With the recent releases of Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition and Dragon Ball FighterZ, it’s been a great time to be a fighting game fan. Thankfully, those two brawlers are just the tip of the iceberg, too. Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] is the…well, latest fighter to make its way to the PlayStation 4, and boy is it a good one. Offering a varied and stylish cast of characters and a rock-solid fighting system, it’s one satisfying slugfest sure to please fans of BlazBlue and Guilty Gear developer Arc System Works’ more established anime-style fighting games.
Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] is the definitive version of 2012’s Under Night In-Birth and the third game in the series. It introduces four new characters including the mighty Amnesia member Enkidu and the sword-wielding Licht Kreis officer Wagner, fine-tunes the fighting system with the new Cross Cast Veil Off system, and adds a new story mode allowing players to further immerse themselves in the franchise’s over-the-top lore.
This is the Rhythm of the NightWhile many anime fighters can be a chore to pick up and play, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] is surprisingly accessible. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a LOT of meat on this game’s bones for technical fighter fans to savor. However, with its snappy, responsive controls and easy to execute specials and combos, it’s a game that even genre neophytes can pick up and enjoy. If you’ve spent any time with Guilty Gear or BlazBlue then the four-button system will feel very familiar. Square performs light attacks, while Triangle dishes out medium attacks and circle doles out heavy strikes. Additionally, you can charge up your EXS gauge which, when filled, allows you to unleash devastating super attacks.
Sure, it seems simple enough on the surface. Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll find a surprising amount of depth in Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st]‘s package. Features like the Grind Grid, which rewards strategic play while punishing button-mashing, can make a huge difference when playing two seasoned players go head-to-head. And the Vorpal system, which rewards players who’ve managed to fill their Grind Grid the most with a temporary power boost, gives players a good reason to think about their every move.
The game’s accessibility and deep, multifaceted fighting system are superb. And the 20 characters who round out the game’s roster all feel unique and satisfying to play as. All of these elements combine to make for a rock-solid experience that both fighting game veterans and newcomers should appreciate.
A Brawler With StyleIn case you couldn’t tell from the screens above, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] is one good looking fighter. The game features some exceptionally well-drawn sprites that are full of character. Seriously, just wait until you see the monstrous warrior Waldstein, whose massive frame even puts Guilty Gear’s Potemkin to shame. Each character is well-animated as well, with plenty of flashy moves and devastating finishers that really pop. While it may not look as vibrant and polished as the recently released Dragon Ball FighterZ, this is definitely a fighter that’s easy on the eyes.
It’s not perfect, however. Though the sprite work is outstanding, the game’s low-fi backgrounds leave a bit to be desired and almost look like they would have been at home on the Sega Dreamcast. Still, they’re colorful and aren’t too distracting. But it certainly would have been nice to see some more lushly-detailed arenas to match the game’s stylish cast of characters. Thankfully, the game manages to run silky-smooth at all times, even when the screen is completely filled with explosive attack effects.
More Modes Than You Can Shake A Katana At
If there’s one thing you can say about Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st], it’s that it definitely has enough content to keep even the most diligent fighting game fan busy. In addition to the Arcade Mode, which has you participating in a 10-round tournament, there’s also the aforementioned Chronicles Mode which details the game’s story in visual novel fashion. Players looking to further test their skills can also dive into the Score Attack and Time Attack modes. There’s also a Training Mode to help you master the fundamentals with the game’s 20 playable pugilists. And, of course, there’s the tried-and-true Versus Mode for those wanting to go head-to-head in some good, old-fashioned couch-bound fisticuffs.
Those wanting to take the fight online can participate in both ranked and unranked matches. During my time with the game pre-release I found the servers to be mostly up to the task, delivering solid online performance for the most part. However, when lag did crop up it was nasty, occasionally turning heated matches into a slideshow. This didn’t happen often, mind you. But it certainly was frustrating when latency reared its ugly head. Despite the occasional network hiccups, I found the online component to be a bit no-frills but ultimately satisfying – especially when playing with an opponent of a similar skill level.
I Come From A Land Down Under…
Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] may not pack the name recognition of some of the bigger fighters out there. However, that doesn’t mean you should overlook the latest offering from developer French-Bread. With its excellent cast of characters, tons of modes to experience, and some deep and engaging mechanics, this is a game that will keep you coming back for more time and time again.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Vita, PlayStation 3 ; Publisher: PQube ; Developer: French Bread. ; Players: 1-2 ; Released: February 9, 2018 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $49.99 (PS4, PS3) $39.99 (Vita)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.