As much as I love this game, I can safely say that it has one of the worst, most annoying titles out of any game I’ve ever played.
Undernight In-Birth EXE: Late(st) (yes, that is the real title) has a serious split identity problem. On one hand, it is an abysmally terrible visual novel that is ridden with typos and horribly boring. On the other, it is one of the best fighting games that I have ever played, with the most in-depth tutorial, fun characters, and dazzling music. Judging this game has been rather difficult, given its divided nature.
But I do love a challenge! So let’s do it!
Story: Brain Hurty, Please Stop
Ugh… No story has ever annoyed me to the point that it gave me a headache. But here we are.
There are two sections in which the game’s story is presented. The first, and most boring, is the Chronicles mode. In this mode, you sit through long, boring pages of a visual novel that explains who these characters are and how they got to where they are. It is a prequel to the next way to get the story.
The Arcade mode. This is where the actual video game happens. Every three or four matches, you get a small blurb of text starring your chosen character and someone else, depending on their story. Y’know, typical fighting game stuff.
The story centers around the Hollow Night, a strange phenomenon in which people get sucked into a strange pocket dimension (or something like that, I think). In this dimension lives the Voids, strange black monsters that feed on humans. Anyone bit by one of these creatures unlock their EXS, special energy found within all living things. Thus, In-Births are born. Some people can ascend even further to become a Re-Birth, though the consequences for doing so are mysterious.
Each character has their own separate story surrounded by these things. I could go into detail on them, but I’d be here for a thousand years. I’ll just leave a link to the wiki right below this paragraph. If you want to read up on a plot so confusing that it makes Kingdom Hearts look like a children’s novel, then go check it out.
I’m not going to lie. I hate this story. The Chronicles mode is painfully boring, dragging its feet with terrible dialogue, more typos than I could count, and horribly boring characters. It will linger on the same drawing for a long time, which makes reading this lackluster novel even more tedious.
No member of the cast is exceptionally deep, as most of them fall entirely into anime character archetypes. Hyde is your typical Shounen protagonist, Orie is the sweet but bad-ass girl, Wagner is the tsundere, Waldstein is the old bad-ass who loves combat, Gordeau is the rough, gruff villain with a secret heart of gold, so on and so forth. They’re likable enough, helped in part by their memorable character designs, but they’re hardly deep or original.
Do not, under any circumstances, play this game for the plot. Just don’t. If you want a good game with a good story, go play a Naughty Dog game. If you’re playing UNIST, you are doing so purely for the gameplay.
Though the visuals aren’t bad. Mostly thanks to the music.
Visuals: Indie Anime
This game looks… okay. The sprites are nice, the animations are smooth and pretty, and the music is phenomenal! Unfortunately, the drawings used in the visual novel sections are often… lacking. Not bad. Just… lacking.
Let’s start with the sprites. Each one is highly detailed and colorful, thanks in part to the massive catalogue of unlockable extra color pallets. Every character has a unique and lovable design that sticks with you in your mind. Just look at these guys!
They don’t just look nice either. They also move well! The animation is simultaneously smooth and gorgeous while maintaining that classic ridged anime style. They make looking at the game, whether you are a spectator or playing, very nice.
Now, let’s get back to the visual novel. It follows the typical trend of visual novels: two or more characters will stand on screen, looking at each other with stagnant facial expressions that will shift depending on the dialogue. Every now and then, they’ll spice things up with a high-quality still drawing that takes up the whole screen.
Again, these drawings are nice. However, they’re dragged down by the simple fact that they’ll sit there, completely still, for way too long! It makes staring at these nice art pieces incredibly frustrating, as you just want the character to shut up and move the fucking plot along!
But hey! You can simply ignore the Chronicles mode and enjoy playing. Or you could just listen to the soundtrack, which is easily my favorite part of this game! It isn’t ‘Guilty Gear’ levels of quality, but it is still absolutely incredible!
Overall, this is a decent looking game. It is a treat for the eyes and the ears. But it doesn’t make the game all that great, as the story still drags it down pretty hard.
Luckily, the gameplay is so good that I don’t care.
Gameplay: NOW WE PLAYING A GAME!!
This is why you play this game!
This is a traditional 2D fighting game, so you already know how it’s played. You and your opponent, whether you’re online or sitting next to each other, pick your characters, your stage and your music, and then you fight. If you know your character, from their moves to their combos, then you can pull of some crazy things on your way to victory.
There are a few mechanics that make this game stand out. At the bottom of the screen is the GRD Meter. This tug-of-war mechanic is essential if you want to succeed in this game. When you move or hit with hard combos, then the GRD will charge up on your side. If you have more meter than your opponent when the timer runs out, then you will get a small power boost. You can sacrifice this to charge your EXS (super) meter or combine it will your Veil Off (power boost) to get an extra boost in ability. This mechanic makes each make far more hectic than they already are and I fucking love it!
If you feel like playing solo, you have a myriad of options available to you. Arcade Mode puts you up against ten opponents as you make your way through your character’s story. Y’know, your typical fighting game mode. It’s fun, but it isn’t all that unique.
Time Attack mode is what happens when you put a speedrun mode into a fighting game. Once again, you face-off against a number of foes with the aim of beating them all as quickly as possible. This mode is very challenging, which makes beating your previous records incredibly satisfying. I like this mode quite a bit.
Survival mode is probably my favorite mode in the game. You fight an endless chain of foes until you lose. Your EXS meter and health carry over, though the later will recharge a bit between rounds. This mode is addictive, challenging, and a ton of fun. Plus, it’s a great way to grind out cash quickly if you don’t feel like getting your ass kicked online.
Score mode is the ultimate test of your skill. Once again, you’ll go through ten opponents of gradually increasing difficulty. You need to raise high combos and avoid damage to raise your score as highly as you can. Like Time Attack mode, this mode is challenging, addictive, and pretty fun. It is a fantastic way of testing your ability.
If you feel like practicing, then you have plenty of options! On top of the traditional Training Mode, you also have one of the most in-depth Tutorials in the history of fighting games, so you can learn how to play the game and play it well exceptionally quickly. Better yet, you can play the Mission mode, where the game will teach you how to play each character through a series of unique combo challenges. And, unlike most combo challenges in fighting games, these are actually helpful!
It’s mind boggling, I know.
This is the most fun I have ever had with a fighting game! The combat is snappy, gorgeous and addictive! Each character plays completely differently from the others, making the roster diverse and intense! Whether you want to play a zoner, a big tank, or a small but quick bruiser, you will have someone to play in this game!
Combine that with the huge variety of game modes, and you have a game that is great for both casuals and hardcore fighting game players. Sure, the story is terrible. But when you combine the gameplay with the visuals, you have one of the best fighting games on the market right now!
In terms of writing, this game is an absolute disaster. The plot is confusing from start to end with a cast of cliche characters and a setting so overstuffed with annoying pronouns that it makes me want to scream more than my ever-shifting work schedule! It is downright frustrating!
Luckily, the gameplay more than makes up for it! It is one of the deepest, most accessible and fun fighting games that I have ever played! Out of all the fighting games that I have played, this one is easily my favorite!
If you want to play a good-ass fighting game, I would highly recommend Undernight In-Birth EXE: Late(st). Playing it is an absolute joy, even if the people still playing it today online are absurdly good! Or, if you want to have a greater fighting chance, you can wait until CL:R comes out early next year!
However, I need to mention: you should not, under any circumstances, play this game for the plot. It is an absolute headache from beginning to end! It’s no secret that fighting games tend not to have good plots. But this one is really bad!
And it’s only going to get worse when CL:R comes out. But hey! At least the fighting aspect still looks great!