Portable Lab Machine.
Type: Single-player, Multiplayer
Genre: Action, Fighting
Developer: French Bread
Publisher: JP: Arc System Works
NA: Aksys Games
Release Date JP: February 20, 2020
NA: February 20, 2020
EU: February 21, 2020
French Bread has been at making video games for a while. However, the game that truly broke ground for them is their fighting game series, Melty Blood. The series started as a doujin game, a self-published fan-made game that may be based on an existing IP (Type-Moon’s Tsukihime of Fate/Stay Night fame, in this case). Although the situation here is a bit different since Melty Blood was also being co-developed by Type-Moon as well. It has spawned numerous versions since 2002 with its most recent release being the global steam version in 2016. There has also been a rumor circulating that an HD remake of Melty Blood is coming to coincide with the upcoming remake of Tsukihime. With this success, it only makes sense that French Bread would also go to create their own IP that is of a genre they have ample experience to back it up, Under Night In-Birth. This brings us to the present year of 2020 with the 3rd console iteration of the series: Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[cl-r].
Gameplay & Modes
Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[cl-r] is a 2D fighting game. You can expect to perform special moves, combos, and the likes not dissimilar from its brethren. Inputs for special moves are fairly traditional with motions like quarter circle forward (Hadouken motion/236 by Numpad notation) or charge motions. Certain specials require more complex inputs but never to the point of The King of Fighters’ legendary pretzel motion. You should be set for specials execution-wise if you have played other 2D fighting games before. I should mention that despite the clear anime influence and aesthetic of Under Night In-Birth, it is more akin to a more conservative type of fighting games like Street Fighters. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that if there is a bar with Street Fighters on the left and Guilty Gear on the right, Under Night In-Birth is somewhere in between with some Melty Blood sprinkled in? You can’t go completely wild like in Guilty Gear Xrd but also nowhere as restrained as Street Fighter in general. Whatever is the case, Under Night In-Birth is more than capable to shine on its own with its amalgamation of mechanics that may have originated from other games coupled with its twist of uniqueness.
Outside the online versus mode and training mode that is the bare minimum requirement of any fighting game nowadays, there are also the ever classic arcade mode, score/time attack, and survival to keep you occupied and hone your executions. Mostly carried over from the previous iteration is the comprehensive tutorial with a staggering amount of 176 missions to teach fighting game newcomers and veterans that can range from the most basic of basic mechanics to advanced fighting game concept and terms not limited only to Under Night In-Birth. If that is not enough, the game also features mission mode that allows the players to practice numerous sample combos handpicked by the developers for each character. These give a general idea of their playstyle, combo-paths, and/or character-specific mechanics. The tools are all here if you want to improve yourself regardless of skill level.
I am not going to delve much into the intricacies of the mechanics of Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[cl-r] here as most of it has remained mostly the same. Not to mention that there is also the aforementioned comprehensive tutorial that the game has that you are free to explore at your leisure. I do, however, feel the need to touch on the two things that make this series unique even though they have been the staple of the series: the reverse beat system and GRD.
The Under Night In-Birth Staples: Reverse Beat and GRD
The Reverse Beat system is an all-encompassing term in fighting games that means you can cancel the animation of normal moves, any moves that do not require meter and do not require special input beyond one direction button), into each other as long as they are not repeated and the hits land. While this is not to be confused with Gatling Combo in which the moves being performed can be immediately cancelled and replaced with normals of higher strengths, this is the closest relative to how Reverse Beat combo operates. To summarize, Reverse Beat is a Gatling Combo that ignores the ascending strength rule. This system not only allows an almost boundless opportunity to freeform and tailor combos but also able to neutralize or create opportunities from situations that would have been normally unsafe in other fighting games.
Another system that gives UNIEL its unique gameplay is the GRD system. Grind Grid, represented by the 12-blocks gauge on the middle bottom of the screen, is part of GRD system that encourages players to go on the offensive. Both players start the round with the same amount of GRD blocks on each side which can be gained by actions like attacking and moving forward while defensive or unfavorable actions like backdashing or getting hit decrease the gauge. Every time the circle timer, GRD Transfer State, completes a revolution, the player with more GRD blocks can enter a GRD Vorpal State which will enhance attacks for a limited time. The ability to turn GRD blocks to super meter resources will also be available. There is a great deal more to the GRD system but the basic gist is that it is a tug-of-war kind of minigame that players who perform well will be rewarded with advantages within a reasonable boundary.
Being a fighting game enthusiast, one thing that has irked me for the longest time is how a lot of the company will often require you to buy a newer version just to have the ability to play on the current tournament-legal version. I am happy to say that, this is not the case with Under Night In-Birth Exe Late [cl-r]. The previous version of the game, [st], will receive a free update that allows the players to play with [cl-r] balance changes. This will make the last iteration prior be compatible with the people who own [cl-r]. Of course, certain features exclusive to this latest iteration such as the newcomer Londrekia and exclusive color palettes which are available as an optional purchase.
The upgrade is something that does not affect the switch owners as Under Night In-Birth Exe Late [cl-r] is the first of its franchise on the switch. Still, it is a nice gesture by the company.
Nintendo Switch v. Fighting Games
As a console, the Nintendo Switch is a great system whose advantage is almost solely on its portability and many games go great with it. The problem is that it is not a good platform for fighting games. It possesses weird non-dpad directional buttons which means that you will either have to shell out extra money for a controller/arcade stick. You could get used to the switch joycons but that means your execution won’t transfer well when playing on a normal pad in a normal tournament setting or you might have to get some kind of converter for wireless joycons at extra cost. This is not to mention that the switch doesn’t have an ethernet port even when docked unless more money is spent. What this means is that the average players will more than likely be on wi-fi which can make your life as a fighting game player extremely difficult. It does serve as an excellent on-the-go offline-only training machine for any fighting game enthusiasts who want to practice when they are away from their primary copy on their home consoles.
Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late [cl-r] is a good update to an already great fighting game. As a standalone product, it is a complete fighting game filled with a variety of unique characters and various modes to keep you occupied. The game also boasts a comprehensive tutorial and mission mode that serve as a teaching tool for players of all levels be it if they are just getting into a fighting game or looking to pick up new characters. This much I can say. However, the problem lies with the Nintendo Switch and its general incompatibility with fighting games. Unless you are okay with having many online problems, I do not advise getting for the express purpose of playing it online. I do, however, extremely recommend the switch version as a secondary purchase as a portable lab machine and for other offline purposes to complement the home console version of Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late [cl-r].