Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] is an interesting entry in the fighting genre. The game was originally released as an exclusive to the Japanese arcades. It was developed by French Bread, who are known for their work on the Melty Blood series, another great but niche indie fighting game. Arc System Works helped with porting it to consoles starting with the PS3 and now it is finally available for the PS Vita, PS4 and PC. This latest entry is an update for Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late. Despite being the third update for the game, the name convention makes it all the more confusing, especially for someone who has never heard about the series so far.
The game features a character roster of around 20 fighters, which is diverse and varied enough that learning to control most of them shouldn’t be a problem. The combos are fun to execute and the game even throws an auto combo system that lets you simply tap a button to chain together a set of combos. If you have played any fighting game, especially a 2D fighter like Guilty Gear or Blazeblue, the experience of playing Under Night might be similar. There is difference between the mechanics and how most of it plays out, but underneath the core, the fighting system is solid letting you combine attacks or execute special moves to knockout your opponent.
Fighting games live and die by their character roster so atleast in this category, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] seems to have delivered. However, the game suffers from some design choices that bring down the overall experience, particularly the focus on a visual-novel style for telling the story, which itself tries hard to grasp attention of the player but fails to do so. The animation looks great but the storytelling leaves a lot to be desired. I often found myself bored or trying to fast forward through the dialogue when attempting the new Chronicles mode. It attempts to explain some of the backstory for the game and lays down the foundation for each of the character, however it isn’t exactly as interesting as one would hope, which is disappointing since the core fighting is pretty damn good.
Arcade mode itself revolves around 10 stages while the characters are given a little story moments between the key stages. The dialogue between the characters is again represented in the form of a visual novel, however their motivations and rivalry will be a little confusing if you haven’t played their story chapter in the Chronicles mode. This mode contains 22 chapters with a chapter set aside for each fighter that is playable in the game.
The story takes place in a fictional 21st century modern setting where an unexplained phenomenon called the Hollow Night happens across certain parts of Japan. During this night, monsters that are called ‘Voids’ appear which feed on the power of existences or EXS for short. While normal people are not able to see these ‘Voids’, there are certain people with special powers that can either get consumed by them or lose their sanity if they get attacked by these monsters. If a person who gets attacked by ‘Voids’ manages to keep his/her sanity, they can learn to control them and are called ‘In-Birth’ hence the title of the game.
The game features a fairly robust tutorial for learning most of the gameplay mechanics. It might feature complex inputs that are hard to figure out, but the tutorial system makes it easy to learn most of the basic mechanics. It starts from the beginner friendly tutorial all the way to the advanced explanations going deeper into mechanics of canceling moves to perform combos. It is well worth your time to go through it because not only it will prove useful for the game itself, it should also help you learn how a fighting game works.
Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] manages to distance itself from other fighting games with its Vorpal system. Even if you can execute the same special moves performed by filling a gauge at the bottom of the screen, the Vorpal system adds a twist to it. There are three form of standard attacks available to perform while one button is reserved for the Vorpal system. You can charge it by keeping it pressed or let is naturally fill itself during the fight. If your grid gauge is charged higher than the opponent while the grid transfer state gauge has completed its full rotation, you character will enter a powerful state for a few seconds giving them the upper hand during a fight. It is a bit complex to figure out in the start but once you learn how to exploit it, defeating any opponent shouldn’t prove to be that difficult.
In term of the offline content, there is the Arcade, Time Attack, Survival and Training mode. You can gain points if you complete them which can be used to unlock extra items in the gallery or customization for your characters. These customization are mostly for your character profile online while the gallery mode offers artwork and promotional movies.
To conclude, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] offers solid fighting game mechanics with a nice cast of characters. However, the story offered here suffers from anime archetypes and cliches making it harder to sit through when most of it is presented in the form of a visual novel.
Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Under Night In-Birth is a visual novel and 2D fighting game co-developed by Ecole Software and French-Bread, known for the Melty Blood series. It features a brand new cast of characters and a story that spins around modern fantasy.
The character roster here is incredibly varied and the fighting mechanics are complex although simple enough for newcomers to understand, but it is held back by a lackluster story and arcade mode.