I confess to not being well-versed in the works of Type-Moon, Tsukihime especially. It involves vampires and spooky death lines, that’s about as far as my knowledge goes (though, I found the Tsukihime manga recently, so when I’m done writing this, I’m going to go read that). But that is, I suppose, the good thing about fighting games; they’re one of those things that you don’t really need to understand the story to enjoy it. With that said, let’s discuss the merits of Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code as a fighting game.
First, some history (just skip this part if you don’t care). The original version of this game, titled simply Melty Blood, was co- developed by dojin circles Type-Moon and French-Bread and released at Comiket waaaaaaaaaay back in December of 2002 for PC. The original game included visual novel elements, but subsequent versions phased out the visual novel and focused exclusively on fighting. The game was so well received, it continued to sell over the years, receiving various expansions that changed characters and mechanics and added strange new subtitles to the title. Ecole Software joined up in 2005 and ported the game to arcades and Playstation 2. These three versions would be updated and re-released up to 2010. That version was updated several times, and the final version was published by the kings of anime fighting games, Arc System Works, on Steam (and if those guys like your fighting game, that’s a good sign).
Okay, for reals now, Melty Blood. It’s a four button fighting game, kind of like Blazblue, with light, medium, and heavy attacks, as well as a designated guard button. The game uses a lot of kooky terminology like “magic circuit” (your super meter), “arc-drive” (supers), “another arc-drive” (bigger supers), and “blood heat” (powered-up state), but once you’ve found a glossary online, everything becomes pretty straightforward. Basically, every special move you can throw out has a souped-up EX version, so instead of having a designated set of supers, every special move can become a super, which allows for some unpredictability in matches. The majority of the characters share the same combos; the usual mishmash of quarter circles and dragon punches, though that actually works to the benefit of guys like me who aren’t super great at memorizing inputs.
An interesting mechanic is the Moon system. Every character has three moons: crescent, half, and full. Each moon has a different style of play, as well as changes to each character’s movelist. Crescent moon is the most balanced in terms of combos, strength, and speed, half moon deals less damage but is faster and has better combo potential, and full moon has less combo potential but more raw damage per hit. This system adds more variation to an already diverse roster of 31 characters, meaning with a little lab time, any player can find a character and style that suits them.
Speaking of characters, one thing that bugged me a bit was the number of reskin characters. For example, there’s three versions of Akiha, three versions of Arcueid, and so forth. Granted, despite being the same person several times over, each character handles completely differently, not even counting different moons, so this isn’t a problem from a mechanical standpoint, it just feels mildly lazy to me.
The art is on the pixel-y side, though it’s that really good kind of pixel art where all of the animations are insanely fluid and detailed, which is quite pleasing to the eyes. There is a bit of a weird filter on the character models that’s supposed to smooth out the pixel edges, which creates a kind of weird melty effect (pun unintended) that I didn’t really care for, but you can turn the filter off in the options if you just want raw pixelated glory. Also, I have to give some serious props for the soundtrack; I would expect a game about vampires to have, I dunno, cathedral-style pipe organ music in an obnoxious surplus, but Melty Blood has a ridiculously catchy blend of techno and jazz that I just cannot stop listening to. Sometimes I’ll linger on the character select screen just to hear the theme for a little longer.
Melty Blood isn’t super heavy on content, not having much else besides its arcade mode, but if you’re looking for a good fighting game, it’s as solid as diamond. Lots of character variability, plenty of style, and even some amusing character moments in the arcade stories. Oh, and the since the old Melty Blood servers were shut down a while ago, fans will be happy to know the network mode is alive and well. In the few online matches I played, there was a spot of slowdown when starting the match, but once things got rolling, everything was nice and smooth, no latency issues. So even if you don’t know anything about Tsukihime, if you like fighting games, give Melty Blood a try. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some manga to read…