Sunday, December 14, 2014

Melty Blood

The year is 2009. I had my first taste of Type-Moon with Studio Deen's anime adaptation of Fate/stay night. While it was far from perfect, it had me intrigued. The characters were awesome and I found myself wanting more. At this point in my life, everytime I watched an anime that interested me, I always tried finding the manga to expand that universe while it was fresh in my mind. What spawned was my undying love for everything Type-Moon. After hoarding many figures, soundtracks and visual novels, it was only natural that I would learn about doujin games (the Japanese equivalent of independent video games). And this, my friends, is how I happened across the awesomeness that is Melty Blood.

Developed and published by Type-Moon and French Bread (another Japanese game developer), Melty Blood was released on December 30, 2002 for the Windows PC. Taking place a year after the events in Tsukihime, a new series of vampire-like murders is happening in Misaki Town. Tohno Shiki takes it upon himself to search for this murderer and chances upon Sion Eltnam Atlasia, an alchemist of the Mage's Association who fights and attempts to capture him. After learning that Sion wants to lure out the "True Ancestor" so that she can obtain a cure for vampirism, Shiki decides to help her. Of course, this is a fighting game, so depending on who you’re playing as, the story takes different twists and turns, taking on a visual novel feel in between matches.

A Tsukihime fighting game. Go nuts.
That's right, this game is a fighting game. With a visual novel twist. And Type-Moon does it very well. Melty Blood uses the 4-button fighting style reminiscent of Neo Geo fighters (3 attacks buttons of varying strength/speed, and a “Shielding” button), and the the fighting is extremely fast-paced. It makes use of other conventional fighting game concepts and mechanics such as quarter-circle specials, super jumps, throws, dashing and chain combos, while throwing new twists in there to keep things fresh. Shielding, one of your four attack buttons, is comparable to Street Fighter’s Parrying or Slash Backs in Guilty Gear, is used to block and counter an opponent’s attack. Using the Magic Circuit (Melty Blood’s Power Bar), you can unleash EX Attacks ala Street Fighter, and activate Heat and/or Blood Heat mode. While in this state, your character’s health recovers slightly and gains access to more powerful moves.

Sadly, the graphics seem to be the worst part of the game. The 2D sprites are recognizable, but don’t hold up too well, unlike other doujin and doujin-like fighters that were released at the time (Guilty Gear XX Accent Core, Arcana Heart). Some of the backgrounds are stiff portraits, but the scaling, shadows and other effects thankfully bring them to life. On the flip side, deep blues and bloody reds perform an excellent job of creating a dark creepy atmosphere. The animations are smooth and special attacks are beautiful as they draw a great amount of 3D effects. While the graphics aren't horrible, It’s sometimes strange to see jaw-dropping and flashy attacks come from the pixellated characters.

Those pixels just throw me off sometimes.
Melty Blood has a damn good soundtrack, as expected of Raito Kate and James Harris, among others. The intriguing mixture of pop rock-esque sounds with the ambiance of the soul is a delight to the ears. Electric guitars and organs mix well to build a menacing atmosphere. You even get some Thrash Metal. The music is clearly the star here. Go get the soundtrack, NOW.

The voice acting, though in Japanese, is typical of these types of fighters, and is done pretty well, especially during the visual novel segments. One thing that is more than welcome is the pre- and post-fight banter some characters share with one another. One gripe that I have is that during fights some sounds just seem off, like some of Shiki's slashing moves. I don't know, they just seem a little off to me.

Still haven't gotten that soundtrack yet? You're missing out.

Melty Blood has several iterations and/or expansions as well, re-balancing the game while adding more characters and such. Re-ACT, released in May of 2004, expands on the original story and adds new characters. In March of 2005, Ecole Software released an arcade version of Melty Blood, Act Cadenza which added even more characters, new gameplay mechanics, and brand new graphics. With July 2005's Re-ACT expansion, Final Tuned, the game was updated even further, and adds several features to allow the game to be configured to resemble the gameplay of the Arcade-only Act Cadenza. Act Cadenza was later ported to the Playstation 2 in July of 2006, and was updated and released on the PC the next year as Act Cadenza Ver.B, replacing Re-ACT Final Tuned as the latest installment of the Melty Blood franchise.

But in May of 2008, Actress Again was released in Japanese arcades. The first game of the series that can be considered a sequel, events in this game take place after the aforementioned expansions, and the game has been dramatically updated. Music has been rearranged, stages are larger, and even a Guard Meter has been implemented. Each character now has three selectable fighting styles designated by a phase of the moon: Crescent, Half and Full. The Moon Styles are like Isms in Street Fighter Alpha 3 or Grooves in Capcom vs. SNK 2, but with a lot more depth. Aside from changing the mechanics a bit, the different moons will often change their moveset and sometimes even alter their movement options. Some characters are completely different, essentially making every opponent you face different. Of course, new characters have been added as well. This was ported to the PS2 in August of 2009, adding new characters and a Boss Rush mode. Finally on December 31, 2011, Actress Again was updated and released onto the PC as Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code (whew, that's a mouthful). This version added even more gameplay tweaks, characters, etc. This was also one of the three versions I've played for this review (the other two being Re-ACT and Act Cadenza Ver.B).

Actress Again: Current Code - the latest cherry on the Melty Blood pie.
Since Melty Blood does have visual novel elements to it, you might want to play with everyone to see their involvement in the game’s overall story. Depending on which version you play, you can unlock more characters as well. Like all fighting games, the best way to play is with someone else, at least for me anyways. Luckily there’s a Training Mode, so if your skills aren't up to par, you can always brush up on your skills. And you’re going to need those skills when facing up against opponents on harder difficulties, even though the AI may come off a little cheap at times.

Veterans of doujin fighters like Blazblue and Guilty Gear will feel right at home, while Melty Blood might not be for those solely hooked on Tekken and Street Fighter. Myself, I’m a casual fighting game player, and find Melty Blood more than addictive for its fan service alone. I will admit that if you're not a fan of Tsukihime and/or you’re playing alone it can get boring fast, but most fighting games I've played that are based off anime/manga/visual novels are like this. The game is pretty beginner friendly, though button mashers will definitely have a hard time in later levels in Arcade Mode. If you can't decide which version to start with, if any, I suggest Act Cadenza. It includes the story from the older versions, and all of the updates. Actress Again, being the sequel, might throw people new to the series off, but if you can't read Kanji (or get translations), that shouldn't be too much of a problem. I say definitely get the PS2 versions, though you're going to need a Japanese PS2. You can't NOT play this with a joystick (and the extra modes are pretty sweet, too). Oh, and get the soundtrack!

Oh and before I forget, Kirishima Takeru wrote a couple of Melty Blood manga series, all of which are done well, despite being so short.

Might have to do a review on this one. The art is amazing.


  1. Very nicely done.

    I wish I coulda helped out, but finals have been pretty rough on me.

  2. Don't worry about it. I know the feeling. Just help out when you can. :3

  3. Thanks much.

    I did play a little Melty Blood on Friday though. Only the original though.