UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] Review – For Everyone
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PS Vita, PS3
Developer: French Bread
Publisher: PQube (EU), Aksys Games (NA)
Release: 9th February 2018
Back on Gamescom, I had the opportunity to play PQube´s UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st], which at that time had no release date nor English text. Now, almost half a year later French Bread´s enhanced version of the original PS3 release UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late is finally released and brings way more than just a way too long name to the table!
One of the biggest additions of UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] is a story in the form of the so-called Chronicle mode, essentially a visual novel. Circulating around the Hollow Night, an event that occurs every month, in which shadows called Voids attack innocent people. At times, one may survive such an attack and develop special abilities, making him an In-Birth.
The Chronicle mode circulates around the 20 character roster, thematising their motivations, background and putting them in a big conflict in the form of the Hollow Night. While there are occasional, not too hard fights, it´s primarily a pretty big visual novel, lasting around 10-15 hours, divided into dozens of little chapters. Most of those segments are told from different perspectives, granting the fighters enough screentime to characterize them. Given, both the mystery behind the Hollow Night and the character depth are nothing too special.
The villains remain bad, the “hero” cast remains good in most cases and no character gets more than 1-2 rather cliché-y traits, so don´t expect any groundbreaking stuff here. Though for a fighter game, solely wanting to give the cast more personality than through their design, it´s still pretty damn good. Dialogues often contain well-timed, entertaining writing and the dark touch gives it a unique undertone. Nothing revolutionary but able to achieve exactly what it wants to since I actually began to play fighters due to their backstory, rather than for their playstyle in some cases.
However, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] true strength lies in the amazing gameplay, merging a classic, easy to learn base with deep mechanics. Everyone who played at least 1 fighting game in the past decade or so will immediately feel at home. From the three attack types, light, medium and heavy, along the X button attacks that charge the special meter or the joystick/D-pad controlled special attacks. Even I, who doesn´t play many fighting games nor is super good in them, got a grip of it in no time at Gamescom.
Where French Bread really outdid themselves though is the actual depth of this simple-seeming base, made possible by two unique systems. On the one hand, the EXS gauge doesn´t work like a normal special attack meter but rather enhances the already existing ones. For example, Mika´s rocket attack will consist of four controllable dashes and increased damage, rather than the normal two, in its EX version. The bonuses range from simple invincibility to enhanced versions, giving the whole system a very interesting spin. Since every fighter has several special moves, each with their own EX version, learning them is a crucial key part of mastering UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st].
On the other hand, there´s the GRD meter in the middle of the screen, indicating the overall battle balance. A player can raise his gauge by performing assault moves like attacks but loses a certain percentage through evades or backsteps. Once the circle in the middle is full, the character with more GRD will go into Vorpal mode, granting him 10% more damage and a ton of new moves. Yet, by far the most important one, is the ability to cancel a move on the fly in exchange for the Vorpal state. As a result, skilled players can create huge chains by cancelling combos to start anew, keeping the enemy disabled.
Those systems combined can create truly devastating, unpredictable surprises for anyone unfamiliar with the game. UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] offers both the accessibility of a classic fighting game but also the depth required to fill around 100 tutorials and appeal to more advanced players.
UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] also features a ton of content for singleplayer fans, which train your skills at the same time. The survival mode throws an endless wave of fighters at the player, without ever recharging his health bar, the longer you survive and win, the better. A really neat way to challenge yourself and get to know the extensive roster, while the freshly implemented combo challenge mode forces different combos onto the player to train his skills. None of the modes is bland, constantly challenging your skills with interesting ideas, guaranteeing a ton of fun even for single players.
Graphically though, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] isn´t too impressive. Character designs are still great, profiting from French Bread´s unique art style and the 19 stages are diverse but nothing looks quite up to modern standards. Probably held back by the Vita version, the models are often dominated by pixelated edges and stages suffer from bland, mushy textures. Only the really gorgeous effects, when seen in action, and the great soundtrack could truly blow my mind at some points.
Luckily UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] isn´t nearly as complicated as its name. Able to feature a classic, accessible base, pretty much perfect for anyone, and mechanics to preserve the depth sought by more advanced players. Combined with the huge selection of modes and the entertaining story mode, it´s a fighter for everyone, full of colour, action and challenging fun.
[A Review Code was provided by PQube]