I’m neither a Melty Blood nor Type-Moon fan, not from lack of trying (wish they’d play ball in the west, but I digress). What I am is a fan of Under Night In-Birth, a fighting game IP developed by the same team. When I saw that Melty Blood: Type Lumina not only had a worldwide release, but ALSO rollback netcode? I was sold. There are several platforms to choose from, and since you’re on this specific website you’re most likely asking: “How does Melty Blood: Type Lumina hold up on Nintendo Switch?”
The answer is that it’s quite solid overall, but probably not the most ideal version unless you really have no other options. This was disappointing, but only slightly detracted from the package as a whole. Reviewing fighting games so close to launch is quite an endeavor, as they grow and change significantly the longer the player base has to mess around with the mechanics.
The initial roster of 14 characters seems small and given that three of the slots are the maids individually and in a pair, I think that critique is fair. I personally don’t mind small fighting game rosters, and Melty Blood: Type Lumina certainly fleshes out each character’s moveset to make each of them viable in different ways. I don’t think there really are flat-out bad fighters. My personal favorites ended up being Noel, Arcueid, and Saber. Yeah, that’s right. THE Saber from Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family is in a fighting game now. Small world.
If you’ve played any anime fighters, especially the Under-Night games, you’ll be able to grasp the basics pretty fast. You have three attack buttons that each have an auto combo string by clicking one of them a few times, and you can even mix and match your buttons to pull off longer combos with enough practice. I like to classify myself as a “casual enthusiast” when it comes to fighting games. I love playing them, can hold my own in some matches, but really don’t dive too deep into mechanics. This revision of Melty appeals to me greatly because of this. Your moves flow into one another wonderfully and special moves don’t require terribly complicated inputs. There’s plenty of players who will find a high skill ceiling if their hearts get stolen by this, but it works great for people just wanting to play a few matches on occasion. Easy to play, difficult to master, incredible to spectate.
French Bread is consistently excellent when it comes to balancing visuals and gameplay for their fighters. Being one of the last developers to use 2D sprites, it’s a good thing they know how to do it right. The visuals and animation of this is top tier, which probably was even nicer than their usual output thanks to the Type-Moon money. Character art cuts in on clashes and super moves, and when those happen the animation for each character looks just as good if not better than UNIEL. Everything from art design, backgrounds, and battle effects look wonderful and the game keeps a locked 60 frames-per-second at all times. I’m not an expert at guessing resolutions between 720p and 1080p, but it appears that the Switch version is locked at 720p for both play modes. This looks fine playing on your Switch Lite or undocked, but this means it doesn’t look the best docked. Not awful, but far from exceptional.
One of my favorite parts of the game is the focus on mind games in each match. Yes, all good fighters should do that, but few do to this extent. The shield mechanic is how it does this the best, and is sure to be a divisive system for many. There’s a traditional block you can pull off by pressing back, but you can also hit D to use a Shield that can perfectly block attacks if the timing is correct. Players with good enough timing can essentially recreate really long “Nothing personal, kid” matches which were always a ton of fun. At the highest level, this means you can bait out special attacks and respond with your own, but if your opponent’s reflexes are good enough they could counter and do the same. There’s a limit to how much you can do this, but the thrill never went away when it happened.
This is a stellar game, but there are parts that feel a bit lacking. The single-player content, on the whole, is a bit weak, as there’s basically just a mission and an Arcade Story mode. The story mode from what I’ve delved into is pretty barebones, with occasional visual novel cutscenes popping up every few fights. The characters I’ve played though do have wildly entertaining and funny stories, but I can’t imagine big fans of the Tsukihime Remake (which this was based on, and is only available in Japan at the moment) would find it too important to the overall plot. The tutorial is quite good and avoids unnecessary complexities, and mission mode is a great way to lab and master a character you are interested in picking up.
You can also spend time not in matches by using the extremely in-depth color editor for each character. So often fighting game developers will sell extra colors to the consumers that it’s more or less become standard practice. We all don’t love it, but we’re used to it. The sky’s the limit now. You can create whatever color schemes you want for your fighters with very few limitations. I won’t use this myself that much (I’m awful at color theory) but it’s a refreshing addition that I’d like to see the industry implement.
Having said all that, if you really care about playing this game competitively don’t buy it on Switch. This gets the job done, and it’s certainly a well-put-together version of Melty, but there the Switch has always struggled to make fighters that aren’t Super Smash Bros. Ultimate feel good. For me, it’s just that d-pad. It feels really awful, and when you prefer using that it makes many matches feel stiff. The Switch Lite’s fake d-pad doesn’t even make up for this, since it just emulates the normal Joy-Con’s four “d-pad” buttons. If you play analog, and love doing it, you’re probably never going to have an issue.
Playing matches online, despite the rollback, felt inconsistent. I admit I don’t have the best internet speeds, but matches either felt great or barely functioned. I certainly appreciate that they keep The rollback clearly works wonders, but I’d certainly check other reviews to see if this was a common issue on Switch. What is worth praising is the lobby system, which keeps things simple and doesn’t bog down the experience like many ArcSys games tend to do. I also noticed that the game had issues updating my wins for ranked matches, and I had no idea why. There’s also the obvious issue that the player base for fighting games like this just doesn’t exist as much on Switch. If you want to get consistent matches, it’s a good idea to go PC or PS4.
Overall, I think Melty Blood: Type Lumina is an excellent game but I can’t help but feel I made the wrong choice by buying it on Switch. I enjoyed my time so much that I’ll definitely be double-dipping on another platform when it goes on sale to actually be able to play with my friends, since I can’t say I’ll be sticking with the Switch version for much longer. It works great for quick labbing on a lunch break or before bed, but that’s about it. As an entire package, I’m satisfied despite some grievances. I hope sales were good enough for them to support it with more characters, as the game’s core mechanics are so fun that I’d love to jump back if a season pass were to be announced.