Melty Blood: Type Lumina proves we are in another golden age of the fighting game genre.
In my first few minutes in training mode, I immediately tried nearly every fighter on the roster, soul-searching for who would be my main. Being a sucker for brawler types, I quickly fell for Miyako, a martial arts powerhouse whose small size and young age are deceiving at first glance.
I was quickly overwhelmed by the staggering number of possibilities offered up by this simple-looking game. “Can I shield punish this?” “Can I combo into that?” “Can I option-select this?” Can I mix up with that?” I hopped online and started putting what I discovered into practice. Win or lose, I had fun and learned even more — no matter who I fought against.
That’s when I truly realized that this is an awesome fighting game. If you have a soft spot for arcade-era classics like Guilty Gear, Marvel vs. Capcom, or Street Fighter III, then Type Lumina should definitely be on your radar. But if you plan to play online, there’s one big catch you should be aware of.
More than meets the eye
Type Lumina is an anime-fighting game based on the visual novel Tsukihime. It has something to do with Japanese students, secret organizations, and vampires. Honestly, I haven’t looked too much into it, but the good news is you don’t have to either.
Melty Blood has never been the most complex series out there. It’s easy for a newcomer to jump into it and immediately learn a character. But the mechanics of the game and the way the characters function present players with a very high skill ceiling. Melty Blood: Type Lumina continues this tradition with a very small entry barrier that gives you a lot of room to get creative and learn at your own pace.
There are 14 characters in the base roster, each with a unique moveset and shared system mechanics. There are quite a few systems that make up Type Lumina, but I was really blown away by the movement options.
Not only do you have access to all the usual ground and air options like airdash and a double jump, but you can also double high jump. This is basically an air super jump, which gives you even more control over your aerial movement. Mix these options in with unique air specials and universal options like the Moon Drive power-up, and you’ve got a recipe for some serious movement that makes landing a hit even more satisfying. All these mechanics come together to give Type Lumina a unique flavor that feels like a mix of Under Night In-Birth, classic Melty Blood, Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax, and Dragon Ball FighterZ.
Things usually start off with a dance: me and my opponent swiftly moving across the screen while finding an opening to attack. Once it’s clear who is on offense and defense, Type Lumina puts its greatness on full display, thanks to the Reverse Beat and Shield mechanics. Reverse Beat allows characters to chain normal attacks in any order. This allows for a unique, constantly changing approach to offense that is a Melty Blood series staple.
On the defensive side, Shield can counter any attack that isn’t a grab or unblockable. Upon successfully landing a Shield, you can select between three counters or wait out the small recovery to pick from your usual attack options. The fact that your opponent can Shield back against your Shield options turns these interactions into tense standoffs that make Type Lumina as exciting to watch as it is to play.
While it leads to fun moments, Shield has its downsides. The low-Shield option is incredibly strong, and getting used to its counterplay is a lot to ask of new players. It’s not a break-point for the game because counters exist to the option, but it is a weakness of the mechanic’s design all the same.
Flash with depth
The French-Bread team is one of the last fighting game developers to continue using sprite artwork. Type Lumina is no exception, and it and might be the developer’s best-looking game yet. I can’t get enough of seeing the characters and their wild attack animations.
Character cut-ins appear when you use certain supers and power-ups, similar to Marvel vs. Capcom 2’s Hyper Combos. The characters’ faces even change in reaction to one another when power-ups like Moon Drive are done at the same time or back-to-back. There are also screen-filling background animations that play when some supers are used.
Memorable stage backgrounds are another welcome throwback to classic Dreamcast and ‘90s arcade-era fighting games. The environments you’ll be doing battle in all bring a different mood to fights while looking darn good at the same time. Will you duke it out in a blood-red mansion? Do you want to take it to the back alley? Maybe you want to settle things in a desolate ruin? You can do that all here, and it makes matches all the more cinematic.
Like recent fighting games such as Guilty Gear Strive, Melty Blood: Type Lumina uses rollback/GGPO netcode. This networking infrastructure eliminates lag in long-distance matches, making it feel like both players are in the same room. Unfortunately, Type Lumina falls short of Strive in this area. While some matches feel absolutely amazing, half of them are plagued by lag and frequent frame stutters, making for a frustrating and inconsistent experience.
In the year of 2021 fighting game players are looking for a game that they can play online with friends reliably. While Melty Blood can sometimes deliver, it isn’t enough. Why play a game that only half delivers on its online experience? That’s the biggest faltering point of Type Lumina, and one reason you may want to stay away until an update comes along.
Thankfully this is something that a simple patch can fix. But that will only happen if French-Bread hears the gripes about the online experience. After Guilty Gear Strive, no fighting game player wants a lackluster online experience. Good netcode is a must for the genre now and Type Lumina really needs to step it up to keep up. A hotfix could make this one of the best fighting games in a long time.
Melty Blood: Type Lumina highlights so many of the genre’s strong points, it truly reminds me why I love it so much. Yet it’s also an amazing entry point for the series or even fighters as a whole. With updates and more DLC on the way, it may even be the best new fighting game in years, with a hell of a long life ahead of it.
Melty Blood: Type Lumina is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Inverse reviewed the PS4 version.
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