In the wake of Melty Blood’s recent PC release, there has been a large influx of new player who find themselves at a loss when going up against the seasoned veterans from revisions past. While there are many determining factors in a match, such as character tiers, playstyles, decisions, and so forth, there are also a number of core concepts that may be overlooked that contribute to an inexplicable loss. This article will be an overview of one subtlety that these players may not be aware of: the concept of commitment in pressure. Please keep in mind that this concept is actually universal to nearly every competitive game in existence, but the examples utilized in this article will be tailored specifically for Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code 1.07 for PC. This article is not going to go over Melty basics, so please refer to other sources for a tutorial.
So to begin, let’s summarize the goal of a fighting game: your objective is, of course, to deplete the opponent’s lifebar before yours is fully depleted. To this end, you must utilize the various tools given to you in order to do this. Some of the tools given to you are available to the cast; these are universal game mechanics, such as shields, damage reduction, heat, circuit spark, and so forth. The vast majority of tools, however, are going to be character-specific: movesets, movement speed and options, damage levels, and so forth.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to ignore the vast majority of all that and focus on a single element: proper pressure. In the short time since the game’s been released, I’ve played many new people who always find themselves wondering how I’m able to read their actions so consistently and counter what they do with no seeming recourse. My answer is usually glib: “you’re too predictable”. Obviously, this is not very helpful, so I’m going to break down exactly what is happening in the course of the set.
Melty Blood is a game with an extremely high emphasis upon momentum; a single momentum shift can make or break the tempo of a round and quite potentially the entire set. In order to place the opponent in a situation where you can gain this precious momentum, it is crucial to learn how to properly pressure them into making mistakes. A common mistake to new Melty players, particularly in Full Moon, is a lack of understanding in applying blockstrings. Too frequently, less experienced players go into what I call “canned blockstrings”: their pressure consists of a few normals, with perhaps a slight delay in between, and often ends with a 5A or 2A reverse beat in Crescent/Half Moon or a special attack in Full Moon. For the most part, these strings are safe on block and sometimes even whiff. However, as soon as these strings end, they find themselves at a loss as to what to do. With their pressure at an end, they are no longer able to attack safely and allow the opponent to return to neutral.
The mistake being made here is overcommitment to a pattern. In Melty Blood, a lot of the pressure comes from seemingly-endless blockstrings, ambiguous delays during the chain of normals, and the threat of an overhead, grab, or guard crush. By committing to a blockstring that has a very short, predefined list of moves ending in a safe whiff or special, you are actually giving the opponent a chance to escape without harm. You are overcommitting to a method of attack instead of attacking in a way that is fluid and ambiguous, which allows for longer sequences and giving the opponent chances to try and escape (and potentially get hit by a punish).
Let’s put this into real-match terms by using Full Moon Ciel as an example. One common mistake for F-Ciel players trying to pressure is working around her short-ranged 2A, throwing maybe a 5B or 2B in along with a 2C, then 236A (low flicker punch). There may be a few variations to this theme: the 2C may be delayed, and there may be a 236B (mid flicker punch) to catch a jumpout attempt after the 236A, or even a second 236A. However, once Ciel exceeds the maximum range of her moveset, she’s unable to continue further. The pressure is over, the opponent escapes, and everyone calls it a day.
In 1.07, Ciel received an enormous increase to her ground walkspeed, allowing her to pressure in ways she was not able to do as safely in PS2. She is now capable of doing 5A, taking a step forward, and repeating as a perfectly valid method of attack. While she was able to do this in PS2 as well, the tiny bit of extra distance covered puts her in a much closer range than before which adds dimension to the pressure. Suddenly, the opponent has to look out for tick throws. Ciel is able to throw in additional normals before committing to a 236. Also, by doing longer delays in between moves, the opponent is forced to make a decision: he must decide whether he wants to continue to block, or risk an escape and possibly get tagged by either a staggered normal or a flicker. Meanwhile, the Ciel player is attacking in an extremely safe method: A attacks are wholly ambiguous as they do not commit to the end of the Full Moon normal chain, nor do they signal the obvious end of a string by utilizing a special attack. You can utilize other normals in similar fashion, and the same principles can be applied to Crescent and Half Moon. The primary difference with C and H is that it’s possible to “reset” blockstrings with ambiguous reverse beat normals that go back into a series of attacks.
A quick disclaimer: committing to an attack is not necessarily bad. Sometimes you have a good read and are absolutely sure that your move is going to work; other times, you are left with a choice of committing to a move or ending in a highly disadvantageous situation. It is vital to recognize such situations so that you can properly regroup and return to neutral. In addition, it’s also important to refine your ability to avoid these situations to begin with so that you aren’t forced to make that decision. To fully understand what overcommitment involves for your character, you obviously must have a firm grasp of their normals, specials, and supers to find out what moves can be used where and for what. Once you understand all these factors, you can apply them properly to ensure that your offense is smooth, seamless, and clean.