Futari wa Precure Max Heart
They’re cute, aren’t they? The characters in Pretty Cure, I mean. Actually, they’re too cute; they cross that line that separates being adorable and downright irritating. One of them acts as a tomboy (whose costume, ironically enough, sports a ridiculous amount of frills and hearts), another is a brilliant and clumsy second fiddle, and the third is some pink-laden child with disturbingly long hair. They are a group of high school girls that can use their cell phones to transform into dainty, beribboned magical heroines. And they fight evil from some kind of dark dimension. That’s really all you need to know about the series.
Seriously. Three girls (who are more like stock characters than anything else) changing into Earth’s adorable defenders? Gee, where have we heard that before? There’s enough post-Sailor Moon magical girl tripe out there, and this is definitely not the best of it. But since you’re probably ogling this game as a cheap import, it’s probably best that you ignore the horribly generic plot.
The only thing you need to understand is that, beneath all of the pink hearts and frilly costume imagery, Futari wa Precure Max Heart: Danzen! DS de Precure Chikara o Awasete Dai Battle is a beat’em up game. You’ll have to fight your way through a series of pathetically short levels crammed with a small assortment of enemies. Surprisingly, it’s pretty straightforward; the game doesn’t bother with any Touch Screen gimmicks and focuses more on button and Directional Pad commands to execute different attacks. Depending on whom you choose, you’ll be able to perform a few punch and kick combos and work in a few aerial offensive tactics. There’s nothing too demanding here; even the toughest of enemies (the game uses different color swaps of the same foes to indicate strength) can be taken down with a few combo chains. The moveset for the little blond kid, however, forces you to rely on projectiles. As such, you’ll have to slowly whittle down enemies from a distance and pray that the shoddy hit detection works in your favor.
It’s not like you’ll need to actually think about what you’re doing. The utter lack of difficulty ensures that strategy has no place in this game. If you’ve mastered games like Final Fight or Streets of Rage (you know, real beat’em ups), this title will seem like a joke. Imagine that you come across a gang of mutant bats, sinister samurai, and satanic snowmen. Thanks to the girls’ overpowered attacks, even the wimpiest of punches can leave their foes wincing in agony (seeing an evil snowman grimace can be quite funny) for more than enough time to get in a few cheap shots. The bosses themselves are even more ridiculous; you’ll get to fight possessed stoves, wrecking balls, ineffectual samurai, and a handful of other foes with no personality whatsoever. The predictable movements (the game conveniently highlights the path of the boss’s attacks) make the battles bland and unsatisfying. The only remotely difficult part comes when you kill a boss; you’ll have to endure a lengthy cutscene in which the girls combine their powers, launch a rainbow-powered laser attack, and force you to button mash to keep its power boosted.
But if all that isn’t cheap enough for you, take a closer look at the characters. Since you have to play through the game in pairs (the third girl is left to look pretty on the top screen) you won’t have any trouble whatsoever. The AI controlling the second character can be fairly stupid, but the pathetic enemies balance it out. If by some incredibly rare chance you actually take damage and get knocked back, you can get your health restored if you land in the arms of your partner. In the almost impossible of circumstances that you actually get knocked out (you’d pretty much have to stand still for it to happen), the other character will not only revive you, but restore all your health as well. Of course, that’ll never happen if you have little miss blond girl as your backup. Apparently, her freakishly long hair gives her super healing powers; if you get hit by one of her projectiles, it’ll pass through you, boost your health, and hurt whatever enemy gets hit.
Yes, the game is that easy.
It’s not like you’ll be rewarded for your mindless button mashing exploits, either. There’s an unlockable gallery that features character art and the various cutscenes, many of which can be seen throughout the Arcade Mode. But unless you like staring at teenage girls dressing up in pretty costumes and having your eardrums split by their high-pitched Japanese voices, there is little point to going through the images. There is also a handful of mini-games available after you’ve beaten the main game. You’ll be able to use the Touch Screen to spin oven-baked pies, mixing chemicals to create different colors, or scoring points in a half-assed lacrosse game. None of these are particularly interesting or demanding; they require only brief stylus slashes and image dragging. Since there’s no incentive to actually score well on any of them, you’ll find it hard to come up with a reason to even play anything. If anything, you could select the Erase Save option and unlock everything over again for the Hell of it. It’s more fun than these alternatives.
But let’s say you actually like that kind of overly cute stuff. Aside from the gallery of images and the little creatures cheering for you during the mini-games, there isn’t much in terms of eye candy. All three of the characters retain their usual costumes and poses, but their attack animations and basic movements seem a bit wooden. There are little details, like how the skirts and hair flap with each action, but the lack of fluidity doesn’t do them justice. The enemies are even worse; since all of the creativity went into designing the girls’ costumes, your foes are left with a handful of different color patterns and limited animation frames. The only things remotely interesting are the backgrounds; the city is portrayed as a three-dimensional sprawl of subway entrances, restaurants, and alleyways. It’d be far better, however, if the game provided more variety; trudging down the same streets gets old fast.
I wanted to like this. Really, I did. The DS is lacking in its beat’em up selection, and this game is a fairly cheap import. But Precure Max Heart is plagued with far too many problems to make it worth playing. Cuteness overload aside, the game’s ease and brevity are the most glaring flaws. Being able to execute overpowered combos and dominate weak, predictable enemies isn’t fun at all. The team system is broken beyond belief; since your partners can revive and restore you in the blink of an eye, there’s no sense of challenge whatsoever. The unlockables are a joke; with a mere gallery of snapshots and a bunch of uninspired mini-games, there’s not much incentive for you to even complete the game…aside from getting bragging rights for beating the easiest beat’em up game in recent memory. So do yourself a favor and skip this. These girls aren’t worth your time.