Import Review: While having nothing to do with music, there's an abundance of blood.
Over in the land of the rising sun, there once was a company called TYPE-MOON. Founded by the artist Takeshi Takeuchi and the author Kinoko Nasu in 2000, they entered the world of dojin soft (aka fangames) with Tsukihime
, a PC-based visual novel. Not long after, a sizeable fanbase was amassed and TYPE-MOON was able to expand the Tsukihime
universe further. From their humble roots they became a commercial organization, making more visual novels like Fate/stay Night
and having their works translated into the anime and comic mediums. An indie developer's dream come true, hmm? It gets even better.
In 2002, TYPE-MOON teamed up with another dojin soft company, French-Bread, to release a PC 2D fighter based on Tsukihime
. And so Melty Blood
was born. Over the years it would undergo updates and revisions, from Melty Blood: ReACT
to Melty Blood: ReACT, Final Tuned
. Again, Melty Blood
was blessed with the storybook ending, as it became renowned as one of the finest dojin fighters around. A port to the arcade was made: Melty Blood: Act Cadenza
, which made its way to the Tougeki fighting game tournament in Japan. Another port came about; the one we have here for the PS2 that goes by the same name. Talk about a colorful history.
Like many fighting games, there's no need to know any of the story. Unlike many fighting games, there is
a story, one that's actually sensible. However, it will only have meaning to those who have played Tsukihime
, as Melty Blood
takes place one year following the previous game's events (Arcueid's ?Good' ending, to be exact). Sion Eltram Atlasia, a girl pursued the Church and the Mage's Association, finds her way to the town that Shiki Tohno (the protagonist of the Tsukihime
games) lives in order to meet Arcueid Brunestud, one of the most powerful vampires still alive. But tensions are high, what with sporadic murders and certain people acting unnaturally violent. Mix in vampires, exorcists, and robot maids to get a hell of a fighting game.
Trust me, it's not that complicated; there just happens to be a lot of backstory to everyone. Of course, unless you know Japanese, there's no way of understanding any of it. While some of the text is in English, this only applies to the menus. A shame, as the story's quite entertaining. And no, even though Tsukihime
was an eroge (ahem...?erotic game'), Melty Blood
has no adult content. Well, disregarding the fact that you've got vampires beating each other up. But the kids should be able to stomach that, right?
Now with all the exposition out of the way, we get to the gameplay. Melty Blood
is a 2D fighter. Doesn't that explain everything? It belongs to the granddaddy genre of fighters with series that practically any gamer worth his salt knows about. Street Fighter
! The King of Fighters
! Guilty Gear
! If you can handle the basics of any of them, you'll be right at home with Melty Blood
. All the usual aspects of the 2D fighter apply: destructive special attacks, cancelling, power bars; the whole shebang. So what separates this game from all the others?
For one thing, Melty Blood
is very accessible. It's easier to pick up and play than even the Guilty Gear
series and is on par in terms of fluidity. Stringing together combos is a breeze, making for some obscene chains, and most characters have high mobility. This equals a fast-paced fighter with tons of flash. Then there's ?shielding', which is like the parrying of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
. Shielding allows the player to negate damage and retaliate, but with the bonus of autoshielding should the enemy continue attacking. 5% magic circuit is gained per hit shielded. What's this ?magic circuit'? Why, it's the fancy name for the power bar of Melty Blood
. For every 100% you can perform a special move, known here as ?Arc Drives', or go into Heat Mode, which drains your magic circuit in exchange for restoring health. Should you go over the magic circuit's limit of 300%, you'll enter Max Mode automatically. In this mode you'll be able to perform even more powerful special attacks or go into Blood Heat Mode; an overclocked version of Heat Mode.
However, for those entrenched in other 2D fighters, don't go switching sides yet. Yes, Melty Blood
makes for some quick fun. Is it as polished as the likes of the other big names? Well, no. Take the character roster for example. There are a total of 22 characters, two of them being unlockable. So we've got twenty characters off the bat. ?Not bad!? you'd think. Then you discover around eight of them are variations of other characters. I don't mean only in the ?Ken is a palette swap of Ryu? sense. They're literally different versions of characters, with a degree of difference. Not a complete makeover, but enough so you can tell them apart (though that may change in midst of combat). Sadly, most of these variations have similar move-lists. Their biggest difference compared to their original counterparts is the amount of damage they can take and give. It's evident in Vermillion Akiha, where she can cause extreme harm but has pathetic defense. Still, it should please Tsukihime
fans to know that practically any character in the series that had the capacity to execute carnage is in the game. The inclusion of primary characters such as Shiki Tohno, with his ability to cut the lines of death, or Ciel, assassin for the Church's ?Burial Agency?, shouldn't surprise anyone. On the other hand, there's Satsuki, the unlucky admirer of Shiki and the closest thing to a grappler, and Mech-Hisui, the robot replica of the maid Hisui (who's also a playable character herself). Given Melty Blood
's origin as a visual novel, it's to be expected that the roster consists of females in the majority. Hey, I'm not complaining; Red Arcueid rocks.
Red Arcueid also looks pretty good. Granted, the sprites are pixellated and detail-wise, doesn't top Guilty Gear
. In terms of animation, however, they hold up against most 2D fighters. Really, I was pleasantly amazed at how well everything moved. If only I could say the same for the backgrounds and the art direction. The backgrounds are plain, static stuff and as for the actual artwork? it's a tough call. Naturally, it's the exact same style as Tsukihime
's so fans should be satisfied with that. As for anyone who isn't, they may find the portraits and art generic. TYPE-MOON's art is very hit-and-miss with me, as I find a few of the designs interesting, but the artwork as a whole fails to captivate. Aoko, for instance? A white t-shirt and blue jeans? How dreadfully boring. I guess it's a decent departure from the accustomed garish fashion that plagues fighters (oh, Benimaru). You won't catch a break from the tedious rock or awful jazz that usually accompanies these games though. A few tunes aren't throwaways, but most are. The saving grace is that all the characters have voices; you'll hear them in cutscenes (which are just portraits of the speaking characters with text and sound) and after-battle gloating.
Modes available are the conventional arcade/story, versus, training, survival, etc. Clearing the game with different characters nets you more unlockables in the ?special' section. There you can see beaten endings, character CG, and music. It should be noted that usage of the analog stick seems unavailable. I wasn't able to find it, so if you're like me and find the PS2's D-Pad a pain, you're stuck with it. On the flipside, there's the option of toggling between the arcade and PS2 versions of gameplay.