Melty Blood is a doujin horror-fantasy 2D fighting game developed by Watanabe Production (later as French-Bread), along with TYPE-MOON, and published by Type-Moon for the PC exclusively in Japan on December 30, 2002.
A spin-off sequel of TYPE-MOON's earlier eroge visual novel Tsukihime, Melty Blood combines text-heavy visual novel storytelling with a traditional one-on-one fighting game built for use with computer keyboards (limiting the use of complex inputs and multiple key presses for commands). Unlike the visual novel its based from, Melty Blood is not eroge. It received an unofficial fan translation patch by the group "Mirror Moon".
The game's story takes place one year after the events of Tsukihime. While investigating a new string of murders in Misaki Town, high school student Shiki Tohno encounters a mysterious alchemist known as Sion Eltnam Atlasia, and must work with her to find a cure for vampirism. The game's Story Mode makes use of multiple routes and endings, with the path changing based on whether or not players win or lose fights. Some endings are only obtainable by seeing all other endings.
The game later received an expansion patch disc on May 2004, titled Melty Blood Re-ACT. Along with character balance, gameplay, and graphical interface tweaks, the expansion adds a traditional Arcade Mode and a new assortment of characters (playable and unplayable). It later received an update on July 2005, titled Melty Blood Re-ACT: Final Tuned, adding more configuration options, additional character colors, and better support for analog controllers.
Along with a manga adaptation, the game also received multiple sequels, some of which were also released for arcades and consoles. These include the 2005 game Melty Blood: Act Cadenza, the 2008 game Melty Blood: Actress Again, the 2010 game Melty Blood: Actress Again - Current Code, and the 2021 game Melty Blood: Type Lumina. French-Bread would later use the game's mechanics and gameplay for their original series Under Night In-Birth, of which Sion is a guest character.
Melty Blood plays like a traditional 2D fighting game with four buttons: three attack buttons of different strength (A for "Weak", B for "Medium", and C for "Strong") as well as a defensive "Shield" button (D).
Unlike most other fighting games, there is no game timer that can prematurely end the round. Instead, the center area shows the game's frames-per-second counter. This was removed in all other entries of the series. In addition, the game did not include a traditional Arcade Mode from the start, with one added in the later Re-ACT expansion.
Dashing and Recovery
Along with standard walking and jumping techniques (the latter of which can also be performed mid-air for a double jump and, as of Re-ACT, can be boosted by crouching beforehand), the game includes forwards and backwards dashing for quick movement, performed by double-tapping either direction. It can also be done mid-air to a limited extent, and can be cancelled into attacks with correct timing. Some characters can perform a forwards run by holding the forward motion during a forwards dash. Prior to Re-ACT, dashing depletes some of the Vital Source gauge.
When knocked down from most attacks, players can use either dash motion to quickly recover in order counter mix-ups. Prior to Re-ACT, this can be performed at any time on the ground and is used to counter on-the-ground attacks. It was changed so that the motion has to be performed before hitting the ground. Players can also recover mid-air while falling to the ground by tapping any button.
Guarding and Shielding
As standard, players can guard against most attacks by holding the backward motion, negating a certain amount of damage. Along with standing and crouching guards, players can guard certain attacks while in mid-air. The game utilizes a guard crush mechanic, in which the character can temporarily receive double damage from an attack. In addition, the game is notable for not allowing KOs from chip damage.
As an alternative to guarding, players can tap the D button before an attack connects to bring up an energy "shield" for a quick parry. While riskier to perform, shielding negates all damage (including chip damage) and leaves an opportunity for a special move as a counter-attack. Prior to Re-ACT, players can also make an evasive maneuver on the ground by tapping a direction (backward motion for high/mid attacks or downward motion for low attacks) before an attack connects. Prior to Re-ACT, both shielding and evasive maneuvers deplete some of the Vital Source gauge.
The Re-ACT expansion added three additional techniques utilizing Shield:
- The Shield Bunker, which is a special version of Shield that performs a character-specific counter-attack once the Shield ends. It is performed with a quarter-circle backward motion prior to Shield and can be performed while guarding (at 50% MC gauge).
- The Shield Counter, which is a character-specific counter-attack or evasive maneuver that can be performed after shielding an attack. It is performed with a quarter-circle forward motion and a second Shield press.
- The Last Arc, which is a special version of the Arc Drive that can only be performed while in Blood Heat mode. It is performed by shielding an attack at a specific angle (air, stand, crouch) depending on character.
The game utilizes a unique universal chain combo system known as Beat Edge, where players can combo normal attacks into any other normal attack, regardless of strength, as long as that attack has not been previously used in the same combo. As most universal chain combo systems only allow weaker attacks to combo into stronger attacks, Melty Blood allows players to chain stronger attacks into weaker attacks (known as Reverse Beat). Players can also combo normal attacks into special moves and can clash two attacks together.
In addition, certain normal attacks can be charged-up into a more powerful version (known as Blowback Edge) that can deal chip damage and power through enemy counter-attacks. This is performed either by inputting a downward motion while performing the attack (prior to Re-ACT) or holding down the attack button (as of Re-ACT). Prior to Re-ACT, this technique depletes some of the Vital Source gauge.
Throwing can be performed both on the ground and in the air by pressing the C button when close to the opponent (with Sion having a unique second B-button ground throw). Prior to Re-ACT, most throws put the opponent in an unrecoverable position where they can follow up with an on-the-ground attack.
As the game was developed with computer keyboards in mind, most input commands for special moves are simple, utilizing either the "quarter-circle", "dragon punch", or the series' signature "down, down" motions. Most special moves have an enhanced C-button version (known as EX Edge), which requires use of the Magic Circuit gauge. Each character also has 1-2 super special moves (known as Arc Drive), which requires either a full Magic Circuit gauge (prior to Re-ACT) or either Heat or Blood Heat modes (as of Re-ACT).
As of Re-ACT, some of the damage dealt to characters are recoverable ("Vital Source", shown in red) using Heat mode.
The game's super meter, known as Magic Circuit, is shown both as a standard gauge and a percentage number (from 0.0% to 300.0%). This is generally consumed to perform EX Edge attacks at 1/3 of the gauge (100.0%), although some EX Edge attacks consume 150.0% or 200.0%.
Prior to Re-ACT, this gauge was also used to perform Arc Drive attacks at a full gauge (300.0%). It also gradually regenerated over time in this version.
As of Re-ACT, this gauge is also used to activate Heat mode (by pressing the downward motion three times and pressing D). Heat mode can be activated when the gauge is at least 100.0% and puts the character in a special state where the gauge slowly depletes, but they gradually recover health from their Vital Source, can perform EX Edge attacks at 25.0% gauge, and can perform an Arc Drive at its remaining gauge.
When the gauge reaches its maximum (300.0%), Heat mode begins automatically at its maximum duration. Players can input the Heat command while in this state to enter Blood Heat mode, which quickens the effect and gives players access to two enhanced Arc Drive attacks: the Another Arc Drive and the Last Arc. Heat mode that began automatically puts the gauge at half (150.0%) when ended, as long as Blood Heat wasn't activated.
Prior to Re-ACT, each player has a unique Vital Source gauge shown underneath their character's health bar. This gauge depletes by receiving damage and by performing certain actions (such as dashing or shielding) and regenerates automatically. If it manages to be fully depleted, the player cannot perform recovery actions until it is fully regenerated.
As of Re-ACT, "Vital Source" now refers to recoverable health (shown in red).
In the Re-ACT Final Tuned version, players can select from two gameplay modes: PC-Mode and AC-Mode, with the latter changing the controls to better resemble Melty Blood: Act Cadenza. This includes changing the Heat input command to all three attack buttons (ABC) and changing throws to A+D.
The original version of the game included 6 playable characters from the start, along with 9 unlockable characters/variations, and one unplayable boss, for a total of 17 character slots. All unlockable characters were made available from the start in a later patch. Other than Sion, Warakia, Mech-Hisei, and Miyako, all characters were originally from Tsukihime.
The Re-ACT expansion added 6 additional character slots, only two of which are playable (for a total of 13 playable characters/variations, and 5 unplayable characters/variations).
- Sion Eltnam Atlasia - The game's main protagonist, Sion is an alchemist from the Atlas Academy who was turned partially into a vampire from the mysterious "Tatari", and must travel to Misaki Town to find a cure. Along with superhuman analytical powers, she uses a wire "ethelite" whip and a handgun in combat. She has a fully-vampiric nightmare form (Sion TATARI, or Kyuuketsuki Sion) as a hidden unlockable character.
- Shiki Tohno - The main protagonist of Tsukihime, Shiki is a high-school student who was born with eyes that allow him to see "lines vulnerable to death" on a person's body, letting him kill almost anyone with a simple knife as long as he cuts along those lines. He is an adopted son of the Tohno family, originally part of the Nanaya family of demon hunters. He has a murderous nightmare form (Shiki Nanaya) as a hidden unlockable character.
- Arcueid Brunestud - One of the five heroines of Tsukihime, Arcueid is a genuine vampire and a "True Ancestor" who has lived for over 800 years through constant hibernation, only to become close with Shiki after he "killed" her. She also has an alternate "berserk" version (Red Arcueid, or Bousou Arcueid) as a hidden unlockable character.
- Ciel - One of the five heroines of Tsukihime, Ciel is an upperclassman of Shiki at his high school, but happens to be a skilled exorcist and member of the Holy Church's "Burial Agency". Along with martial arts, she carries a variety of blades (known as the Black Keys). In Re-ACT, she has an alternate "fully armed" version as an unplayable Arcade Mode sub-boss character.
- Akiha Tohno - One of the five heroines of Tsukihime, Akiha is the head of the Tohno family and Shiki's adopted younger sister. She also has supernatural powers due to having a part-demonic bloodline. She has a more-demonic nightmare form (Akiha Vermillion, or Sekishu Akiha) as a hidden unlockable character and a comical "giant" form (G-Akiha) as an unplayable boss character.
- Hisui & Kohaku - Two of the five heroines of Tsukihime and the twin maids of the Tohno estate, with Hisui as the quiet introvert and Kohaku as the cheerful extrovert. As comical relief characters, both fight with a variety of cleaning objects. They are a unique "tag-team" character as players can switch between Hisui and Kohaku using a dedicated special command and have unique team attacks. Both of them are available as individual characters without the "tag-team" perks as hidden unlockables.
- Nrvnqsr Chaos (Nero Chaos) - A chaotic vampire and one of the Dead Apostle Ancestors, with 666 beasts contained in him. Appears as a hidden unlockable.
- Walachia (Warakia no Yoru) - The game's main antagonist, Walachia is a mysterious vampire, one of the Dead Apostle Ancestors, and is the manifestation of an entity known as "TATARI". Appears as a hidden unlockable.
- Mech-Hisui (Mecha-Hisui) - A robotic clone of Hisui created by Kohaku for a mysterious purpose. Due to the effects of "Tatari", her A.I. often malfunctions (causing comic relief). Appears as a hidden unlockable.
- Miyako Arima - The eldest daughter of the Arima family, who Shiki has lived with prior to the events of Tsukihime. She is very proficient at the martial art of bajiquan despite her young age. Appears as a hidden unlockable.
- Len - A central character in the sequel visual novel Kagetsu Tohya, Len is a familiar with the ability to manipulate dreams. She can transform between a cat and a young human girl. Added in Re-ACT. Has an unplayable "white" version as the Arcade Mode final boss.
- Satsuki Yumizuka - A classmate and childhood friend of Shiki, Satsuki was killed in a serial murder, only to be revived as a vampire (who tries her best to carry on being an ordinary human). Added in Re-ACT.
- Neco-Arc - A joke character and a cat-like super-deformation of Arcueid. Added in Re-ACT as an unplayable Arcade Mode sub-boss.
- Aoko Aozaki - One of the few remaining sorceresses in the world, Aoko is an older friend of Shiki who helps him control his powers (while having various magical abilities of her own). Added in Re-ACT as an unplayable Arcade Mode secret boss.