Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st], is not a full sequel to Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late, instead it is more of an expanded version of the original. If it had been released last year there would be no problem in recommending it as it is simply a better version of the last game. However, that is not true today.
In the years between these two versions of Under Night In-Birth, there have been a few high profile fighting game releases that have laid a shadow over the small UK fighting game market. First being Dragon Ball FighterZ, the incredibly well-received fighting game that has superseded Marvel VS Capcom in the world of tag fighting games. Guilty Gear released its own update with Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 and lastly, Street Fighter V finally sorted itself into something resembling a game worth paying money for with both a story and arcade mode.
All these other games have now gone on to dominate this tiny market for games that require a higher than normal time commitment. So in order for Under Night In-Birth to even be competitive, it needs to have something that puts it above all the other recent games by a clear margin to make it worth your time. But the thing that most makes these games worth your time is how many other people are playing them and the relatively new Under Night In-Birth franchise is currently flattened under the aforementioned older and more established series. So sadly you might not have enough people to regularly play with compared to the other games and fighting games live or die on how many people are around to play them at the same time.
What is worse with Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st], as it is an expansion and not a sequel, features like arcade mode are exactly the same with the exception of the new characters. This is unfortunate as these new characters: Phonon, Mika, Enkidu and Wagner are all fantastic additions, both in the story and as fighting game characters. Phonon, in particular, is a brilliant deconstruction of a ‘chuunibyou’ style character, showing how dangerous her manner of thinking is without the story ever losing its sense of humour.
However, the core game has not been changed all that much apart from a few balances. The core push-pull device that rewards aggression with increased damage instead of increased resources is still there and I still think it is better and gives rounds more urgency than just the ninety-nine-second timer. All four new characters move just as smoothly as the rest of the cast and Under Night has the sensible format that it is relatively easy to string together a decent combo with very little practice. It won’t be as amazing as a combo you get by working out how a character plays but it is still better than the weak auto combo the game gives you if you mash one button.
Learning these new characters is also easier than in other fighting games as Under Night focuses on the shared battle mechanics rather than give every character their own mechanics like Guilty Gear. What’s more Under Night also has a fantastic tutorial clearly explaining how the game works in the wider sense. It is not a perfect attempt in that there are some characters who really need individual tutorials but it beats efforts from the likes of Dragon Ball FighterZ and Street Fighter V that everyone is working so hard to perfect for tournament play. In that respect Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] is one of the most user-friendly fighting games available today.
But out of all the games available today Under Night still has one thing that it can now call its own. Sprites. Under Night is now the only fighting game replaced this year that still uses sprites. BlazBlue has finished, Guilty Gear has started using 3D models, like Street Fighter but better, even KOF who even hates putting voices in their games has now moved on to 3D models that behave like sprites. There’s nothing wrong with this overall but when you look at how dull the animation becomes when a fighting game makes the move to 3D models it becomes a real shame. Under Night is the last bastion of high definition sprite fighting games and you deserve to at least rent it so you can see for yourself what might be the last gasp of this kind of fighting game aesthetic for quite a while.
Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] is a solid addition to the previous game and just as fun to play. If you missed Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late when it came out, you really owe it to yourself to give this a try over the more extortionate fighting games.
Review copy provided by PQube