Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] Review

UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] is the latest fighting game to be published by Arc System Works, they are well-known for developing the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue games. UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] has a confusing background if you haven’t been following the series of games. This 2d fighting game is an updated version of UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late which was the previous entry in the series. Furthermore, this previous entry was an updated version of UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH which released exclusively on Japanese arcades on September 20th 2012. It has been around six years since the original game was released into the market. How does the third entry in the fighting series fare now as UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st]?

Just like the complicated background of UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st], the actual setting to the game is just as complicated. A variety of different characters, each with their own personalities and all having their own roles to play in the story of UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st]. Its story and the characters in it gave me a reminiscence to the BlazBlue universe. A story that was overly complicated to the point where I needed to look a summary of the plot online. Then finding that it really wasn’t as confusing as the games try to make them.

If you’re not familiar with the story behind UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH, expect to hear a lot of unfamiliar terms. These include but are not limited to, characters with obscure nicknames (like The Harvester of Greed), Hollow Night, In-Birth, Re-Birth and Voids. However, the conversations found in arcade mode as well as in the story mode (Chronicle) drew me into the universe and made me want to hear more about it. Even if a lot of those conversions were unnecessary long and irrelevant, more similar characteristics to BlazBlue. In fact if I was unaware of UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] and you had told me that this was a new BlazBlue game set in an alternative universe I would have believed you.

Upon playing, I noticed how accessible the game was in comparison to the likes of Street Fighter V. The game only requires the use of four buttons to input combos, for example during the tutorial I was introduced to the Smart Steer system, something I have yet to see in other fighting games that I have played. This system allows you to carry out a big combo all from the press of the Square button by default (as long as CPU does not block the attacks). This allows anyone, no matter their skill level to pull off combos that look incredibly stylish and it is so much fun.

Even without the Smart Steer I was further impressed by the game’s accessibility. Within minutes of playing the game (granted I have played a lot of fighting games in the past) I was pulling off combos along with the different character’s special attacks that exceeded even 20 hits thanks to how responsive the game felt. I was left in awe and it made me feel like I was good at the game. I have played the majority of the game using a Dual shock 4 controller which is surprising considering I play practically all fighting games with a fight-stick. There was no need for me to use the fight-stick because of how responsive it was to pull off special moves as well as combos consistently.

To further welcome players that are new to fighting games or those that want to learn about the game’s various mechanics, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] features a robust tutorial system, that previous games in the series lacked. The tutorial covers everything a player needs to know, from the most basic of tasks such as moving to even explaining how to initiate a special attack and tips on easier ways of executing them. It showed that the developers have really taken into consideration new players or those experienced at fighting games to give the UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH series of fighting games a try, making up for the lack of tutorials from the previous games. Furthermore, I also like how the tutorial menu was presented. You can select by difficulty level and by what you want to learn about e.g. the GRD blocks. If you forget or want to learn about something it is easily findable through this tutorial system.

Some unique mechanics include a battle for GRD blocks which you can exchange for more EXS (special meter) and Veil Off. Veil Off allows you to exchange all of your EXS so that can use moves that need EXS as much as you want until the meter becomes empty. This allows for new combos that are not possible otherwise. Mechanics including these add depth making the game harder to master for those that want to go further than button mash. Understanding these mechanics will ensure that you have the greatest chance of winning your fights. Not only do these mechanics add depth, but they help differentiate the game on the whole compared to BlazBlue.

The game has you would expect from a fighting game runs at 60 frames-per-second. I never noticed any drops and the game felt responsive throughout my play through of it. UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] features twenty characters which isn’t a lot in comparison to other fighters but it certainly isn’t the lowest number either. Fortunately every character is unique, each with their own different kind of play style and appearance. For example Waldstein really stood out to me, one that is extremely slow to the extent that even movement felt heavy. Furthermore, every step that Waldstein took made the screen shake indicating is bulk stature. The game really captured the size of this character and his brute force styled gameplay, although slow his extreme power and fun combos made him a joy to play as. On the other end of the spectrum you have Linne (one of the main protagonists). She is extremely nimble on her feet but also fairly weak leading to very large chain attacks which are also a joy to execute in a different way to Waldstein. There is a character here that everyone will enjoy playing as.

Another aspect that I liked about UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] was that online was never apparent throughout the whole game. The game never required me to log in to a server once and neither did any of the modes (except for the Online mode, and also to upload high scores to the online leader boards). A heavy reliance of online play in Street Fighter V and not being able to earn fight coins offline really put me off playing that game offline. UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] on the other hand has none of the sort. It is nice to know that I can play this game at all times and benefit all of its offline features without the need to be connected online at all.

There are multiple modes on offer in UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st]. These modes can be accessed on a very bland menu which makes it somewhat of a chore to find the mode you want to play due to it being unorganized. However, the coloured text for the first part of each mode’s title at least make it easier to find what you are looking for. Onto the modes, firstly is the Arcade Mode which allows you to play as one of the twenty characters throughout ten stages. This mode features for each character, four different rivalry battles of sorts each with dialogue as well as voice acting. If you are into the universe of UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH it is well worth playing this mode just for the conversations that you would miss otherwise. Furthermore, if you are not bothered about the visual novel aspects of the story mode, but want to learn about the universe whilst fighting then arcade mode can cover (despite being vague) components of the story and the characters in it.

Next is the story mode called Chronicle. This is a fairly lengthy visual novel whereby you can learn about the background to each character in prequel stories, and there is not much else you can do here. Each chapter revolves around each character that can be found in the game. I thought that it was nice to take a break from all the action and learn about the background of these characters and their roles in the UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH universe. However, the story is slow and might drive those with not much patience away as there is a lot of long-winded conversations that are there just to build character rather than drive the story forward, very similar to what I found in BlazBlue’s story modes.

Other modes include Score Attack and Time Attack modes, where you fight across ten stages to earn either the highest score or fastest time. Your final score can then be entered onto the online leader boards for extended replay value. Unfortunately these modes are practically identical to each other but also to the Arcade mode with the exemption that there is no dialogue and that you can choose the first opponent you fight against. That is about it in terms of modes. The other remaining offline modes include a standard Versus mode which you can play offline multiplayer with friends or against the CPU, Training mode and a Mission mode which usually come as standard with most fighting games.

Training mode is self-explanatory where you practice with a chosen character. I was surprised with the amount of options available to you in the Training mode (also available in the Tutorial and Mission modes). Some options included, Auto-Restart which automatically resets the players if you fail to complete a specific combo. Battle Speed which allows you to decrease the speed of battle, as much as 30%, making it much easier to practice the timing of combos. There is also Display Input History, as the name suggests allowing you to see the inputs that you are entering. Lastly, View Explanation which gives you an explanation of what you are meant to be doing.

In Mission mode you try to complete a variety of combos that your chosen character can perform. It is done quite well in this game. For example, you are able to view a demonstration of the combo you are going to perform and it also indicates in red where you went wrong if you failed to land the combo. It even gives you specific strategies you can use for each character as you finally start to master them.

The game also features a Customisation mode where you can customise the tile and icon it shows when you fight by buying them within this mode. Furthermore, you can also purchase a specific character to display on the main menu when selecting a mode, rather than it being a random character originally. Moreover, you can also purchase different colours for your favourite characters. All these are purely cosmetics that can be purchased with the use of LP which are points that are obtained mostly after everything you do. For example, you can earn them when you practice in the tutorial mode. The amount of points you earn is generous which prevents the need to grind too much.

In addition, there is not a single micro transaction further complimenting its offline feel. You can also spend these points in the Gallery Mode which consists of artwork from the game including Chibi style artwork of each character. There are also Guest Illustrations that you can buy and view with the points which I thought looked really nice. Some of this artwork looked useful for being good wallpapers. However, once again compared to BlazBlue, other than the neat videos, I found the gallery mode to be mostly lacking.

The last offline mode that I have yet to mention is the survival mode. This mode as the name suggests has you fighting an endless wave of the cast, with you gaining a VIT (health) boost at the end of each win. In this mode each character will have different colours. This gives the game more visual variety rather than fight the same opponents with the same colours each time. When you get defeated the game is over and you can submit the highest number of opponents you beat to the online rankings. This mode is unique because it does not require you to fight through ten different stages like the former modes. Therefore, other than the Arcade and Chronicle mode this was another of my favourite modes.

As I have said despite having multiple modes I found that only the main modes of Arcade Mode, Chronicle and Survival were the most fun to play/experience since the other modes were too similar to each other. The Online mode is another option which allows players to test their skills against those around the world in both Player and Ranked matches. The online offering is pretty standard and there is nothing special I can particularly mention about it.

The graphics of UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] are anime styled. Whereby within the game the graphics are 2D sprite based with a good variety of 3D modelled backgrounds with a nice 3D effect, very similar to those found in BlazBlue. Stages include a playground and even a restaurant. However, I did feel that perhaps the backgrounds lacked detail and polish compared to its fighting counterparts. Additionally, I felt that the entirety of the game lacked polish, with the bland Menu, pixelated text, and overall presentation. However, I did think that these factors contributed to the games charm.

Animations are excellent and so is the detail of the sprites. The appearance of the game being very similar to BlazBlue however meant that UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] did not do enough to make it stand out which disappointed me. I would have liked to see UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] do more with its aesthetics, to make it really stand out and get more of the audience that it deserves. In addition, if you are not a fan of anime styled games, then you will almost certainly be put off initially by the way it presents itself.

The soundtrack in this game is very well done and extremely catchy, also being in the style of an anime soundtrack. This music is varied including rock styled music to a choir for the final stage. Each character having his or her own theme that plays when you fight them. It all sounds excellent and I cannot fault it. However throughout Chronicle mode and every other mode is Japanese voice acting. Since I have been accustomed to English Dubbed voice acting in the BlazBlue games, I was disappointed that there was no option to change it. Furthermore, in relation to translations I noticed a lot of punctuation and grammar issues throughout dialogue. This was nothing major and never caused me problems understanding the conversations that took place.

In terms of replay value, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] features a good lengthy Arcade mode for each character, featuring both dialogue and voice acting. In addition, the uniqueness of each character meant that if I got bored with fighting as my favourite character I could just move onto the next. This requiring me to adapt a new fighting style and learn completely new combos and special attacks. Moreover, the variety of stages ensured that I was never bored where my fights were taking place. Whilst the modes may lack variety I found the Arcade, Chronicle and Survival modes as well as unlocking all gallery/customisations enough to last me a long time. Once you are done with those modes and want to challenge yourself you can play the Mission mode or test your skills online against others.

With its anime styled appearance along with its unknown name, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] will most likely be considered a niche title that will fly over the radar for the majority of gamers which is a real shame. Additionally, it’s similarities to BlazBlue are striking to the point that it may look like you are playing the same game. However, this game is able to stand on its own by offering enough in terms of game mechanics along with its unique story to make it feel like a different game. What this fighting game offers is incredible accessibility to everyone and is a ton of fun to play, making it one of the finest fighting games I have played in years.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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