It’s been a while since I’ve seen a fighting game focus on what goes bump in the night. When of games like this, usually Capcom’s Darkstalkers/Vampire comes to mind, with Killer Instinct coming in as a runner-up for some of their combatants literally being monsters. UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys:Celes takes a similar approach with a stronger lean toward the anime effect. Surprisingly, with cuter ancient evils vying for world takeover supremacy. With the power of EXS, humans who are bulwarks against the ‘Hollow Night’ monsters become In-Births. And a majority of them probably shouldn’t be up this late on a school night.
Game Name: UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys:Celes
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam)
Publisher(s): Arc System Works
Game Type: Fighting
Release Date: January 25, 2024
Mode: Single Player, Multiplayer
UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys:Celes is the 4th installment of the series from the creators of Melty Blood. Aesthetically, the game does hold that PlayStation 2 fighting game charm of 2D sprites against 3D backgrounds. Pretty much all the stages are at night, hence the name. The game’s stages are usually only housing the fighters that occupy them; there are vivid touches to the scenery. For instance, there was a stage where leaves constantly danced in the wind for a Fall-season look. The characters return us to the age of hand-drawn sprites chockful of their own personalities. It felt like something that was lost after The King of the Fighters 13. Even if the Character Select is idle, you can still hear your chosen character verbally express themself before you lock in.
The roster in UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II is 24 characters deep, with at least three more forthcoming via a season pass. Each archetype is represented and explained in the training mode using them to show their variances in realistic scenarios. UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II goes the distance to give a rundown on these. Each character takes on their roles with the system in place.
For instance, I found myself gravitating to a more long-range swordmaster on one end with Yuzuriha, taking every opportunity to keep away from the enemy. Zoning was truly in effect. Her blazing speed commands usually kept her in the air with samurai-like finishes thanks to her stance – which has her button indicator near her health bar. My second choice, blind Endiku, can be a glass cannon with fewer defensive meter options, but that reversal he holds deals some good blows, especially with his unique ability – Havoc. There’s a bit of a Fei Long (Street Fighter) Rekka (A special move that allows for multiple stages with successive inputs) to him. Compared to the charge character, Vatista, it wasn’t as easy as the previous two mentioned to grasp her kit effectively. There is a huge difference per warrior, and it’s noticeable in a good way!
In GRD We Trust
UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II is reminiscent of its’ Arc System kin with a 4-button layout: Light, medium, and heavy, with an EXS button. The EXS simplifies most of the mechanics, such as a Super called Infinite Worth (I kid you not), with another one tied to being 30% down on character health. There are auto-combos with a light punch to assist in a pinch. One of the cool features is the Replay mode, which allows players to go through a previous fight, whether online or offline. Fights need to be downloaded to be kept.
The mechanics definitely help UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II stand out from its’ current publisher kin. Shield gives a defensive option, while GRD (is actually pronounced grid) rewards more aggression and smart pushbacks. The additional guard, Shield, does bring back aerial guard, something many modern games of the genre decided to throw away from their later games post-2000, for better or worse. GRD’s push/pull takes some getting used to. The 6-dot meter bar increases and decreases based on the fight. Whoever gets to their end first gets fight buffs from the GRD. Luckily, a tutorial mode walks you through this at length, yet to go at it near blind is exciting. Using EX versions of character moves is also tied to the heavy to avoid overstepping fingers.
Final Thoughts of the Final Chapter
UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II does have small nightmares during the sleep. A lack of an interactive lobby feels like a slight misstep in this day and age. While DBfZ, Guilty Gear Strive, Tekken 8, Street Fighter 6, and Granblue Fantasy Versus all have this. It’s an odd thing to be without. Perhaps it’s the comfortable feeling of knowing that your avatar is running amok through loads of machines and other bodies between them, akin to the Arcade rooms of ancient times. There are not too many additional stills in between the Arcade Mode to piece together viewing for those who are not into the Story more times than the fighter. Nothing really explains it at length for newcomers. It felt like more questions than answers in UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II.
Story-wise, there’s possibly a need for a better explanation for those who are new to the UNDER NIGHT series. Arcade Mode allows you to skip dialogue if you want to go straight to the fights. There’s even an option to skip to the story’s cutscenes in the options. While the arcade mode gets out the near 10-man ladder, Koun is a fair final boss at the end.
Most of the matches on both casual and ranked were seamless. Rollback netcode is included in UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II, yet Crossplay was strangely unavailable at launch. It feels like a glaring mistake since nearly every fighting game has made this a standard to follow or put in as an afterthought at a later date. Between the Arcade and the different Versus modes, such as Casual and Ranked, there isn’t too much to do with UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II in terms of extra modes. I also had an issue figuring out how the Replay filter works in terms of ranking, but this seems like a nitpicking
In conclusion, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II is quite a surprise from the Arc System Works roster of fighters. Through its’ cling to traditional looks, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II holds one of the deeper fighting game systems ever to come out in a while next to some of its’ more notable competitors in the 2D space.
Review Disclosure Statement: UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys:Celes was provided to us by Arc System Works for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy.
UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Review - Curfew Bending Good Time
For what it’s worth, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II does well by being a high-level technical play fighting game that requires patience to truly make the difference. There are several layers to “git gud”, which is robust thanks to the GRD system’s effect on the roster in different ways. Even though Arcade Mode holds plenty of dialogue, it still feels as if there is a novel packed into this game. It’s just not the dominant thing to hold the genre. UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II is still a worthy opponent in the anime fighter division for those seeking a serious contender.
- Deep gameplay mechanics
- Huge gallery of art, voiceovers to unlock
- Rollback Netcode included
- Massive 24-Character Roster
- Lack of Crossplay hurts
- No overarching Story mode to piece together the Arcade mode
- Some concepts might need a bit more deeper explanations