Fighting game YouTubers (like JMSCrofts, Jiyuna, and Rooflemonger) are talking a lot about Melty Blood: Type Lumina. This is not a complaint. As someone very new to fighting games it has been great to watch people absolutely lose their minds over an upcoming release (while still expressing concerns), and for them to actually explain why. Hearing people talk about their excitement has seriously helped clarify a bunch of things I was unsure about in fighting games.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Melty Blood, it is a famously niche fighting game based on Type-Moon’s Tsukihime visual novel series. Both in and outside of the FGC it is best known for having a tournament hosted in a hotel bathroom at EVO, much to the chagrin of its community. It deserves a better reputation than this, because it is incredibly cool.
Melty Blood is what the fighting game community calls an anime fighter, which means fast, stylish combos, a focus on aerial combat, and some significant execution requirements. The previous game, Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code, is known for its huge roster, wealth of system mechanics, incredibly expressive aerial movement, and a focus on set play. I promise I will explain all of these things, because I get it now.
Every character in MBAACC actually has three entirely different modes called Moons, each of which plays differently from the others. This is in addition to the multiple versions available for some characters. Arcueid, the vampire princess, is a different character from Red Arcueid, the vampire princess who has become Joker-fied by giving into her vampiric urges, who is a different character from Archetype:Earth, a vampiric ancestor who borrows her body. All three of these characters, who are, again, the same person, each have their own Moon variants and respective playstyles. There’s a lot going on in MBAACC. The new game, Type Lumina, has ditched the Moon system in favor of shrinking the roster and making the game way less daunting, but no less cool.
The remaining characters, and their designs, are great across the board, but the game’s character customization really set it apart. Most 2D fighters let you change character colors, but Type Lumina even lets you change parts of their outfits sometimes. Being able to so deeply customize every part of your chosen character’s look is an absolute gift to the fashion-loving FGC.
What has people really excited about Type Lumina is the game’s aerial movement and system mechanics, which allow for an incredible degree of player expression. In most fighting games you’ll have a jump, maybe a double jump or high jump, and sometimes an airdash. In play, you’re often forced to pick between these options: jump and double jump, or jump and air dash, for example. Melty Blood, like any good improv team, says, “Yes, and…” You can jump, double jump, and air dash without touching the ground. This amount of aerial movement options lets you do some incredible shit to outmaneuver your opponent during a heated match.
This is especially apparent in Melty Blood’s pre-round scramble, during which players can move and jockey for the ideal position before the fighting starts. The mind games begin before the first punch, which rules.
System mechanics are what make different games unique from one another, aside from their characters. These are the universal tools which define a given game. Take Bursts and Roman Cancels from the recent Guilty Gear Strive as an example: Any character can perform a Burst and it fulfills the same function for all of them as a “please stop hitting me” tool. Roman Cancels allow you to cancel an animation at any time to combo into something else, and also slow your opponent down. These mechanics are what make Strive unique.
Melty Blood has a lot of system mechanics, all of which meld together into a satisfying risk-reward chess game. Just looking at defense alone, you have four options in Melty: blocking, EX-guarding, shielding, and dodging. Blocking is what you expect, you hold back and avoid all but chip damage. EX-guarding is when you block in the instant before you’re hit, reducing the amount of chip you take and reducing blockstun, which is the time it takes for you to act after blocking a hit. Shielding acts as the game’s parry mechanic; shielding an attack temporarily freezes your opponent, allowing you to act and regain momentum. Finally, dodging has invincibility frames, which, with proper timing, lets you pass right through an enemy’s attack.
All of these options allow players to have a variety of responses to any given attack, tailoring their defense to fit their character and playstyle. All of Melty Blood’s system mechanics are flexible and varied. Even its basic combo structure, called the Reverse Beat system, allows you to chain normal attacks in any sequence as long as you don’t repeat the same attack twice. Most fighting games will only let you chain light into medium into heavy, but Melty ditches that common requirement altogether, letting you improvise on the spot.
The game then mixes this improvisation with its heavy focus on set play. Set play refers to predetermined plans that you can execute after knocking down your opponent. To use Guilty Gear Strive as an example, Millia will basically always use her hair disc special move after knocking you down, forcing you to block on wakeup, at which point she will then do one of like six different things to mix you up. If you guess the follow-up wrong, which you often will, you get hit. Melty Blood has a lot of set play, but balances it against its extensive defensive options. This allows the game to flow really naturally from incredibly cool set play combos, to a lightning-quick neutral game (neutral is the part of the game in which two players are just trying to get a hit in on one another).
This all makes Type Lumina an incredibly expressive fighting game, from your character choice and custom colors, to your particular playstyle and favorite set plays. It is a fighting game all but built for genre aficionados, and yet I, a total beginner to fighting games, can be incredibly excited about it because it looks sick as shit!
It is one thing to be vaguely familiar with a bunch of fighting game jargon, and another to actually understand it. Watching the FGC talk about this game actually got me to understand the ways in which fighting games click together as pieces of design, and that absolutely whips. Fighting games can be notoriously hard to get into, seeing the community get this excited to explain why they think a game is cool has made that process so much easier. It may just be because I’m new, but it really does seem like a great time to dive into this niche.
And wow, does Melty Blood have some great music.