So, let’s get started with some real articles. Today’s topic will deal with meter management for Full Moon in Melty Blood: Actress Again PS2.
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely familiar with the basics of how the Magic Circuit (“meter”) works in Melty, so I’ll just keep things to a brief summary before getting to the matter at hand.
- Heat (“Activate”)
- Crescent Moon characters can Heat voluntarily as soon as they reach 100%, and at 300% (“Max”) they can enter Blood Heat Activation, which is a powered-up version of Heat.
- Half Moon characters cannot voluntarily Heat, but automatically enter Heat at 200%.
- Full Moon characters can Heat voluntarily, but only at Max by using Initiative Heat, or Blood Heat Activation.
- Circuit Spark (“Burst”)
- Crescent and Full Moons only can Circuit Spark during Max mode, and it happens voluntarily with punishable recovery. Half Moon will automatically Circuit Spark during their Heat, and their Spark has essentially no recovery (this is not 100% accurate, but the scope of Circuit Spark isn’t in this article).
- Meter Gain
- After Max ends, Crescent Moon characters are left with 200%, assuming they did not use an Arc Drive (leaves you at 100%) or a Circuit Spark (leaves you at 0%). Half Moon characters start over at 0%, but their bar is inherently shorter with a maximum of 200%. Full Moon characters leave Max with 100% less than Crescent Moon, meaning if they do nothing, they return to 100%, and if they use an Arc Drive or a Circuit Spark, they start over at 0%.
- All Moons gain meter by attacking and defending. However, Full Moon is the only one with the option of charging to gain meter.
The key points are in italics. Melty Blood Actress Again on the PS2 was released in August 2009, and since then Full Moon has been a popular choice for certain types of players due to its more intuitive chaining system (you can’t go backwards) and relatively low learning curve compared to Crescent and Half. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that many players don’t seem to understand proper meter management — not just within the scope of a round, but over the course of the entire match.
So what exactly entails proper meter management?
In order to answer this question, it is first necessary to examine your character’s abilities in regards to meter usage. There are a number of factors you would look at to determine the importance of meter usage:
- Moveset: A character’s moveset and their usage directly affects how you would manage your meter. Understanding the function of each move and when they are to be used is without a doubt the most important factor in proper management.
- Combos: When your character does a combo on the opponent, the complexity of the combo factors directly in to your meter gain. Obviously, the more complex a combo is, the more moves are used, so the more meter you get. Characters with simpler combos, or limited situations in which they can actually do their complex combos, do not gain as much meter as those who have long, involved combos.
- Blockstrings: This is tangentally related to combos for many of the same reasons. Longer blockstrings allow your character to gain meter faster, while characters with limited ability to attack a defending opponent will be forced to rely more upon a neutral game to charge meter or a zoning game to passively build meter.
- Damage: This does not directly affect meter gain, however, the amount of damage a character deals is important for the overall pacing of meter management for an entire match. At first, it may seem that having the highest possible damage would be desirable. However, this is not always the case, and must be evaluated with countless other factors. I will bring up specific examples below.
Let’s go ahead and examine my characters to see where they lie, and then bring up a few hypothetical examples.
- Moveset: White Len’s has a number of very good EX moves, which unfortunately means she is a very meter-dependent character. Her 236C is used to initiate pressure and extend combos, her 214C and 623C are escape moves, and her j.214C can occasionally be used to extend a combo for a round-ending extra bit of damage.
- Combos: White Len’s combos are extremely simple. She really only has one real combo, with some alternate starters. Due to her limited moveset, she really has no room for improvisation, so her meter gain from combo potential is poor. However, her strength is that she really does not need any meter for her combos at all, so she has the advantage of being able to conserve it for blockstrings and escapes.
- Blockstrings: White Len’s blockstrings are also very limited due to her rather small moveset. Because of this, she often requires a playstyle which relies upon using special moves for mid- to full-screen zoning instead of directly attacking the opponent. This means her chances of engaging in close-range meter gain are below average.
- Damage: White Len’s damage is below-average. In addition to her meter-dependent gameplay, she also has a difficult time escaping pressure without using 214C or 623C.
So upon examining these factors, we can conclude that White Len is an extremely meter-dependent character who has low damage and meter gain potential. With these things in mind, it would make sense to play conservatively with meter, using it only as necessary and to focus upon a neutral game where she has chances to charge in order to fuel her gameplay.
Next, let’s take a look at the other character I play.
- Moveset: In contrast to White Len, Ries has an excellent moveset that is really not meter-dependent at all. Her 236C and 623C are viable and decent escape options, and she has no other EX moves to burn meter on. She has a very high-damage combo involving Initiative Heat into her Arc Drive as well. Another particular point of note is that Ries is extremely strong in Blood Heat Arc Drive: at the start, she can Last Arc careless attacks for massive damage, and near the end of the bar, her Another Arc Drive is easily comboed into for only slightly less damage than her Last Arc. (Remember, Full Moon’s Last Arc deals damage dependent upon the amount of remaining meter.)
- Combos: Since Ries does not have many EX moves, she’s very limited in what she can actually use during combos. Her 236C has some application in combos but most of her damage is meterless, and she has a rather flexible system that lets her do fairly lengthy combos. This means she has the ability to gain meter and keep it quite easily.
- Blockstrings: Ries’ blockstrings in Full Moon are a tricky matter. While she does have autopilot pressure with 6C, her good followup options are all high-shieldable, meaning she cannot become predictable. However, because her 6C moves her back into range, so as long as Ries is careful not to autopilot, she has the ability to continue pressure for quite some time.
- Damage: Ries’ damage is on the high side, both due to her combo structure as well as her moveset. Her Last Arc and Another Arc Drives are both round-enders, making the threat of entering Blood Heat extremely intimidating.
Now we can see how these two characters differ, and from this information we can extract some basic gameplay guidelines for each character based upon what we understand of Full Moon’s meter mechanics. This means that at any given situation in a round, the factors you must evaluate are as follows:
- Am I behind this round?
- If yes, how much are you behind? Is there enough time left on the clock to mount a comeback? How much red life (i.e. can be regenerated) do you have? Are you in a position to use Initiative Heat? How far are you from Max?
- If no, how much are you ahead? Is there enough time left on the clock for the opponent to mount a comeback? If the momentum shifts, are you close enough to Max to Circuit Spark if you get in trouble? Is it possible to burn meter to keep them blocking until time runs out?
- How much meter does the opponent have?
- Are they close to Heat (if Half Moon), or can they activate (if Crescent/Full Moon)? Do they have meter for a Circuit Spark? Can they Shield Bunker if you place them in blockstun? Do they have EX reversals to look out for?
- What’s the pacing of the match?
- Are you being pressured, or is the flow neutral? Do you have room to charge meter, if you need it? Do you have the time to sneak in an Initiative Heat, or even better, a Blood Heat Activation? Do you see yourself needing to burn meter for an escape yet?
These are the considerations you have for any character, but filtering them through your specific character as well as Full Moon’s mechanics will mean you do different things for any particular point in a match.
- It is in White Len’s best interest to keep her meter as high as possible, because she is meter dependent. Since Full’s meter empties back to 100% after Max, this means that going into Max is actually not advantageous to her at all, outside of having access to Circuit Spark or Initiative Heat/Blood Heat. Because of this, it is almost always better to burn meter to stay just below 300% and regain it through pressure/blockstrings and neutral zoning/charging. While White Len’s defense modifier is relatively high, she will be taking damage when she gets pressured, so keeping the meter high for a possible Initiative Heat or Circuit Spark is advisable.
- On the other hand, Ries’ high damage and low meter consumption means that it is actually better for her to enter Max mode regularly. While in Max, Ries can use the threat of the meter to do her powerful Initiative Cancel combo, Blood Heat Activate to keep a dual threat of Last Arc or Another Arc Drive against projectile/keepaway characters, or save a Circuit Spark if she gets hit. This means that her gameplay will have a lot of swings. There will be times when she has no meter and is forced to endure damage and pressure due to having no decent reversal and a large hitbox, and there will also be times when she enters Blood Heat and effectively shuts the opponent’s gameplay down. Choosing the right course will be matchup-specific.
Let’s examine a few real-game situations before closing this article out.
55s: Since I lost the first round without using meter, I started round 2 with 230%+. Subsequent pressure would’ve meant going into Max, which I wanted to avoid, so I open the round with 236C to start a blockstring. Spooky blocks the whole thing, and I end with 214B as further meter usage would’ve put me below 100% and in a bad position meter-wise.
1m2s: I get a combo, and I have the option of using airdash into j.236C for further blockstring pressure. However, this would’ve put me at ~81% meter, which again is a bad position. Since I have a life lead at this point, I conserve meter and stay with a more neutral approach to see where the flow goes.
1m31s: Here you can see me stuck in a wakeup situation with 275% meter. At this point I could’ve done 214C, 623C, or 22C to try and escape, but I would’ve deprived myself of any life regeneration options, so I kept the meter. When Spooky whiffs his throw, I capitalize and try to do 236A IH but drop it. This was the safest IH option available. What I should’ve done was simply do it again and remain grounded, however, I did not want to be in the corner vs Spooky and wanted to return the game to neutral. For that, I do j.214B IH j.236C. The j.236C was extraneous and landing recovery gets me hit, since I have no movement options afterwards.
2m3s – 2m42s: This entire round was spent without any meter usage. I finish out with 280%, and probably should’ve spent 100% just to get myself down to 180% and away from Max. However, doing so would’ve meant getting close when I had a huge life lead, so I decided against it.
2m58s: Here I decide to ground tech because I had the meter to safely Circuit Spark if Spooky tech punished. He does not, so I escape with Max. Since I don’t have much life to regenerate, I keep the meter until 3m2s, where I get thrown again. I tech once more since I have Spark to back it up on punish, and I go unpunished again.
3m20s: At this point, I am close to winning the match and I have 200%+ meter. Spooky’s only at 127%, but he either has to deal with the pressure (which would chip down his remaining red life) or use a bunker (which would basically ensure he wouldn’t be able to get into Heat for this round). I press the advantage, and sure enough Spooky uses the bunker and gets himself at 27%. At 3:27 I burn the remaining meter for anti-air 214C which gets me the game.
Hopefully this has been insightful reading for you. Any questions? Feel free to post here or on the forums.