We can look to Capcom for many of the trends that shape fighting games; they were the progenitors of Street Fighter II, after all, setting off a craze for the genre that took over arcades back in the day. They’re also the progenitors of releasing revised editions of fighting games that add new characters, stages and pricetags, making everything old feel new again in both a gameplay and economic sense – behold the many versions of Street Fighter II itself, for instance.
We’ve seen these revisions show up a few times lately with titles like Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 and, now, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st], which is a big dumb name that we’re just going to shorten to UNIELST.
UNIELST expands upon the original Under Night In-Birth, released in the West back in 2015. You can take a look at our review of the PS3 version of that game to get the lowdown, but basically this is an anime fighting game in the same vein as the Melty Blood series. You’ve got a variety of characters to choose from, each with their own playstyle and mechanics, and your job is to pick one and get used to the idea of losing to people online for months until you start to get a handle on how to play them.
This revision brings numerous advancements over the initial release of the game, of course. Most obviously there’s a few new characters – whip-wielding Phonon, fist-punching Enkidu, grapple-grabbing Mika and sword-stabbing Wagner all join in and help diversify the roster a bit. Phonon in particular is a favorite, though I might just be remembering how amazing long-ranged characters were in the original UNIEL. Other additions include challenge and tutorial modes intended to help new players come to grips with their character of choice, along with a new story mode. Finally, sweeping rebalances across most of the cast help somewhat weaker choices like Seth stand up to previously unstoppable opponents like Merkava.
I’ll admit that I’m nowhere near good enough to make any sweeping judgments about the state of the game; that would take several more weeks at least and even then I don’t think I’d be anywhere near a definitive source. For what it’s worth, though, I’ve found UNIEL in general to be one of the more technically interesting fighters I’ve played. As with Melty Blood there’s a sense of weight to the combat that doesn’t come across in a lot of other anime fighters; attacks feel nice and meaty and combos are viscerally satisfying to pull off. The spread of playstyles and designs among the cast is also interesting and I found myself wanting to put a little time into multiple characters; in most fighting games I usually found that only a couple fighters appealed to me.
In an era where you’ve got a lot of choices for fighting games – behold Dragon Ball FighterZ, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, Street Fighter 5 Arcade Edition and UNIELST releasing within weeks of one another – it might be a little difficult to choose one to focus on. These are games that require a significant time and effort investment if you want to do well, after all. With that in mind, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] is a solid choice if none of the other options appeal and you’ve got the head-space available to dedicate to it. The characters are interesting, the fighting is intense and the presentation is as great as ever.