Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] Review (PS4)
In Anime Fighting games, there’s a correlation between bizarre names, and good gameplay. The more bizarre the name, the better the game. Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] does not buck this trend. It is an update to the Under Night In-Birth series from the developers Soft Circle French Bread. It brings with it a larger roster of 20 characters. Four of which are new from the previous release. From the slow and measured grappler Waldstein to the nippier characters such Linne and Miku. Every character feels and plays different, suiting a range of playstyles. Even though the roster is smaller than that of similar games like Blazblue, the game does not suffer for it.
Other quality of life improvements include an in-depth tutorial. It goes into the minutiae of the combat systems to give you a fighting chance. There is also a visual novel mode called Chronicles. This serves to provide each character’s motivations going into the arcade mode. Finally a mission mode allows you to attempt all the combos for each character. While Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st]’s tutorials are fantastic, you can jump straight into the action with auto combos called smart-steer. Anyone can use these by pressing square repeatedly. Which may be enough if you want to have a quick match with a friend who does not play fighting games as much.
Although it looks very akin other 2d fighters, there are enough unique gameplay features to set it apart from its competition. The most unique of these is the Grind Grid, which brings a tug of war like layer of risk and reward to fights. It is a gauge of 12 blocks in the middle of the screen. These fill as you perform defensive and offensive actions such as attacking, dashing and blocking your opponent’s attacks. It also decreases with actions like moving backwards, and missing throws. This gauge contains a ring-shaped timer called the GRD transfer state that continuously fills up. Once it is full, the person with the most blocks filled in their gauge enters a more powerful state called Vorpal. This Vorpal state grants bonuses such increased damage and access to more advanced techniques.
As you can tell, Under Birth In Night Exe: Late[st] can actually get pretty complex and there is a lot to learn. While you can enjoy the game without knowing the nuance of these systems, it is beneficial to consult the tutorials for some of the more complex ones. The tutorial mode comes with over 100 digestible lessons which guide you through the games various systems. Even if it may be a daunting prospect for some, it’s a positive move. And a necessity for anyone looking to improve their techniques.
If you have spent hours perfecting combos and taking in the various systems the game has to offer, you can try your hand at ranked matches. Or, if you want a casual round or two, there are player matches which do not affect your online reputation. The few matches I had online were enjoyable. There were no real problems playing against people whose connections were below average. Although, it did feel like there was a delay in some button presses, resulting in missed combo opportunities.
The only real problem that Under Birth In Night Exe: Late[st] commits is that of similarity to the previous game. While the gameplay shines, it lacks the personality to set itself apart from its peers. The addition of the Chronicles story mode helps to add value to a more complete package. But this was also not without fault. The backstories for some of the characters were actually very interesting. But the translation work was riddled with grammar and spelling errors. Such an effort was spent crafting these backstories and motivations for the characters. But it does not feel like the care was put into translating those stories. The writing still manages to entertain, despite this.
Although I appreciated the effort put into the visual novel aspect of the game, the arcade mode interludes felt pretty underwhelming. I would like to see an extended story mode that combined the strength of the writing, with some battles interspersed throughout.
Finally, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] is technically competent and looks great It even runs at a constant 60fps. Yet, it does little to distinguish itself from other anime styled fighters visually. Its release also comes at an unfortunate time. With Dragonball FighterZ and the arcade update of Street Fighter V, a lot of the potential audience for this game may again pass it over. But if you are looking for a solid 2D anime fighter, Under Birth In Night Exe: Late[st] is well worth your time.
8 in births out of 10