Melty Blood: Actress Again

CONTINUING THE TRADITION OF NONSENSICAL JAPANESE TITLES BEING BRILLIANT

Even accomplished Street Fighter players have probably never heard of Type-Moon or Melty Blood. Founded in 2000, Type-Moon became recognized in Japan after releasing the interactive cloning novel Tsukihime for the PC. This manga story was aimed at adults, and as well as a strong vampire theme, focused on a high-school student who could see and destroy the life force of the living. Teaming up with French-Bread in 2002, Type-Moon released a 2D fighter spin-off to Tsukihime titled Melty Blood, followed by Act Cadenza in 2005. Actress Again, the third game in the series, is a PS2 port of the recent NAOMI arcade game.
Actress Again is a visual treat: the whole thing feels like an anime epic. Character sprites are more in line with The King Of Fighters than Guilty Gear, proudly displaying each pixel. Animation is particularly high quality, the fighters seamlessly chaining moves. The roster reflects the game’s heritage, featuring an eclectic mix of mechanized French maids, double-bass-wielding vampire hunters, dead Apostles and prepubescent kung-fu schoolgirls. The initial select screen offers 25 characters — three up from Act Cadenza — and five unlockable PS2 exclusives.
Actress Again isn’t a radical departure from 20 gameplay staples: with light, medium and heavy attacks, it’s fast-paced and emphasizes chain combos and special moves. A fourth shield button can also be held for a defensive barrier, similar to Guilty Gear; as well as tapped for a 3rd Strike-style parry.
The super gauge, here called the Magic Circuit, is of the three-stock variety and goes from zero to 300 per cent. A single stock can be exchanged for an EX-Edge (a souped-up special) or a brief stint in Heat mode, where you can perform a devastating Arc-Drive super. Unusually, Actress Again also features a Reverse Beat system, allowing players to combo attacks in reverse order, from heavy to light. You’ll need to be quick and inventive.
As a perfect rendition of the arcade title in your own home, Actress Again does what it sets out to achieve. But as well as the usual versus, survival, training and unlockable boss rush modes, Type-Moon has included scenes of fully voiced narrative for each character’s arcade mode. Of course, this isn’t much  use to those who don’t understand Japanese ,but potential importers will be pleased to hear that all menus are in English. Actress Again is a bonkers premise attached to an excellent 2D fighter, and the whole game oozes charm and a real sense of developer dedication. It’s just criminal it’ll never see a European release.