|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
A while back, a company called French-Bread made a fighting game called Melty Blood based off the Type-Moon project's Tsukihime series of anime and manga. Tsukihime was a story about a schoolboy and his interactions with vampires and the occult, which pretty much culminated in your standard slice of life school romance story, only with a lot more death thrown in the middle.
Melty Blood continued the plot of Tsukihime, but since it was a fighting game, the plot kind of spiraled off into crazy town. While it wasn't necessarily the biggest hit with Tsukihime fans, fighting game fans who had never even heard of Tsukihime became huge fans of Melty Blood due to its smooth mechanics and fast fighting system. In fact, tournaments for Melty Blood are still being played to this day. That, my friends, is the story of how a video game conversion of a girly anime suddenly became one of the most hardcore obsessions in the fighting fandom.
However, many fans feel Melty Blood was held back by its original source material, and so French-Bread started up a new project for an original game that is even more impossibly anime. That project is called Under Night In-Birth, and it has recently come to Japanese arcades.
The story is pretty bonkers. Essentially, there are monsters out there called "the void" that feed on humans. Humans who encounter a void have a chance of awakening as an In-Birth, essentially a fighter with cool anime-style powers. While you would think at these In-Birth users would then go on to try and exterminate these horrible monsters that are trying to eat all of us, it turns out that they are mostly caught up in politics and hidden societies that provide the perfect excuse to have them all fighting one another. So yeah, it's your standard fighting game story of "Something crazy happens; now we must fight to the death."
Under Night In-Birth's game system, on the other hand, puts an innovative spin on the normal meter mechanics you find in fighting games. Below each character's health gauge is their EXS gauge, i.e. the super meter. The game uses four buttons, one for light attacks, one for medium attacks, one for heavy attacks, and one to take EXS actions that use your EXS meter. EXS actions include special movement maneuvers like short hops and instant air dashes, shielding, which is a better form of blocking, rapid cancels, which in this game are called Chain Shifts, and, of course, super attacks.
However, there is a second meter in the game called the GRD (Grind) bar. The GRD bar is a tug of war at the bottom of the screen, filling in from both sides as the players attack each other. Every 15 seconds, the player who has filled more of the bar receives a damage bonus. You can spend EXS to increase your grind by "concentrating" in battle, and you can convert GRD back into EXS whenever you perform a Chain Shift. If you fill your side of the bar completely, you can actually spill over into the opponent's side of the bar. This allows you to deny them the ability to build GRD, ensuring you will get the damage bonus, and ensuring a gigantic boost to EXS if you Chain Shift.
There is another mechanic in the game called Veil Off, which puts your character into a super mode for a limited amount of time. You can activate Veil Off any time you have more than 100 units of EXS (200 is the maximum). While in Veil Off, your character essentially has Infinite EXS to play with, but when veil off ends their EXS will be reduced to zero. In addition, attacks in Veil Off will do much more damage and will greatly increase the amount of GRD you earn. You also gain access to incredibly powerful super moves and instant kills in Veil Off that you normally wouldn't be able to use.