Title: Under Night In-
Platform: PS3, Windows, Steam
Reviewed on: Windows
Players: Single player, Multiplayer Versus
Written by Dragoon 2nd August 2016
With a title that just screams that it’s from Japan, Under Night In-
I’m just going to come straight out and say that this is without a doubt one of my favourite fighting games, it just ticks all the right boxes for me and is pure fun. It’s a fighting game that’s very easy to pick up and play for newcomers whilst still having plenty for veterans to master. It has a fairly balanced and varied roster of fighters to choose from who all have a unique style of play. The zippy Linne is all about rushing down your opponent with fast moves while the manipulative Hilda is more about controlling your opponents from afar and punishing them as soon as they step out of line. It’s generally agreed upon that three of the game’s characters are just outright better than the rest but they don’t feel unfair, it’s more like an obstacle to overcome.
One issue that echoes throughout the game as whole is that it does a pretty bad job of explaining things to the player. This goes for both its story and its game mechanics. Each character has their own story which can be played in the arcade mode but you just get thrown into the deep end with weird names and concepts being flung at you with reckless abandon. It all gets very confusing but as you play through more of the stories you can start to piece together the big picture. Saying this I still had to look up Under Nights Wiki page to get everything straight so those looking for a well pieced together and delivered story should probably look elsewhere.
The game has a wealth of interesting game mechanics but again these aren’t really explained to the player at all in game. The most interesting system is the Grind Grid, a 12 block bar at the bottom of the screen that fills or empties dependant on each player's actions. Aggressive play and movement will fill the bar whilst blocked attacks or moving backwards causes it to empty. A timer is continually ticking and once a certain amount of time has passed the player who has the most meter enters a Vorpal state that increases their damage and allows them to cancel out of moves, similar to Guilty Gears Roman Cancel. This constant battle for meter separates the great players from good players. While it can be ignored by newbies those who pay attention to it are justly rewarded, it adds a constant element to focus on other than your opponent which is rare for fighting games. I really like this mechanic but it’s just a pity the developers didn’t think to explain how it and other mechanics work in the game itself.
Visually the game uses vibrant anime styled 2D sprites over 3D arenas. Each character looks unique and their moves are suitably flashy whilst also being easy enough to read and react to. One issue I have with the characters designs are that there are too many that are just guys with swords, a bit of weapon variety would have been appreciated. On the other hand characters like the bestial Merkava are so much fun to look at, the way he swoops and howls during battle with his limbs flailing wildly really hammers home his beast like nature. The battle stages are admittedly a bit on the bland side but this isn’t a bad thing, it just means there’s nothing to distract from the battles and with the moves being as flashy as they are it’s probably for the best. Each character has their own special move which gives you a very impressive cutaway that are always fun to watch, especially since they are so difficult to pull off.
One area where Under Night really shines is its amazing soundtrack. Ever since I first played the game two years ago I’ve loved it and still listen to it to this day. There’s a great mix of genres from pumped up rock pieces to twinkling piano music, there’s bound to be something on there you will enjoy. The sound in general is really well done, while there is only Japanese voice available the spoken dialogue is expertly delivered and each character's voice suits them to a tee. While it would have been nice to have an English dub it’s still a really nice game to listen to.
The game offers the usual assortment of game modes such as Arcade and Score Attack and it also offers online play. The netcode for this game is fantastic, after the absolute mess that is Street Fighter V’s its was genuinely refreshing to be able to play with pretty much anyone without issue. As a port it also works flawlessly, I never had any frame drops or stuttering anywhere in the game and loading is quick and painless. Usually fighting game ports will have some issues but it definitely wasn’t the case with Under Night.
Altogether Under Night is a fantastic, refreshing fighting game that tries new things. It’s easy to pick up and play while being difficult to master, even if the game does a lousy job of explaining things to you. The roster is great and for the most part balanced and while some of the characters may be a little samey design wise they are still really well animated and fun to watch. It sounds great throughout and the music is some of the best fighting game music I’ve listened to. While the story is a confusing affair it’s still interesting and it was satisfying to be able to piece together the story myself as I played through with each character. Fans of fighting games should most definitely give it a go and those who are looking to get into the realm of Japanese anime style fighters will quickly learn the ropes through this game. I highly recommend playing it for both the battle hardened veterans and the fresh faced newcomers.
Easy to play, difficult to master
Fun, intuitive mechanics
Great cast of characters
Fantastic sound and graphics
Does a bad job of teaching the player
It may not be perfect but Under Night In-