[Review] UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe:Late[cl-r] – Nintendo Switch

Written by Derek Wright
  • Developer: Arc System Works, FRENCH-BREAD
  • Publisher: Aksys Games/ PQUBE Limited
  • Release Date: 20/02/2020
  • Price: $39.99 / £34.99
  • Review code provided by publisher

Enter the Hollow Night

My wife has a long running joke about how it’s possible to throw random words together and make it sound like the next up and coming fighting game. Some of the titles she has pitched include “Fantasy Alliance: Starfighter Ultimate” and “Defiance Fighters United: Deluxe Edition”. Needless to say, she has gotten a grasp for how crazy fighting game titles have become. Nothing could prepare her for the title of the game I shall be discussing today, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[cl-r].

Japanese developer, French Bread, previously known for their work on Melty Blood and Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, have brought us the newest entry of Under Night series. Under Night has recently hit the spotlight with its inclusion on the EVO 2019 mainstage and its return to the stage in 2020, making UNICLR (easier to abbreviate) the perfect place for all those unaware to jump right in.

This is the 4th iteration of the series and first to grace a Nintendo console. UNICLR is one half visual novel and one half fast paced anime fighter. The story can be quite lofty for beginners who jump straight into the arcade mode. Not much exposition is given and terms like “voids”, “rebirth” and “EXS” are mentioned and it is expected of the player to understand. On the flip side, if the player starts in Chronicle mode, it is all exposition and story. Then you will know your Licht Kreis from the Night Blade or Amnesia.

Light and Justice

The Chronicle mode is the meat of the story, which explores the world in and around the Hollow Night, leading up to the events of the arcade mode. In addition to the main cast of characters, several NPCs will play important roles to flesh out why all of pieces of the puzzle end up interacting. Through the 23 chapters of Chronicles, the game will detail everything you need to know, visual novel style.

If story doesn’t matter in your fighting games, UNICLR still has something for you. If this is your first foray into fighting games, this title has one of the most extensive tutorial modes I have seen, and I have played a ton of fighting games over my lifetime. I cannot express how wonderful this mode is and how it can take the most unexperienced player and teach them everything they will need to know to jump into the fray.

To add to the tutorial mode, there is a mission mode that will teach combos from the most basic to more advanced complex creations. Other modes include score attack, time attack, training, gallery, arcade and online matches. Sadly, I was unable to test the online mode as I was unable to find a match in either ranked or player matches.

Now that we have described all the ways you can fight in UNICLR, how does it actually play? I’m glad you asked, as I believe this may be one of the easiest to pick up fighting games I have played in years. Every character has a light, medium and heavy attack. Mashing the light attack button will trigger an auto combo and very basic combo strings can be formed by inputting light first, then medium and finally heavy.

Another button which is unique to UNICLR is the EXS button which allows for gauge manipulation. There is a Grid bar that is in the middle of the screen that is essentially a tug of war system. It goes up if you are attacking, being aggressive and defending well, and goes down if you are getting attacked or running away. When you have bar, it can be used to gain super meter, shield or go on the offense.

With all the tools available to the player, the action in UNICLR is fast and furious. Movement speed feels perfect and as veteran of fighting games, I felt this game was so easy to pick up and explore with many different characters. Whether you prefer more technical characters like Chaos or straight forward ones like Hyde, there is something for everyone. Chaos would summon a giant lizard to help him fight from a distance, whereas Enkidu is an absolute brawler, using only his fists. Every single one felt unique both in style and play.

Visual Tug o’ War

The high-end anime art style of UNICLR looks great in the visual novel stills but shines even brighter when the fighters are in full motion. Some people may be put off by the overly anime style, but as an anime fan, I personally love the style. My only complaint with the visuals lies in the stages themselves. The backgrounds seem less detailed and use a different 3D art style. They are not bad in any way, shape or form, but compared to the beautiful 2D sprites, it is a bit noticeable.

The music is a high-spirited jazz-rock-techno amalgamation that sounds like it would have been pulled from the DS Castlevania titles, or in layman’s terms, it is phenomenal. Every song is filled full of personality and intensity. To add more to the total package that UNICLR already is, the chronicle mode has its own soundtrack and it feels very reminiscent of Persona 5’s more chill songs. While it is still early in the year, I must say it may be harder to find another fighting game in 2020 with this great of an OST.

A New Re-Birth

With fighting games, I tend to play more in docked mode with a pro controller as this is my preferred method. I can say that the game ran perfectly without a hitch the entire time I was in docked mode. While in handheld, there is a small visual downgrade, but it is nothing that would kill the experience. The game still runs outstandingly well in handheld mode.

Final Thoughts

I came into Under Night In-Birth with an open mind, not knowing much about it aside from the characters present in BlazBlue Cross Tag. I have now had my mind blown completely out of my head by what French Bread has been able to do with the genre. UNICLR is one of the most tight and stylish fighters I have seen and I am chopping at the bit for more players to get online to test my mettle.

Pros

  • Dripping with Style
  • Intense and Beginner Friendly Tutorials
  • Top Tier Soundtrack

Cons

  • Handheld Visual Downgrade
  • Convoluted Story

Verdict

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[cl-r] may be the best anime fighting game currently on the market. It has tools for beginnings, heaps of story and 100% style. If you enjoy fighters, you owe it to yourself to pick up UNICLR.

5/5

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