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Review: Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] (PlayStation 4)By Azuardo At 07.02.2018 16:46

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Since BlazBlue is perhaps the most prominent 2D anime fighting game on the market, comparisons are inevitable, especially since this newest edition of Under Night In-Birth takes a note out of Arc System Works' other popular series' book and introduces a very text-heavy chronicle, much in the same vein as it. Devoid of any rounds of fighting in this story mode, the lack of such a feature was one of the main complaints of the previous version, with only the brief exchanges of words in the arcade mode alluding to a deeper plot behind the scenes.

Exe:Late fixes all of that, with a dedicated narrative split up into multiple chapters that focus on each of the main characters. Just like BlazBlue, this won't be read in an hour or two; this is a full-on visual novel-like tale that isn't afraid to take its time and go right into detail about all of the strange goings-on, dark organisations, and individual missions that the stars of the story get mixed up in. It can be a little too wordy for its own good at times, with some typos creeping in here and there, and the rather plain-looking background scenes that don't change often enough can contribute to the feeling of things dragging on a bit, but it does suffice as a means of adding to the overall lore of Under Night In-Birth, which is what the series needed. As expected of such a title, there is only Japanese voice acting, but few complaints can be had when they sound as suitable as they do.

Under Night In-Birth is a very grounded fighting game in that the majority of matches won't be fought in the air. There are combos and juggles to learn, but anyone looking for more of an air game would be better off spending time elsewhere. To that end, this has much a similar style to Street Fighter, so the combination of that slower-paced style, crossed with the over-the-top anime aesthetics and moves of BlazBlue, is pretty appealing in itself, and deserves to find its own niche in the crowded fighter market.

With the addition of the incredibly in-depth tutorials in Exe:Late, along with character combo challenges in the all-new mission mode, great care has been put in to ensure everything from the very basics to the extremely intricate mechanics are covered and explained in helpful ways that few other releases in the genre take the time to do. By extent, there is a casual friendliness due to the accessible gameplay and respectable learning material, but the amount of combo possibilities and multitude of layers to the fighting system means there is much to love about what's under the surface for the more hardcore fan. Since the training mode has such an array of variables to adjust and mess around with, it is heaven for anyone looking to put time into Exe:Late to perfect the combat - either in general or for the specific styles of each character.

The diversity of combatants is one of its strengths, with a solid twenty-character strong roster that is equally balanced between females and males of varying ages, each gifted with unique moves that set them apart from one another. Rewarding attacking gameplay and successful blocking, the familiar four-button setup follows a tried and true weak-medium-strong style, which can chain together in any order (such as strong to weak to medium), with a special button used primarily for performing flashy attacks and activating some of the advanced functions. From the buffs gained through a successful and positive play style, and linking this up with the special moves tied to the super meter, some of the most devastating attacks can be let loose - and if this is done when at 30% vitality or lower...well, put it this way, your opponent shouldn't count their chickens too early.

There is a lot on offer, on the whole, with the aforementioned story, arcade, mission, tutorial, and training modes, plus versus, score attack, time attack, and survival modes. Take into account the tons of unlockables, such as player icons, titles, character colours, and gallery artwork, and this is one packed fighting experience. It has to be pointed out that forcing the Japanese title lists onto the first few pages of the title customisation screen can really throw you off at first, as it appears initially that the titles haven't been translated. It may have been a better idea to show the English pages first, but just cycle to the right a few times to finally see them.

The network mode should not be forgotten about, of course, which can have its share of laggy matches, but runs very well in general. This edition features cross-play with the PS3 version, but owners of the PS Vita game can only play with fellow handheld players. That will affect a purchasing decision, as it seems almost certain that the biggest audience will be playing on console.

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Final Score
In a crowded period for fighting games, French-Bread has come out with a very strong contender that should not be overlooked. Although [i]Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st][/i] is a port instead of an entirely brand new title, there is enough added here - and the game is that good - that it deserves all the attention it gets. Dedicated fans will appreciate the comprehensive chronicle mode that addresses the previous version's shortcomings, whilst the level of depth gone into enabling both casual and long-time fighting players to get invested thanks to the excellent tutorial and mission modes contributes to the overall satisfyingly packed range of content. A balanced cast and intricate combat system top off this stylish anime fighter.



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