan, because the average player level was just so far above me. Vacations and grinding it out don’t really match. So I played Million Arthur, and I had a great damn time. Sometimes it’s all about what you need.
The twist from regular “anime games” is the assist system. Players can choose a deck of any three assist special moves, and as a timer fills up during the match, you can pull them out on your opponents. The timer is quite fast, so players are constantly throwing assists at each other.
Assists in this game cover a wide range of potential uses, but the problem with them at this point in the game’s life is that most are too weak, like a costly, slow assist that only hits airborne foes for marginal damage. Meanwhile a few assists are so good that you wouldn’t use anything else. I don’t know character names, but for example, take the armored shield knight.
When you summon this guy, he pops up in front of you with shield at the ready. If your opponent attacks him, he hits them with a massive blast. If they don’t attack him, the blast comes out quickly anyway and they’re forced to block it. Simply put, when you drop this guy down your opponent can’t do anything but run away from him. Whether you’ve just landed a combo and you’re setting up your offense or whether you’re getting rushed down and you need to push the opponent off, it is always the right move to use this assist. By comparison, other assists were too case-specific, too costly, or too weak. This takes a bit of the sparkle out of the game, as the key element is kind of stupid right now.
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