The Melty Blood series has a rich and storied past. Originally developed as a spinoff to TYPE-MOON’s Tsukihime franchise Melty Blood was a combination of a visual novel and a fighting game in one. Featuring deep mythology—an uncommon trait for fighting games—it followed a new series of murders in Misaki Town discovered by the series protagonist, Shiki Tohno. Taking it upon himself to discover the source of the murderers, Shiki encounters combat with a mysterious woman and they both embark on a quest for a cure to vampirism. Released in 2002, the original game featured a story mode that would expand and branch out into different paths, depending on the player’s outcome in each fight. It featured several different endings, as well as a brutal and visceral fighting system.
Initially released in 2010, Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code was somewhat of a rework of the second game. It did away with a large amount of the plot in favour of focusing on the fighting and combat systems. Reusing the “Moon” system from Actress Again, and changing defense values for certain characters, Actress Again Current Code is the most current version of the game released. Boasting a much larger roster than the previous titles in the series, it showcased a variety of different fighting styles and a refined combat system. Drawing upon experience from Melty Blood, the Re-ACT expansion, Act Cadenza, and Actress Again, Current Code took the best of all previous gameplay iterations and added an online multiplayer feature to add further depth to the game.
The story however, of Actress Again Current Code is somewhat lacking. Stripped down in favour of more combat and more characters, it is told via two-dimensional voice acted cut-scenes between the characters before and after combat. Story branches have been removed and each individual character has a static progression. The story hints at something deeper, but at the same time the execution is so bare bones that it is hard to piece together the story at face value from this title alone.
Borrowing once more from Actress Again—the sequel to the original Melty Blood—this game tells the story of a town torn from reality. A group of vampires known as the 27 Dead Apostles are back, and causing havoc. The characters within the stage of Actress Again: Current Code have a feeling in their souls that something is amiss. Complete strangers seem to recognize them, while people they long thought had passed away seem to have come back from the dead. In fact, it’s almost as though the events from the first game and Act: Cadenza never even happened. If this sounds somewhat confusing, that more or less describes going into Current Code blind. The story is very disjointed and sadly serves as nothing more than flavour text, making Current Code hard to decipher, and a game only for those familiar with the character motivations and over-arcing plot of the series.
The gameplay for Current Code is fairly standard fighting game fair with super jumps, EX attacks, combos, throws and overheads. Boasting all 31 playable characters introduced in the series, Current Code is a rather fast-paced, frenetic fighter that utilises light, medium and heavy attacks, while a shield button can block attacks at the expense of meter. If you’re like me, and not at all a regular player of 2D fighting games, you may start off button mashing. While this is by all means a perfectly valid way to jump into the game, you’ll quickly find that you have hit a wall, should you try this. Button mashing is viable, but only up to a certain point. Some characters are of course easier to control, while others will take some getting used to, and players familiar with Guilty Gear, Blazblue, and Street Fighter will take to Current Code like a fish to water.
In order to get the most out of the depth added with Current Code, you’ll likely need a game controller. The game can be played with a traditional keyboard setup, but I quickly found this a lesson in frustration. Once a controller is employed, it no longer becomes an exercise in button mashing, and finally opens up to allow for exciting and dangerous combos and attacks. Each character only has about half a dozen combo attacks, as well as a few EX moves, and while it may seem kind of skinflint at first, there’s a surprising amount of depth to be had once you take into account the three different Moon Phase (Crescent, Half and Full) fighting styles.
The magic circuit concept is one that shows up quite commonly in TYPE-MOON’s unique brand of fiction. Within the world of Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code it is something akin to the Super meter from the popular Street Fighter series. Requiring the player to charge it up, it grants access to more difficult, higher level EX moves. Similar once more to Street Fighter III onwards , the magic circuit is charged via one of several ways. Connecting with an attack against an opponent will add to the magic circuit, as will blocking an attack by pressing back on the directional pad of the controller or keyboard. Taking damage will contribute to the circuit as well, though it brings the player closer to death.
Unlike most fighting games, Current Code doesn’t let players build meter and then sit on it. Once the maximum of 300% charge has been put into the magic circuit, the player then enters MAX mode. This causes the magic circuit to drain quite quickly, but allows the player to access Supers at a reduced cost, as well as a new EX special called an Arc Drive. It also makes Heat Mode easier to initiate, allowing players to regain lost health up to whatever the value in red is displayed as. Blood Heat Mode and Initiative Heat Mode can be reached in MAX mode too, though the latter can only be accessed while using Full Moon style.
Current Code reuses the Moon phases first introduced in Actress Again, and for those unfamiliar with Melty Blood, these are three distinct different ways to fight through the game’s 9 stages of fights and can serve to make the game easier or more difficult. The first of these fighting styles is Crescent Moon. Playing similarly to the fighting style of Melty Blood: Act Cadenza it balances speed, and power, while allowing for greater ability in initiating combos. It’s the most forgiving style and allows players to dodge, giving it the most control in comparison to the other two moon phases.
While not as friendly to combos as Crescent, Half Moon still has a lot to offer on that front. Half Moon has it’s pro’s and con’s, with the initial power level of attacks being quite low, balanced with a higher power level during extended combos, as well as the inability to hold the shield button, requiring EX shield blocks to build the magic circuit. While Half has the least options available when utilising the magic circuit, it also doesn’t need a fully charged circuit, requiring only 200% to enter MAX mode. This style seemed to me, to be leaning more towards the original Melty Blood, allowing for rushes during combat.
The final style of Full Moon is most similar to well-known industry staples Guilty Gear, and Blazblue, focusing less on combos and more on power and the damage taken per hit. Dodging is not an option in Full Moon, and EX shields are unavailable, making it harder to charge the circuit. Upon a successful use of the shield button, players can cancel into an EX special, activate Initiative Heat Mode to regain lost health or perform a shield counter against their opponent.
Sadly, while there is a lot to chew on in Current Code, and it’s a solid port, it has been somewhat stripped down in comparison to the PS2 version of Actress Again. Survival Mode and Boss Rush are gone, leaving us with only the Arcade, and Versus modes available. There is also a training mode which gives you an arena to do whatever you like against uncontrolled npcs and improve your fighting skills for the main game. Online multiplayer is still possible within the game, but only Ranked mode seemed to work, and it was fraught with issues. Latency makes it virtually unplayable and the few times I gave it a try, my opponent nearly scored a perfect round against me. It’s also worth noting that my internet speed isn’t exactly stellar, so other faster connections may have a better time with it.
Overall Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code is a pretty solid port of the game. It’s a shame some modes were removed within and though good, it’s far from what I’d consider a pefect, “definivitive” version. It would have been nice to have a little more of the story be present here to add further atmosphere, however at it’s heart, Current Code is strictly a game for the fans of the series. The game-play isn’t exactly unforgiving to people making their first foray into TYPE-MOON’s world, but it’s also not the most welcoming. If you aren’t a fan of the series, it might be best to steer clear of this one. On the other hand if you are just looking for a fast-paced, well designed fighting game to beat down on your friends or just to kill a few hours with, you could definitely do far worse than Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code. There’s a lot here for fighting aficionados to sink their teeth into.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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