Developer: Ecole Software, French Bread
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation Vita
UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] stood out to me from the moment I saw it. I don’t know whether it’s because the screenshots looked neat, because I enjoy a good fighting game, or because the title is totally absurd – either way, I wanted to try it out. It’s an improved version of a game that hit the PlayStation 3 in 2015, bringing with it all-new gameplay additions and fighters with its release on the PlayStation 4.
It’s probably worth mentioning that I’ve not played the original UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late release, nor do I have any experience with its story. I came into the game as a complete newbie, but a newbie that was really intrigued by the game’s slick style and snappy fighting mechanics.
Now I’m no expert at fighting games, but I certainly enjoy them – it helps when they’re easy to play and don’t force you to learn overly complicated mechanics. UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] is actually really accessible from the get go, and whilst there’s a certain amount of depth to it, it has a simple control scheme that makes it easy for anyone to just pick up and play. Moves are easy to pull off and string together, whilst the fact that every action is simply allocated to face buttons means you’ll be smashing your opponents down in no time.
Best of all though, there’s an in-depth tutorial that teaches you the ins-and-outs of the game anyway. Whilst it’s very accessible, there are some deep mechanics of the game that take some learning if you’re going to gain the upper hand over your opponents. Fortunately, the tutorial is fun and covers everything, so you’ll never be out of your depth as far as the fighting is concerned.
It wouldn’t be a fighting game without some neat little mechanics that add a twist to each battle – thankfully, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] keeps them simple to learn. Firstly, there’s the Grid Gauge, which acts as a system to reward more aggressive players. If you keep launching a good variety of attacks at your opponent and maintain a high level of pressure, your Grid Gauge will increase. Alternatively, if you act negatively and avoid contact or lose a lot of health, your Grid Gauge will decrease. Whichever player has the highest Grid Gauge at points of the battle will be rewarded with the ability to dish out extra damage on their opponent as well as string together more powerful combos, which is always a plus. It can make a big difference during tight battles and also encourage players to steer away from simply button bashing their way to victory.
Then there’s the EXS meter which charges for the player to unleash super moves (wouldn’t be a fighting game without super moves, right?), whilst the Chain Shifts allow you to unleash more vicious attacks on your opponent. It might sound like there’s a lot going on, but in honesty it all works together seamlessly during battle. As mentioned though, it’s well worth playing through the game’s tutorial just to figure everything out beforehand.
As far as game modes go, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] is packed with things for players to do. As expected, you’ve got unranked and ranked multiplayer options for those who prefer the competitive side of fighters. I’d had the chance to stick a good few hours into UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] before the game actually released, so naturally the online community wasn’t booming. What I did notice though was that every match I did end up being a part of worked well with no cases of lag or network connection issues. Post launch, I’ve tried it out some more and for the most part it’s been the same. I did come across a few issues here and there in a few matches, but I’m not sure if they were down to the game or my opponent’s internet connection anyway. Either way, if you enjoy the online side of fighting, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] delivers a functioning and enjoyable system. Add in the Grid Gauge mechanics and you’ll quickly find that fights turn into action-packed slugfests…
Single player fans have plenty to play through too though, with the traditional Arcade mode the best place to start. It’s a ten-fight showdown with brief story interactions in-between to show off each character’s motivations and any rivals they might have in the game. It works well and in honesty is a good place to learn how to play the game outside of the tutorial; the mode increases in difficulty as you progress through each fight, so you’ll slowly get a tighter grip on how everything works and how to adapt to different opponents.
There’s even a full-blown Chronicle mode that takes you through UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st]’s tale in a visual novel-focused experience. This sort of thing wouldn’t typically be something that would really interest me, but after playing about in the Arcade mode with a few characters and taking an interest in their brief interactions there, I found myself a bit more invested in what was going on. The Chronicle mode certainly goes into depth with this side of things, with plenty of text to read and cutscenes on show throughout.
Outside of the story-focused modes, there’s also a Time-Trial mode, a Survival mode, and individual missions to complete a variety of combo challenges. UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] certainly isn’t short on content for those who like a meaty single player fighting experience.
UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] features a fairly meaty case of twenty characters, four of which are completely new (Phonon, Wagner, Mika and Enkidu). As mentioned, I have no previous experience with the game so it’s probably a little difficult for me to fully appreciate their inclusion, though I did find Mika brilliant to play as. I just love myself a character with massive fists, y’know?
They’re a varied bunch though, and whilst I have no investment in the game’s universe, I loved the creativity of the cast on show. The selection of fighters on offer can make or break a game like this, and thankfully UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] delivers. They all play quite differently too, so there’s certainly an incentive to toy around with everyone to find out who works best for you.
In fairness, the characters look great in-game too. There’s some absolutely fantastic sprite work on display in UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] that really compliments the colourful cast of characters, whilst the animations are fluid and work well with the snappy fighting mechanics. I really was a big fan of how the game looks. The only disappointing aspect was the backdrops, with a few on show that felt a little lifeless. Don’t get me wrong, nothing ever looked awful by any means – they just weren’t bursting with life like the characters were. It’s a small issue, but a noticeable one seeing as you’ll spend most of your time battling across them.
We’re absolutely spoilt for choice with big name fighters on the PlayStation 4 right now, but that doesn’t mean you should give UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] a miss. It might be a bit more under the radar than the more popular releases, but its fighting mechanics are top notch and its slick art style flows together nicely.
I had a lot of fun playing the game and can see myself coming back for more online battles time and time again in the near future. If you enjoy a good fighter that’s got a colourful cast and accessible combat, it’s well worth giving UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] a look.