Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late|cl-r| Review – Flashy Stylish Anime Fighting

    Title: Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late|cl-r|
    Developer: French-Bread
    Release Date: February 20, 2020
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Aksys
    Genre: 2D Fighter

Anime fighting games are lots of fun. Given that I make my video game decisions on what sounds or looks “cool,” a bunch of anime characters throwing hands with flashy swords and abilities is right up my alley. One series in particular that has always stood out to me is Under Night In-Birth. With the latest incarnation of the game, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late|cl-r| (Yes, that is how it’s spelled), I thought this was prime time to dive into the night and see what this game has to offer.

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late|cl-r| does have a story. In certain places, on the night of a full moon, a “hollow night” occurs. During a hollow night, if you are caught within it, you’ll enter the realm of a monstrous being called a void. If you’re bitten by this and make it out alive, you’ll be transformed into an “in-birth,” a person who can control the supernatural power of “Existence,” also known as “EXS.” This takes on many forms depending on the void that struck you. Otherwise, you’ll end up losing your sanity and end up becoming a void yourself.

I’m sure that a bit to digest, but that is the concept for Under-Night In-Birth. Even though our regular high school student, Hyde, is labeled as the protagonist of the story, he’s really just one of many many cast members doing their own thing in the game’s chronicle mode. This mode culminates in all of the character’s arcade modes and is roughly fifteen hours long, it’s a super cool concept. Still, it’s also totally different from the actual game itself as it’s just a visual novel with no combat.

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So let’s get to the combat, or we should say, the game itself. Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late|cl-r| is a 2D fighting game developed. It’s a three-button fighter, utilizing light, medium, and heavy attacks with a unique “GRD” system that adds additional depth outside of just blocking. If you’re familiar with how one of their previous works, Melty Blood, controlled, you’ll find yourself picking up the essential systems in no time.

Each motion corresponds to a particular attack, with the properties changing depending on which attack button was pressed. If you have more than half of your special meter filled, you’ll use an EX version of the attack when you press the heavy attack. You can also enter into a mode similar to Melty Blood’s “heat” called “Veil OFF.” This mode slowly depletes your special meter and allows you to use specials, and EX moves at a reduced cost.

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Outside of this, if you make successful actions like blocks, dashes, and attacks, you will gain GRD, which can be spent on force functions, unique skills for each character, or you can transfer your available GRD to your special meter. However, you can lose GRD just as quickly as gaining it.

That’s just a surface level scrape at some of the mechanics this game holds because if I were to explain them all, we’d be here all day. The tutorials will do a far better job than I ever will to break down every minute detail. Once you think you’ve got a good grasp, you can use either head online or practice on the various single-player modes like arcade, score attack, time attack, and survival.

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One thing I adore about Under-Night are the visuals, and Clr is no exception. In fact, it reworks a bunch of animations and adds new fancy moves. This game drips style, and I love it. It’s especially evident in the new character, Londrekia, who has an incredibly stylish moveset involving spins, flips, and strikes of ice. All lovingly rendered in high-quality sprite animations.  The game is no King of Fighters XIII level of smoothness, but it’s as close as we will get without running out the budget.

Now, some people may think a single character and move update isn’t worth a full-price rerelease. Well, apparently neither did French Bread, as players who own a Playstation 4 copy of Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late(st) will actually be able to update their copies to Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late|cl-r| through a combination of free and paid DLC.

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Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late|cl-r| is a fantastic fighting game that’s easy to pick up and understand with its simplistic yet deep tutorials that will set you up for slicing and dicing your foes in no time. It’s a title that has so much to offer in terms of style and presentation that its tough to not be having a great time while playing. Luckily for new players, this is a great entry point if you want to try out fighting games with more depth and accessibility than party games like Super Smash Brothers.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Pyre Kavanagh

Senior Editor - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so they can buy more murder mysteries. @PyreLoop on twitter