Fighting Review


UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes is the latest in the rather niche “anime fighting game” franchise developed by French-Bread, famous for the Melty Blood series. Will this game add to the ever-growing landscape of fighting games in 2024, or be condemned to death on arrival?

UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes - Story Dialogue

The Midnight Hour Approaches

For fans of the lore of UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH, you’ll be pleased to know this game acts as the conclusion to the “Hollow Night” saga and the story of the series protagonist, and serial Shonen offender, Hyde.

Unlike the previous game, the story is told within its “arcade ladder” mode. You get an intro and then bits of dialogue before certain matches, all culminating in the ending. This means you’ll be playing story mode with every character to get a true look at the events of the “Hollow Night”.

It is worth noting that the previous game had a “chronicle mode” which was a heavy visual novel segment, detailing the lore and setting up the events to be concluded in this game. Whilst I personally just glossed over it, and then jumped into the gameplay, I can sense that some fans might be disappointed to learn that nothing of the sort is available in this game.

As mentioned previously in my Granblue Fantasy Versus Rising review, I don’t care too much for the “wall of text” style of story so I see it more as a nice little extra. I’m not the kind of gamer who needs a justified reason as to why a high-schooler is fighting weird vampire creatures and the like. I enjoy the bits of story found through the arcade ladder as it doesn’t actively detract from me playing the game.

UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes - Fight Begins


As I briefly touched upon in the intro, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes is an “anime fighting game” similar to titles like Guilty Gear Strive, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R, instead of the “Arena Brawler” which most licensed Anime titles tend to be like Jump Force or Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles. The game is your standard 1 vs 1, 2D fighting affair with everything that makes an “Anime Fighter” anime. For example, we have air dashing for days, over-the-top combos that take up most of your health bar and last an entire match, and plenty of mechanics to keep your mind going as well as your thumbs.

So what makes UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH different from the other anime fighting games out there? First off is the GRD or The Grid, this meter is displayed at the bottom of the screen and is somewhat of a tug of war between you and your opponent. You fill this meter by playing aggressively or by recovering and defending well. You lose it by running away, defending poorly, or using it for an attack. Roughly every 16 seconds the meter then activates, and the person with the most chunks of the meter filled gets a damage boost. This promotes strategic play and can change the flow of any fight dramatically many times during a set of matches.

New to UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes is the ability to dodge roll forward at the expense of some of GRD meter, and the obvious tweaking of move sets, damage outputs, and recovery time for moves altered. The usual fighting game sequel changes to make the game feel familiar but different at the same time. It’s quite refreshing to see the developer just go in and tweak what was there rather than add a whole new bunch of mechanics, especially when the groundwork with UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH was already so good.

For newcomers to the series, there is an auto combo feature that provides an “unsafe” or sub-optimal combo with just a few button presses. This is ideal for trying to bridge the gap between players, especially if you already have those footsie fundamentals down from other fighting games.

UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes - Character Select

Freaks Of The Week

I’ve always found that French-Bread makes the best “feeling” anime fighting games. Moves seem to link fluidly and, even when all hell is breaking loose, I feel I have the most control over my characters this side of the Guilty Gear franchise. UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes is no exception, and from the initial boot the game just feels so fluid, so fast, and yet so easy to understand how each move and ability chains together. Despite not playing the game for quite some time now, I was back into my groove, pulling off super moves and doing all I could to dominate the GRD in minutes. I feel this is a feature that UNDER NIGHT as a whole does so well in that you can just dip your toes into the pool and figure out why this game has such a cult following.

Every previous character is back including the two guest characters; Sion Eltnum Atlasia from Melty Blood, and Akatsuki from the incredibly niche Akatsuki-Blitzkampf famous mainly for Blitztank, who was added to the roster of Blazblue Cross Tag Battle and is a literal tank with a skeleton face. Three new additions join the roster too. These have been mentioned before either in the series Chronicle Mode or through cutscenes. You have a high schooler with a giant shield in Tsurugi, a gun-toting girl in Kaguya, and evil incarnate in Kuon who is my favorite new addition to this roster with his evil samurai look and attitude.

In terms of modes, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes plays it safe and standard with the usual suspects: Arcade/Story, Score Attack, Training, Survival, Combo Training, Customize, and Online modes. Customization allows you to get freaky with your color palettes for any of the cast, just don’t jump in expecting to create anything on the levels of Tekken 8. Whilst the in-game tutorial does a great job of getting you ready to play the game, again it is somewhat lacking when compared to the recent Tekken 8’s fantastic Arcade Quest Battle or the brilliant tutorial in Guilty Gear Strive.

Party Like It’s 1999

What I feel the main selling point for fans of the game will be, aside from the new characters and tweaks, is the fact that for the first time in the series, the online mode is using rollback netcode. Admittedly, it’s 2024 and rollback should be a standard, still, it’s nice to see here. Sadly, cross-platform compatibility has been forgotten about, meaning the player pools are going to be pretty low even from launch. Hopefully French-Bread and ArcSys can work something out and add this at a later date.

I think herein lies the main issue with UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes, in 2024, and especially releasing in the same week as Tekken 8: it doesn’t feel half as feature-rich and is therefore less enticing to new players to the series. Those who have experience with the series will know exactly what they are getting into and if it is worth dropping the money on tweaks, a little more lore, and a few new characters, but for those who have no familiarity with the franchise, it quite rightly looks lacking in the features.

UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes - Recurring Void Effect

Beautifully Basic

On the presentation side of things, UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes has some beautiful looking sprite work and some of the best fighting game music the genre has ever known. Sadly, the rest of the product looks quite dated to the point you would be forgiven thinking it comes from a budget Playstation 2 release.

First off, the characters are drawn beautifully. I really cannot go on enough about how much I love fighting game sprites, and UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes is a paradise for this. The characters and moves look so crisp and high-definition without looking “too clean” and giving off the “mobile game” effect that can sometimes happen.

UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes - Main Menu

Sadly, the stages don’t have the same level of detail and are in full 3D with effects that wouldn’t look amiss in your favorite Dreamcast brawler. This is a far cry from the beautiful drawings that adorned the 2D era SNK titles, where they would make excellent wallpapers for desktops. The stages are dull and pedestrian as they come, which creates quite a stark contrast with how stylistic the characters are and the level of care put into them.

The menus are all quite basic, and even the Online portion of the game is as basic as they come, offering a menu based Ranked or Casual system. This is a letdown in this current climate of fighting games when you have titles like Granblue putting out Fall Guys style mini-games and other events to expand on the social aspects of playing online.


I want it on the record that I love UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes. That said, I think to try and recommend picking it up at full price to anyone but hardcore fans is too much of a hard ask. Yes, if you pick the game up now you get access to Season 1 with three new DLC characters incoming, but it just doesn’t have the weight of a game released this side of titles like Street Fighter 6, Tekken 8, and Mortal Kombat 1 where they had a lot of worth to their offline portions.

The gameplay is solid and the visual style is somewhat love or hate, but there is a lot here to love. It doesn’t feel like a major sequel so I would suggest that you either pick this one up on sale or pick an earlier one up first to see if you’re new to the series and not convinced. If you’re a fan of the series this feels like a half sequel, but the rollback netcode and extra characters alone should be enough to entice you in.


Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5

For more from Arc System Works, you should check out our review of River City: Rival Showdown, or BlazBlue: Entropy Effect.

Many thanks go to Arc System Works for a PlayStation 5 review code for UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes.

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