Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late review (PC)

Originally an arcade title and then a PS3 game, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late has now arrived on Steam for PC gamers to enjoy. Here’s our look at this anime fighter.

Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late is instantly familiar, and for a number of reasons. It’s another 2D anime fighter, of which we’ve seen quite a few over the past few months. It’s also developed by French Bread, whose previous titles Melty Blood and Dengeki Bunko have also been reviewed by us in the recent past. If you’ve played and enjoyed those, then Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late will feel familiar in many more ways than its anime look suggests.

Like French Bread’s other titles, Under Night is also connected to a visual novel, and this shines through in the game. There is an overdose of story here, which for newcomers (like me) will hardly make sense at all. Still… if you’re one of those gamers that really misses story development in their campaigns, then look no further. Of course, if you’re a fan of the visual novel then you’ll feel right at home as well. The plot invokes the supernatural, involving a struggle against an invisible enemy and an immortal princess. You have to pay close attention to make sense of it all, but you can also skip right to the fighting.

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Visually and in terms of the character roster, the game is similar to French Bread’s previous fighters – but with distinctly different characters. The anime art style – close to BlazBlue and Guilty Gear but with its own unique touch – is typical of Japanese fighters but has the French Bread look about it as well. The characters and backdrops are all hand-drawn and well animated, and although they might lack the level of polish that goes into a BlazBlue game this is definitely a title that’s easy on the eye.

As we’re looking at more and more titles from this developer, we’re also seeing a distinct gameplay style. French Bread games are generally easy to get into and enjoy, with much less of a learning curve than other games in the genre. This is definitely true for Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late as well, but the game does bring a novelty to it that helps shape the gameplay into something a tad more unique. This is the Grind Grid bar, which is a timed counter that rewards the fighter who’s been more proactive during the time it was running. You gain ‘points’ for being on the offensive and correctly blocking when attacked, and lose momentum when you’re backing up and trying to get away from the fight.

It’s a great mechanic that can really impact a fight between two players with very different styles, and it forces you to adapt mid-fight. When you win a ‘pseudo-round’ through the Grind Grid, you’ll be awarded a temporary boost – or you might elect to use your points for filling up the EXS bar that unlocks special moves instead (something that’s become a bit of a fighting game staple).

With plenty of game modes and a ton of story content for visual novel fans, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late is a great choice for fans of anime fighters. It feels like the most mature fighter to come out of the French Bread studios so far, with the Grind Grid system adding a bit of the depth that the other games lack.

Score: 7.9/10

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