As someone who is not real big on Japanese games and who has never played a game like Under Night In-Birth before, I had no expectations going into it. I was pleasantly surprised in some areas, but I was let down in others. All the game modes you’d expect (arcade, training, versus, time attack, survival, and score attack) make an appearance here.
I will try and keep the story (which is in the arcade mode) as spoiler free as possible, but it is very confusing to understand as a newbie to this game. Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] is set in an alternate modern day version of Japan. There is a phenomenon known as the “Hollow Night” affecting select regions of Japan, and this phenomenon consists of an invasion of creatures called the Void. Most humans can’t see or come into contact with the Voids, with the exception of a select few people with special extrasensory abilities. The Voids target and feed on these individuals in order to absorb an essence known as “Existence”. That is about all I could understand from playing the game and talking to some fans. Apparently, there is a much deeper story in there, but as there are no real cutscenes in the game to speak of, I couldn’t really find it out by solely playing the game.
The positives mostly came from the actual gameplay. It is not the hardest game to grasp, which I found to be brilliant as it makes the game easily accessible to anyone. The fighting system is the same as Tekken, really, with the punches mapped to square and triangle, whilst the kicks are mapped to circle and x, and there are two different types of grapple moves. The fighting is really fun, and I can’t really say that I have found one character to be overpowered compared to the others, which is brilliant in my opinion. The art style is very beautiful and screams “Japanese”, which is an art style I was not used to, but now I’m more open to it and will definitely try other games with similar art styles in the future.
I really enjoyed playing online against the very hardcore community this game has, even though they wiped the floor with me most of the time. It seems to be a very niche game, and I played mainly against people from Japan, but there was the odd one or two from the West, which was nice to see.
Now onto the negatives, which may seem nit-picky to someone who is not into Japanese fighting games outside of the big franchises of Tekken and Street Fighter. Firstly, as mentioned before, the story did go over my head a little bit. The cutscenes are not really there; after every few fights, two characters will have a quick text conversation that provides a little more context as to what is going on, but it can still be hard to follow along.
I do have concerns about the title’s longevity, though. It’s a niche game, one currently lacking a vibrant community. While finding a match wasn’t a tremendous challenge, I never noticed more than a dozen or so players in the unranked lobbies at any given time. Hopefully, the impending localization can inject some new blood and give the online mode a good kick in the pants.
In conclusion, this game is incredibly niche, but I did enjoy playing the game and would hope people would pick up this gem of a game so that the online mode will actually have some more casual players, that way I might be able to actually win some online matches every now and then. If you are a fan of Japanese games, then you will love this game as the art style is incredible. Might be a hard recommendation for those that are not into this particular art style or have never really played a game like this before, but it still might be worth picking up during a PSN sale.
Developer: Ecole Software
Publisher: PQube Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 9th February 2018