UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe-Late cl-r [Exclusive Review]: A Lively Addition.

Travis Moody
@travmoody

With GHG’s second fighting game tournament, GVO II: Tokyo Edition, on the horizon, French Bread’s third major update for its Japanese arcade brawler Under Night In-Birth couldn’t have come at a better time. And GodHatesGeeks is also fortunate enough to have an early Nintendo Switch copy, here for all your weeb-fighting desire…

In short, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late (cl-r) is an incredible indie 2D fighter– excessive anime title and all. I had never heard of the Arc System Works published, Soft Circle French Bread developed game up until about a month and a half ago, when its goth/horror high school aesthetic stood out in Tokyo’s NESiCAxLIVE arcade cabinets like a sore thumb (and expect plenty of thumb soreness when you play the AI in higher difficulty levels!). Under Night In-Birth definitely has a Tokyo Ghoul feel too it; teens in blazers, long pretty hair and samurai swords; but the vibrant energy from the game exudes optimism. Under Night reminds me a lot of an emo BlazBlue.

Much like Arc System Works’ famed fighting series, Under Night In-Birth‘s Arcade mode pits your character against 9 or 10 other students, monsters and fun weirdos with brief conversational sessions in between. These are really good, and I often chuckled at the dialogue, which sometimes even breaks the 4th wall. Marvel vs. Capcom‘s Deadpool would be proud.

Unfortunately UNIB also has elongated, often drought and seemingly never-ending conversational stuff going on in its Chronicle Mode. Unlike the sparse contests found in BlazBlue: Centralfiction‘s single player campaign, there are zero fights in this mode — just lots of talk (12+ hours of it, in fact!). And, in my limited time with Chronicles so far, the dialogue appears nowhere near as amusing as the pre-fight promos found in Under Night‘s Arcade Mode. But if you wanna learn more about what the game’s 20+ fighters are going through during this whole Hollow Night phenomenon where the gifted In-Births are fending off the Voids and so forth, these narratives might be worth your time (especially on the Switch, where reading lots of text at work or on the subway won’t be so boring).

Above all the chitter-chatter for Otaku’s is a damn good fighting game. Mechanically, French Bread takes plenty of inspiration from its previous fighter Melty Blood (my fav character thus far is Eltnum, an Etherite-whipping, Replica Barrel-toting veteran of Melty -REDACTED-) and, more noticeably, from Arc System’s Guilty Gear and the aforementioned BlazBlue. I’d go so far as to say that Under Night is a little easier to learn than those two, but just as difficult to master.

So.Not.Fair.

Thanks to a sweet, damn good.. no.. fuck it.. 5-Bible Tutorial Mode — which I promise will you make you better at just about every other 2D fighter — it didn’t take me long to real “gud” at Under Night, real fast. After completely housing the field on the standard difficulty (3), my imperial militarist Akatsuki whooshed through Arcade mode at level 4 (of 5) up until I met the “Monster of strength and eternity”, Waldstein (who may have to be banned from GVO; talk about OP!), and the game’s essential Ryu, Hyde Kido. Eh, the little bastard… Despite those last two jackasses 20 to 30-hit comboing my ass to oblivion after some sweet sailing in the mode until then, the overall challenge in this game just feels perfect.

Unlike most fighting games your competitor can cancel heavy attacks into light attacks, which leads to quicker recovery time. Auto combos are thankfully nowhere to be found (I really can’t stand them in Dragon Ball FigherZ), and the EXS and GrD gauges are, again, easy to learn, difficult to master, but rewarding as all hell. Here’s a quick wiki-esque rundown on how both of these special meters work within the haunted halls, high-tech classrooms and hallowed school grounds of Under Night In-Birth:

    • When the EX meter hits 100%, characters can utilize their Infinite Worths finishing moves (think rotating forward-down cycle-reverse plus the “D” button), while a beefier, more cinematic version of the finisher, the Infinite Worths EXS, takes place when your health is below 30% and you press all four action buttons.
    • Not unlike the Max Mode from King of Fighters XIV, Veil Off techniques can be executed if your character has above 50% meter. Following a burst of slight invulnerability, your fighter will power up and inflict more damage and rapidly drain their super meter without limit.

  • Player actions determine the amount of GrD Blocks obtained in a GrD cycle. Attacks, throws, blocks and even forward movement all reward GrD Blocks while getting hit, reverse movement, missed throw attempts, etc. deplete GrD.
  • Whichever fighter wins this “tug of war” Grd will be granted a temporary buff called Vorpal State. The Vorpal rewards the fighter with a 10% damage buff. An active cancel called Chain Shift will consume your VS buff, reset the character into a neutral state and convert any GrD Blocks into extra super meter charge. Akin to DBfZ‘s Saiyan Charge, holding down “D” will rapidly accrue GrD Blocks in exchange for super meter.

So what’s new with.. um.. this [cl-r] version? That’s a good question. If you’re like me, an anime freak who loves fighting games but has never owned an Under Night In-Birth game before, then this is the absolute perfect time to jump in. You can play the Japanese arcade smash on-the-go via the Nintendo Switch, with top-notch visuals for a Switch fighter, and it only cost $40 bucks.

Then again, if you already owned Exe: Late [st] from just 2-years ago on PS4 or Steam and don’t feel the need to necessarily own it on the Switch, you might want to pass. The good news is that the update of new moves/5 new costumes for the cast and over a thousand balance changes will be a free patch(!), minus new character Londrekia Light (a completely dope addition by the way), who will be paid DLC.

Cold as ice.

It didn’t take me long to understand why Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late was announced to appear on the main stage at EVO the second consecutive year, and you can bet GHG will be spotlighting the sprawling, 2D anime horror scrapper on our streams at GVO II. Bottom line: if you love anime fighting games, you’ll adore Under Night; just don’t expect too much action within the story or too much story within the action. 4.25/5 Bibles.

-Travis Moody

GVO II: Tokyo Edition begins next Saturday, February 22nd. Aksys’ Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late [cl-r] arrives in stores on February 20th.

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