I’d been waiting for Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late for a long time, like I do with pretty much any 2D anime fighting game, despite not knowing much about it other than it looks pretty and so I wanted to find out if there’s substance underneath that style.
I found it easily accessible and spent many hours playing Under Night In-Birth, finding it to be a challenging fighter which feels like a cross between BlazBlue and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax; it’s somewhat softer on fans new to the fighting genre, but those looking for something more complex will get their fill here, too. Despite the story having no conclusion and being spread between each characters arcade routes, it’s enjoyable and the characters are lively, and so I enjoyed playing though each characters routes and finding out the reasons as to why they each were fighting.
The story changes slightly depending on who you play, but the main characters are Hyde and Linne who are both attempting to stop the villainous Hilda from enforcing her ideals onto others. Hilda wants to create new rules for the Hollow Night, exclusive to those who’ve been attacked by monsters called Voids, and those attacked either become a Void or an In-Birth, which allows them to remain as they are but with strong, unique powers. Hilda would like to become a Re-Birth, stronger than In-Births, to ensure her reign goes smoothly as she’ll be in power, and so Hyde and Linne fight to stop her.
Gameplay is bar far the most important mechanic in a fighting game, with hype, excitement and interest all riding on if it actually plays any good or if it’s just a mindless button masher with no real depth, but Under Night In-Birth is truly fantastic. I’ve mentioned that it’s accessible with many moves only requiring quarter circles, and the auto-combo system means you can pull off some spectacular moves without stressing yourself at getting the command inputs right, though you’ll want to learn what moves flow into others to maximum damage output. An auto-combo won’t save you online against somebody who’s been learning the finer aspects of the game but you’ll be able to enjoy thrashing the AI; don’t feel put-off playing online, but only knowing the basics really works against someone else who knows the game as well as you do, as auto-combos are easily predicted.
So along with your basic actions and special moves, there’s a meter at the bottom which indicates when you’re able to pull off your most powerful attacks – 100% allows you to do a quick yet strong move, but 200% allows you to perform a devastating move with visually impressive animation. These are also really easy to perform, and when the crystals next to this blue bar glow, you’re able to hold X to rapidly increase your special move gauge. With sixteen playable characters available, you’ll find plenty to experiment with and, inevitably, who you’ll decide will become your go-to character; I’m still struggling with this, but I think the speedy Nanase and Melty Blood guest star Eltnum win it for me, followed by busty swordswoman Yuzuriha.
There are a wide range of modes to choose from too, including Arcade, Training, Score Attack, Time Attack, CPU VS and Multiplayer – which includes local and online – and gallery and customisation modes. Customisation is fun, allowing you to use points you’ve earned during battle to unlock up to ten different colour palettes for each characters costume (you already start with ten, too), and the ability to modify your network card which will be seen by other players online. Gallery is what it claims to be, an area where you can view artwork for the game, cinematics and guest artwork including work from the Skullgirls team and Senran Kagura series artist Yaegashi Nan. There’s plenty to sink your teeth into, and the enjoyment only seems to grow!
I’d say that the graphics are the next most important thing after gameplay, as nobody wants a fighting game which doesn’t pack a punch and fails to excite you visually; a lot of the fun is being able to see the great combos you can string together, along with the explosive special moves, and Under Night In-Births excellent 2D sprites express these perfectly. Characters look fluid in-battle and seamlessly transition from action to action, and the 2D character portraits are brimming with detail and have a few alternating expressions – the gallery fortunately allows you to have a closer look at these once you’ve played their respective arcade routes. The Infinite Worth EXS moves are huge in scale, easy to pull off and look really, really cool – developer French Bread have really covered all bases with Under Night In-Birth.
There are an insane amount of stages to choose from, ranging from underneath bridges, outside schools, on rooftops and in fancy buildings, and they’re all fitting and well thought-out. There’s not a lot of background action going on in them as there are minimal people around in the Hollow Night but leaves will fall from trees, fountains will pump water and lights will flicker as you battle it out against your opponents. There’s also an abundance of tunes to choose from too, encompassing guitar-laden rock songs to softer piano songs, all of which mesh nicely with the action on-screen.
There’s no English Dub which isn’t a problem, especially as there’s not a whole lot of dialogue but I enjoyed the Japanese voice-acting and I’m thankful that the subtitles are easy to read and well-translated. Despite there not being a whole lot of dialogue, it manages to be witty and humourous, with each character feeling moderately fleshed-out by the end of their brief journey; I’m always thankful for a story in a fighting game, although many people feel that they’re unimportant, and Under Night In-Birth kept me interested and I’d love to see a deeper visual novel element with fights interspersed in future as there’s a great story to tell here.
It’s safe to say that I think Under Night In-Birth is a great game, and it’s a fighting game I’ll be spending a lot more time on. I fought a few matches online and other than the lag from loading in the match, there network code seemed to run very smoothly – the lag won’t affect the battle if you let the opening animation run its course. Fans of fighting games and newcomers to the series will find plenty to love here, and it’s easy to sink hours into it as a result of how enjoyable it is. If you’re itching for a new fighting game and had heard of Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late but hadn’t made your mind up yet, then I can safely and fully recommend this to you as a huge fan of fighting games who’s now found what might one of his all-time favourite titles in the genre.