Not many games have the honor of getting as many re-releases as the Type-Moon and French-Bread developed Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code, especially before the rise of super-ultra-arcade-editions.
With the help of famed fighting game developer Arc System Works a whole new generation can now explore the depths of this vampire-themed 2D fighter on Steam.
Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code is the second version of Melty Blood Actress Again, which was originally released in arcades in 2008, and was a follow-up to 2002’s Melty Blood which itself was a spinoff of the visual novel game Tsukihime from 2000. Sound confusing? That’s because it is. Melty Blood Actress Again is a game steeped in complex lore that stretches across different games, manga, and anime adaptations. All of which have seen multiple releases. If this is your first time with the series don’t expect to understand what’s going on. Terms like “TATARI” and the “Twenty-seven Dead Apostle Ancestors” are thrown out haphazardly as the game assumes that you know all this before jumping in, which makes some sense since it’s the final game in the series. For a newcomer however, it’s incredibly intimidating.
While fans may know this as the definitive end to the Melty Blood story, newcomers will struggle to understand anything that is going on in this game’s nine-step arcade ladder. Akin to other fighting games from the time, the arcade mode stands in for any actual story mode and offers some individual narratives for its 31 characters. While not all deal with the main story of one of the once dead character’s return as a vampire, they all feel unique and of their own while also offering a great variety of tone. Some characters are brooding stereotypes while others are completely comedic. This wide variety also applies to the individual characters themselves. Some characters that have been carried over from the original Tsukihime are classic high school archetypes lacking any distinctive flair. A handful of others however feel preposterous by comparison. Riesbyfe, for instance, uses a Cello-shaped shield with a bayonet on its tip, and there’s Neco-Arc who is a laser-firing rocket propelled cat-person. It shows that Melty Blood does isn’t afraid to be creative with its characters and story.
Beautifully represented for a game that’s now eight years old, Actress Again is a marvel to behold. Its anime aesthetic is brought to life as character portraits still look stunningly fresh. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to the sprites in-game, as the up-scaled textures can often look smudgy and blurred. It’s unfortunate due to how wonderfully animated the characters are. Characters move fluidly overtop the static boring background environments like cutting knives through water as special moves flood the screen with bright effects. Even when players are stationary the slow flap of capes and jackets in the wind can be captivating enough to enjoy on its own. The level of animation on display is impressive and is a delight to watch in the heat of combat.
The same cannot be said for the game’s music however. A mixture of both classically orchestrated tracks as well as jazz and rock arrangements populate a mostly uninteresting soundtrack. Where most of the game avoids the problems of similar worlds, Actress Again’s music seems completely content with being a part of the game’s background, never breaking through to the foreground and being engaging. Every moment in the game feels like it is using a soundtrack that would be fitting for any other low budget visual novel series – inoffensive songs completely miss their marks in giving any identity to the world. It’s completely possible for you to spend hours with Actress Again and not remember a single track.
While it’s clear a lot of time and attention was put into every aspect of this game the true star of Melty Blood Actress Again is its deep fighting system. Upon selecting your fighter, you then must choose one of three “moon styles” which modify how your “magic circuit” and life gauges work as well as individual combos and special moves. First implemented in the original arcade release of Actress Again, the system originally offered players new ways to play the game. Today, the system works just as well by providing three variations of every available character while simultaneously balancing new and veteran players alike through their appropriate moon styles.
The complexity doesn’t stop there however, as the game also uses a nifty Recovery system. Players can both use an aerial or tactical recovery by pressing any button and direction after getting hit. It allows players to get back into the fight after taking damage so that they’re not disadvantaged by an enemy staggering them. You also have the ability to use EX-Shielding which acts similarly to a counter, requiring frame-perfect timing to properly use. This all in addition with a “Magic Circuit” bar which acts similar to other more well-known “supers” in the genre, and you have a potent combination of multiple fighting game disciplines in one box. The result is a deep game that will require time to master, but offer a great toolbox to use in fights that are both tactical and fast-paced.
Those who have taken the time to master Actress Again‘s arcade mode can also play in online and local multiplayer. For fans of the game, the steam release of Current Code is the ultimate version to play thanks to these features. Those who were historically restricted to PS2 and arcade versions of the game can finally jump in and prove their metal against the world, albeit with some caveats. The game’s Network Mode is, for the most part, fairly stable. Players can either enter in a ranked match where the game finds an opponent for you based on your fighting rank and statistics, as well as a more casual player match which allows you to find your own game lobbies, which up to six players to join. In my time spent with the game I found player matches to be varied in their consistency, however ranked matches seemed to operate fine excluding a few framerate hiccups. It also offers a leaderboard system that tracks players’ points over time. Points are gained in ranked matches only however, and the better you do in a match the more points you accrue for your player profile. Since the game already has a small niche audience, it provides a way for the more hardcore Melty Blood fans to play in perpetuity as they constantly overtake one another.
Actress Again Current Code is an obvious passion project from Arc System Works. A faithful adaptation of Melty Blood‘s final chapter, Current Code delivers on creating a completely similar experience to its original version. Unfortunately, because of this intense faithfulness to the original game it’s impossible to not notice time’s toll. Without a proper “remastering”, the game looks visually dated. But if you can overlook this fact you’ll find an impressive gem that has almost been lost to time. It shows why Arc System Works chose this game above others to port as it displays complex but fair fighting mechanics that, if given the time to master, could become more fulfilling than many other bigger games in the genre. While perhaps not as impressive as BlazBlue or the Guilty Gear series, there is no doubt Melty Blood belongs in the ranks of the most respected 2D fighters and its most current release is a shining example.