Not being familiar with the Melty Blood games, I had no idea what to expect really from this last chapter in the fighting series. Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code offers a decently sized roster, fast and surprisingly deep fighting mechanics and enough options to make it a very good if not great fighting game for the PC.
Looking for a coherent story out of a fighting game can be a challenge in and of itself (for as much as I love the Tekken games, their storylines can make my head hurt at times). Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code suffers from some of the same issues, an issue no doubt compounded by my lack of history with the series. Before long I was able to figure out who was an ally or which characters had rivalries and the arcade mode did a decent enough job of telling the backstory of the TATARI incident a year prior. While the overarching narrative took me some time to soak in, the characters themselves were familiar enough to other types of games that I was able to familiarize myself with them and find favorites before too long.
The combat itself is solid, with three attack buttons and a blocking/shield button that make the game somewhat easy to learn. Similar to other other fighting games, there is a gauge you can build up, though one of the cool things I noticed early on is that when your HEAT trickles down, you not only can regain help but pause the clock - handy for those enemies that seem content to get a few hits in and turtle up afterwards. However, defense here is king - there is a lot of emphasis on learning not only the moves, but the more technical aspects of combat. Seriously, you will want to learn to use the parry system because once that clicked with me, it was like I flipped a switch and the game really opened up.
Visually this is one of the more unique fighting games, set up more like an arcade fighter. What I mean by that is you see player controls/special moves off to the side of the screen, while the action itself is more of a traditional aspect ratio and less focused on a widescreen display. As good as the characters look (and their animations and movements are fluid), the backdrops are less memorable so the decision to make special moves easily accessible without the need to pause actually works pretty well from my standpoint.
The combat pacing is fast. Similar to some of the other Arc System Works games out there (in particular Blazblue comes to mind for multiple reasons that will be referenced later as well), there is a lot of juggling and air dash combat. I am happy to say chip damage is not something you worry about here, which makes the combat fast and even a little floaty at times, but the strikes carry more weight which creates a different sense of combat balance. With a roster of 31 characters and multiple fighting styles for each, I had concerns about the roster balance, but all in all it is really solid. Of course some fighters and their styles will appeal more than others, and I have noticed some fighters getting the lion's share of the online love so far, but that happens in most games and I more or less expected it here as well.
In terms of the presentation, it is sort of a visual novel (loads of text in the arcade mode) meets an anime and has been turned into a fighting game. Again this feels similar to what I have seen over the years in visually similar games like the Blazblue series, and it works well for Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code also. Unfortunately to get the most out of all of the story, I suspect playing the earlier games is something of a must. If you are mostly interested in the combat? Then you're probably good, but I admit that this felt like a tough place to enter the series.
Probably the one other issues that holds Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code back from greatness is the unreliable online modes. The lobby and basic online combat are buggy. I have experienced crashes, randomly dropped matches and more lag than I cared for during the combat itself when the matches took place. I suspect this will get patched in the near future, but out of the gates it was a pretty unreliable experience.
Overall, Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code is a really good fighting game with a few notable barriers. The online aspect is still pretty shaky, and the story can be a bit difficult to get into at this late stage of the game. That being said, the roster was larger than I expected and the combat is fast, frantic and fun. Fighting fans should definitely take note of this title as its combat depth and roster balance provide a lot of worthwhile action.
Arc System Works
Article by Nick