Tuesday 17 March 2015

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late

I grew up in Kildare here in Ireland, and back in the day my small town had its own arcade. I know, that doesn't sound so crazy, but while I didn't exactly grow up in a very rural area of Ireland, the inclusion of an arcade was unprecedented. I mentioned this arcade awhile ago in my Criminal Girls: Invite Only review (the arcade with the bizarre Playboy game), but aside from pervy little games like that, the arcade had its fair share of awesome ones too. Most of them were arcade originals of games I played on console, but next to their console counterparts these games were incredible. The graphics, sounds and controls were always much better in the arcade. Since my local one closed I haven't really found myself gaming in arcades much. Whether it's the greasy overused joysticks at the Virtua Fighter 5 cabinet or the broken light-gun on Silent Hill: The Arcade, I just don't see myself going back at all. I think many out there are in the same boat too, and with many console ports now remaining on par with their arcade cousins, there truly may never be a reason to seek out an arcade ever again. This latest title up for scrutiny was originally an arcade title, but from as far as I can see, this release is perfect replication of its arcade origin. 

Developed by Ecole Software and out now on Playstation 3 comes Under Night IN-BIRTH Exe:Late, a game that fuses two genres together that simply should not be mixed... to a surprisingly satisfying result. The game was originally released in the arcade back in 2012, and was then released on the Playstation 3 in Japan two years later. Now the game has finally come to the West, and Under Night's plot is very much straight out of an anime TV series. Set in modern day, the game focuses on an unusual paranormal phenomenon that occurs every month across the Japan. It's called Hollow Night, and once it descends upon an area stranger creatures known as Voids appear and roam around. Though humans can't normally see them, a special select few of humanity can, and the Voids feed upon the special energy they give off. If someone is entirely consumed by a Void but survives the encounter they are known as an In-Birth, and can control a powerful energy within themselves called Existence. In Under Night you play as In-Births, and can play through the story modes of 16 these separate characters, with each one adding to an overarching storyline.

Essentially Under Night is a mash-up of a visual novel and a fighting game, and though I've bemoaned quite a bit in the past about both of these genres, this concoction works extremely well in here, even if it's all a little unoriginal. The game scenes play out exactly how you'd expect, and focuses on a lot of dialogue to read through, to the backdrop of almost entirely stagnant characters and backgrounds. That said, it does help build the story and atmosphere quite nicely, and the inclusion of story scenes helps elevate Under Night beyond just being a typical fighting game. These story scenes kick in between battles, and they genuinely help break up the gameplay quite a bit.

However, combat is where Under Night places its focus, and though it may not be as in-depth as, say, Street Fighter, it's enjoyable and accessible, but not in any way just a button masher. You can dish out attacks that go from weak, medium to strong. These attacks can be charged for extra damage too, but you can also string these attacks into combos, while all damage dealt adds to your EXS bar at the bottom of the screen. Filling your EXS bar with let you tap into the true power of an In-Birth, leading to over-the-top and powerful attacks being opened up to you. Beyond that combat is pretty standard, but I loved how approachable it was without being too easy. Additionally, visually Under Night is stunning during combat, as it basically comes across looking exactly like a Japanese anime. Both in terms of design and movement, this anime look really makes the game stand out among its competitors.

Overall Under Night IN-BIRTH Exe:Late is technically a rather generic fighting game with its lack of customization and in-depth fighting mechanics, but it really won me over as someone who isn't really into the genre. But don't get me wrong, it's not some easy as piss game pandering to people like me who aren't good at Street Fighter. Instead it's a fun, approachable and visually marvellous game that will please both the hardcore and casual gamers out there alike. Capped off with an online mode that can tend to get extremely high tempo and nerve racking, Under Night shouldn't be passed up.

Under Night IN-BIRTH Exe:Late is an action packed arcade experience at home and gets a 4/5.


Denis Murphy

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