Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] Review: Proof of Existence (PS4)
Fighting game fans have plenty to play already, thanks to Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, and Dragon Ball Fighterz all releasing last month. However, what if you just wanted an old-fashioned, pixel based 2D fighter to play, without all the frills of these bigger releases? Arc System Works’ and French Bread’s Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] is the game you’re looking for.
If you’re wondering why Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] is such a cumbersome title, there’s a bit of a backstory behind this series. Exe: Late[st] is the second revision to Under Night In-Birth, with the original being released only in Japan. Exe: Late, the first revision, did make it stateside, and was released on the PlayStation 3 in 2015. Exe: Late bought a number of new characters to the game, as well as a few new modes.
As expected, Exe: Late[st] offers more content and further refinements to Under Night In-Birth. Two new characters have been added, so veterans of the series have new characters to master. Wagner uses a fire sword to strike down foes, while Enkidu uses martial arts for a close range beat down. They’re both very interesting to play as, and don’t feel unbalanced compared to the rest of the cast.
The biggest addition in Exe: Late[st] is Chronicles Mode. Chronicles Mode offers prologues of each of the characters in Under Night In-Birth, giving players a glimpse into their motivations and reasons for entering the Hallow Night, as well as providing context for the world of French Bread’s fighting game series. This is really helpful, as during Arcade Mode you’ll only get small snippets of information, and a lot of the game’s terminology is thrown around with little explanation.
Chronicles Mode is purely visual novel like text; there are no battles in the mode, so no need to worry about a difficult battle stopping your story progress. However, it may have been best to have something break up the reading, as it can get tedious to work through, and since there’s no English dub, it’s a bit hard to just set it to Auto and let it play out while you watch it like an anime (a tactic I used many times while playing BlazBlue titles).
The main problem is, most of the characters’ backstories aren’t all that interesting. Most of the characters are pretty cliché, and while I’m thankful to understand a lot of the terms that are being thrown around in the game, the characters and their motivations are just not that interesting. The chapters often feel too long and drawn out, with lengthy monologues and situations that offered nothing to really flesh out the characters involved. On top of that, the text is full of typos, to the point that it got downright distracting. Chronicles Mode seems largely like an after-thought, which is a shame as it is one of the bigger draws to Exe: Late[st].
Of course, not everyone plays fighting games for the story, and gameplay is where the Under Night In-Birth series really shines. This is a pretty technical fighter—button mashing won’t get you far. Exe: Late[st]’s fighting mechanics focus on hitting different buttons to continue a combo. For example, hitting the Light button over and over will just make the character use the same attack, and not start a combo. However, Light + Middle + Down Light + Heavy is a valid combo. Under Night In-Birth in general gets pretty complex with its mechanics, but there is a very helpful Tutorial Mode to play through to get the hang of combos and mechanics as well as a Mission Mode to really get in-depth with combos.
Of course, like any good fighting game, there is online play, so you can put the skills you learned in other modes to the test. There’s the standard Ranked Mode and the ability to create Player Rooms for more casual play. I tried a few Ranked matches and found the battles smooth and without hitches.
However, I’m a bit less worried about the netcode and more worried about Exe: Late[st] being able to sustain a community. Not only is Under Night In-Birth a more niche fighting game, but it’s releasing at a time where many fighting game fans are still playing the bigger releases. While there’s a chance that Exe: Late[st] can build a small but strong community, chances don’t look high with all the competition there is.
Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] is an excellent fighting game, but if you’ve already played through Exe: Late on the PS3, there’s not much here to entice you to upgrade. The new Chronicles Mode is ultimately a disappointing slog. While there are two new characters to learn and master, with the current fighting game climate, there’s likely not many people you’ll be able to try them out against. It’s a shame, because Exe: Late[st] is a fine fighting game in its own right, but will inevitably be lost in the shuffle.
Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.