Developed by Ecole Software and French BreadPublished by PQube (EU), Aksys Games (NA)Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on PlayStation 3 and Vita)
UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st] is something I’ve been following from across the shore for a while now. I’ve always wanted to get my hands on what appeared to be a very fast and technical fighter with a nice anime coat of paint. Not sure how I slept on the original PlayStation 3 release, but I have stepped into the arena and I’m here to let you know that UNIEL delivers on most fronts.
Created as a pseudo sequel to their cult classic Melty Blood, developer French Bread sought out to recapture an audience with their newest anime fighter. UNIEL plays on a 2D plane and features some beautiful hand drawn sprites. The game has a well-diversified roster of 18 characters that covers a lot of different play styles and character types. French Bread dug deep into the anime well for this one, but I feel like there is some refinement in their overall designs because nothing feels too far over the top. After spending some time, I really fell in love with Hyde and Yuzuriha for their designs and play styles. Every character has special moves and ultra-flashy hyper moves that really are a spectacle. The game also has several systems and it feels like everyone has the abilities they can take full advantage of. Even more impressive, UNIEL manages to keep so many systems contained within a four button control scheme.
Despite the complicated names for the systems, I was never overwhelmed when trying to learn the mechanics themselves but I sure did have a hard time remembering their names. The core concept is a sort of push and pull to gain advantage of the GRD system. By attacking and defending skillfully and using the other system mechanics you can fill the GRD guage. This lets you fill up you special move gauge faster and take advantage of the Vorpal system which you can use to reap serious damage. The characters are also very fulfilling in their abilities and some characters skill ceiling seem like they’re reach as high as sky scrapers. UNIEL‘s gameplay is also punctuated by good character voice over performances and a sound track that, while not all of the songs are hits, accentuate each characters personality and tone quite well. The music during the story mode is quite good as well but the story mode itself is disappointing.
UNIEL makes a strong effort to ground itself as a fighter that takes place in our world. It has a heavy emphasis on the super natural and those who combat the super natural. While the visual novel styling seems like it will be meaty at first, I found the offering to be a bit fatty. I knew something was wrong when there was a 20 minute segment about two character talking about their living situation. The lack of an explanation for a lot of game exclusive terminology was also a tad excessive as they would throw the terms around fairly frequently. What is EXS? It is it short for existence? Why is “A Night” so terrifying to those of us who don’t have supernatural powers? What about becoming an Inbirth makes you powerful? None of these are really answered and trying to find additional sources to put the pieces together isn’t really there either. Character segments are unlocked by completing one character’s part of their story which then unlocks another one or two for you to experience. This is a cool idea because you can see a lot of different perspectives but the pacing might test your patience.
The tutorial for the game is excessively long in teaching you things that are basic to any game. Yes, the left button moves left, the right button moves right. Is that really still necessary? It also has segments that could have been molded together. UNIEL’s systems complement each other, so why not do a short breakdown of how to use them in tandem? Or maybe offer an example of using them to then teach the player something that will help them learn the meta.
Despite my issues with the story, if you’re looking for a new anime fighter this year I can easily recommend UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[st].