Fighting games have existed for quite some time in the gaming industry, perhaps one of the genres with most longevity in the sector. Apart from being available on consoles, they are first introduced on arcade machines, mainly in Japan but also in other nations, and then the game may release once again on a home console after a period of time, and one of such games is Under Night In-Birth.
With a slightly longer title than the original release on arcades, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late is a fighting game developed by Ecole Software and French Bread studio, and it was brought to the PS3 from Arc System Works. The game is basically a 2D fighting game with a relatively average character selection and which as its main character has Hyde and his sword, the Insulator, which seems to be desired by a host of characters in the game, some to destroy it and some to use it for evil purposes. The story’s setting is the Hollow Night, where all these characters have met and are fighting everyone in their wake to get to their goal. Similarly to other fighting games, the story mode features a number of battles, 10 specifically, with scaling difficulty until you get to the boss level at stage 10, which should be the hardest opponent in the mode. Generally speaking, this mode is beaten fairly easily, and on default difficulty only took me around 15 minutes to get through all the opponents in the story. Hyde’s story is the main one in the game, but the other characters have an individual story themselves which branch into Hyde’s as well. A little feature which I liked personally is the trophies’ names upon clearing the story mode with each character, which are some pun with the character’s name or otherwise. For example completing the story mode with Orie gets the “I Rule” trophy, due to the fact that her sword is called Ruler.
Apart from the story mode, there are other modes such as the inevitable VS mode for local play, CPU mode where one can fight the AI, and Network mode which obviously means online play. Then there are score leaderboards in Score Attack mode, where players try to rack the maximum number of points from each fight to get the highest total possible. Points are earned through combos, as well as other achievements such as perfect rounds, which are rounds where you defeat the opponent without receiving damage. Time Attack mode, as the name implies, features completing the story mode in the least time possible, and like other fighters Survival mode is also here, where one fights a series of never ending opponents until his life bar is depleted. The bar will not return to full after winning a fight but will be healed by a portion for each round survived, which can mean quite a lengthy duration for experienced players.
One of the game’s features is customization, where one can change the look of not only characters but also their name tag in online play. Character customization is very limited though since one can only purchase, through IP earned for clearing story mode, score attack or other modes, different colours for the fighters, and considering already 10 are available at the ready and the additional colours are not that different from the first set, it is not worth spending on these unless a particular design strikes you. Other customizable features are the Icon, the Plate which is a background for your tag, and a Title. Curiously the title can be almost compiled to whatever you like by purchasing the different individual letters although I could not find the C so my adventure finished pretty early with this, and settled by buying the BWAHAHAHA! Title. Yes, it’s a thing.
Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late features quite a different approach to other fighting games, in the sense that it increases the impact of movement while diminishing the effect of spacing, with there being quite a number of abilities from different characters which have a large hit box, for example a sword strike can cover almost a third of the screen if not half, at its maximum stretch. That being said, it is not necessarily a bad thing since blocking is fairly easy in the game with only a couple of low moves. Chip damage is also not in the game except for special abilities, and while these do deal damage, it is only a very small portion of the HP bar.
If blocking is easy in the game, the remainder cannot be said to be so. First of all, there is no tutorial or instructions, and even though there is a training mode, nothing is explained to the player about the different moves and abilities a character has, apart from having a command list which dictates a set of moves but not all. This means that combos have to be either practiced in training mode or busted out randomly at first and then getting the hang of things. For example the game features a combo system where by spamming square, the character will execute a combo of his own, much like Persona 4 Ultimax, but since nothing is explained, it was only a matter of luck that I discovered it. Thankfully, if the combos are not easy to learn or figure out, they are very rewarding once you manage to pull them off during fights, and with the varied movelists of the characters, a combo done by one will be nothing like another character due to the different abilities of the two. Apart from the feeling of mastering the game, pulling off some 8/9 hit combos will look incredibly awesome on screen because of the animations of the hits combining into one another. Sometimes it feels like all the moves in a character’s arsenal can be combined together, unlike other fighting games, and this is also a positive point for the game, which also reduces the level of complexity within the combo system. Another negative about the movelist, although quite a minor one, is the fact that these are notated with A/B/C/D presses instead of the dualshock’s face buttons, and while there is a menu which notates which button represents which letter, swapping between the screens may make you forget the combo, as has happened a couple of times to me.
Visually, the game is very pleasing to watch. The game’s graphic style which is reminiscent of anime visuals but in higher definition is very suited for the game itself, and the animations of the moves and special abilities are a joy to watch. Likewise, the characters themselves are very detailed and differ quite a lot from one another, granting them their own style and personality. The environments of the fights are not that good though, since they are just like a cardboard cutting placed on the background of the action, with only some sparkling light here and there to make it not look dead. The lack of interaction with it is also a factor in this since this is a 2D game. On the other hand the music in the game is also very fitting, incorporating a soundtrack which is mostly high paced, perfect to accompany the high-intensity action going on during each fight.
Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late is a great fighting game, which explains its translation from arcades to PlayStation 3. It combines frenetic action with unique and colourful characters, but forgets to teach the player how to play the game properly, which may turn off some adopters of the title. For those who decide to stick with the game and train their character, it is a very rewarding experience and watching the moves flow one after the other in beautiful combo sequences will no doubt make you realize you did the right thing.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.