[This essay was funded by my generous Patreon supporters. If you liked this and want to see more, please consider joining the crew!]
Okay wait so what the heck is Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st]?
Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] is an anime-as-fuck fighting game. It?s not anime the way Dragon Ball FighterZ is anime; everyone knows Dragon Ball. Nor is it anime in the way that Guilty Gear and BlazBlue are, drenched in the kind of aesthetic excess that normally doesn?t make it into a big expensive video game intact.
No, UNIST looks, feels, and plays like a slightly more-stylish version of a fairly run-of-the-mill anime fighting game. The characters look like more-stylish versions of characters you?d see in a forgettably edgy something-or-other show on Crunchyroll. It?s got the kind of systems in it that you?d expect the Niche Anime Player at your locals to describe excitedly to you while you nod your head and try to remember what a Vorpal is.
This is important because UNIST is at Evo this year. Guilty Gear is not; Super Smash Brothers: Melee is not. UNIST is a main stage game alongside games that have probably spent UNIST?s budget to develop a single character; alongside games that have sold hundreds of copies for each copy UNIST has sold. UNIST is not there because it?s an established IP or a best-in-class example of fighting game development craft. It is there because the people who love Under Night have kept playing it and supporting it and growing the community over the years, just like the people who loved Street Fighter kept playing it and supporting it and growing their community.
It is a game that matters.
Lots of people get into fighting games through Street Fighter and think they just like Street Fighter. Then, one day, somebody ? maybe the Niche Anime Player at their locals ? will show them something that makes them realize that Street Fighter taught them to like fighting games, not just Street Fighter.
For me, that game was Guilty Gear, about 16 years ago. Guilty Gear is probably not that game for most of the people who read this. But UNIST might be that game for you now. (And Guilty Gear might be for you, after you play UNIST.)
So: Play UNIST. It?s kind of weird and kind of cool and exactly the kind of game I?d expect most players to see at a tournament, watch a bit, maybe play a game or two, shrug their shoulders, and walk away. You might not be into it, but if you?re into it, you?re probably going to be really into it, and it?s worth taking a chance to see if that?s you.
Getting started with UNIST
Let ?em have it, Miss Eltnum.
I am not good at Under Night. However, I have tried to get into Under Night three or four times, so here are some tips for that.
- This game has a lot of stuff in it. Not quite as much as a Guilty Gear or BlazBlue, but enough that you should expect to take your time digesting the characters and systems. I?d recommend finding a character you like and taking some time to learn their basics first, then start learning how to play the GRD game after you?re a little comfortable.
- When it?s your turn, it can be your turn for a long time, and until you learn how to interrupt and steal turns, you?re going to be blocking a lot. This is normal and part of the learning process, and good practice besides. 😉
- UNIST combos are kinda long, and if you haven?t played fighting games with long combos, don?t forget that it often takes a while to go from ?I did this in mission mode? to ?I did this to an opponent?, so don?t beat yourself up if you?re dropping combos early on.
- Practicing combos by breaking them down into shorter chunks is a good way to learn them faster; if a combo starts with a ground string into launcher, then an air string, then an air knockdown into OTG, you?ve got three convenient chunks that you can work on individually.
- Assault (the short hop/air-dash movement) is incredibly tempting for new players to do a lot, so make sure you know what your character?s options are for beating it in neutral and keep them on deck.
- Blocking is okay! It?s generally easier to block long strings than it is in other games, and if you mix Shield in there you can win GRD safely and use the Guard Thrust (AKA alpha counter, dead angle attack, whatever) to stop their pressure safely.
- Compared to other anime games, Under Night neutral is more like footsies with really big buttons. If you?re constantly running in you?re going to eat shit, so play with walking and dash blocking more.
- Learn to pay attention to the GRD meter. The player that is losing GRD is generally the player that needs to make something happen in neutral.
Which character should I pick?
No one loves shitting on anime more than anime.
Because everyone always asks this: Long-term, pick the character that makes you want to keep playing the game. But if you want some recommendations on starting points, here are a few:
- If you?re looking for shoto-types, Hyde and Akatsuki both fit the bill, though they?re both anime enough that you won?t feel like you?re playing a shoto.
- If you wish you could play Zato-1 but don?t want to deal with his complexity, Carmine and Chaos are kind of like half-Zatos ? Carmine has the zoning mage stuff, and Chaos has the puppet. (I?m playing Chaos right now.)
- Seth looks like he?s kind of like Chipp, but I?ve found him to play more like Millia ? great mixups and setplay, but you?ll have to learn to how land that first hit.
- If you played Cammy in any of the last few seasons of SFV, you?ll probably click with Wagner.
- Yuzuriha is cool. Learning to control her properly takes a bit of work. That?s part of why she?s cool.
- Eltnum is from Melty Blood. She has a gun with an active reload mechanic. Also her story mode is the best.
Eltnum reacts to UNIST making it into Evo over Melty Blood.
- Most tier discussions I?ve seen place Seth, Vatista, Phonon and Wagner at a cut above the rest, in case that matters to you. (No judgement here either way.)
More learning resources
People far more experienced than I have put together a lot of excellent learning resources for UNIST, so go check these out.
- I Want To Get Strong At UNI series by Ranpo
- GRD primer by @InfinityFG
- Throw tech OS explainer by Houru
Thanks for reading!
follow on twitter / support on patreon / watch on twitch