'Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes' Review: A Rollback Blessing for a Dope Anime Fighter

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Arc System Works

Since 2022, fighting game fans have been enjoying a buffet of genre excellence. The King of Fighters XV got the ball rolling, while Street Fighter 6 and Mortal Kombat 1 made a great effort to provide more quality experiences for the FGC (Fighting Game Community) to indulge in. One of the best aspects tied to this new golden age of fighting games is the implementation of rollback netcode across new and existing titles, which has gone a long way toward helping the online communities of specific fighters thrive at launch and stay healthy months & even years later. In the case of development studios French-Bread and Ecole Software's Under Night In-Birth, that fast-paced anime fighter has finally ascended to its second mainline series entry and received that aforementioned blessing of rollback netcode. While this sequel doesn't do a whole lot to stand out as an evolutionary step for the series, it still deserves credit for refining a quality fighting game experience. Now let's dive deep into my Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes review.

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Arc System Works

So I've been knee-deep in these Under Night In-Birth games since the very first series entry and have always been impressed by just how crisp the 2D sprites for the roster have looked. Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes goes out of its way to make those anime visuals look even cleaner - the existing array of characters and stages have gotten a worthy upgrade, plus the new batch of roster members and arenas are just as visually pleasing. Another praiseworthy aspect of this game's graphical presentation is the debuting character customization feature, which finally lets you change the color schemes for every playable character. For someone like me who spent hours making all sorts of strangely colored variants for my favorite fighters from Capcom vs. SNK 2, this new series feature stands out as one of my clear favorites. From an audio standpoint, this next statement should come as no surprise - Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes' soundtrack slaps! The brand new character select theme fits in just right with the rest of Under Night's past collection of tunes that build excitement while you're in the heat of battle. To the surprise of no one, Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes looks and sounds exceptional.

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Arc System Works

Once a new fighting game update or massive sequel comes out, everyone comes in expecting a new lineup of roster members. Thankfully, Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes goes that expected route with three new characters I'm a huge fan of. Kaguya is a nightmare at long range thanks to her mastery of pistols, Tsurugi makes for a powerful rushdown brawler whose shield can also soak up incoming damage, and the new boss Kuon relies on a tricky moveset that's on par with the abilities that Under Night's former boss Hilda utilizes. With a launch roster of 24 characters plus three more DLC characters on the way, I have to give props to Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes for providing a sizable array of varied characters that have unique visual designs & signature playstyles for every type of fighting game player.

For those of you out there who have been playing Under Night since its inaugural series entry, you all know just how complex its gameplay systems are. To be honest, I have a ton of fun figuring out how its mechanics work. For first-timers, Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes' extensive tutorial mode does a good job of breaking down the simple, intermediate, and expert mechanics every player needs to know if they want to survive the online den full of killers who've already mastered those tools. The return of a "Mission" mode centered around learning pre-set combos for each character makes for another part of this game's tutorial that does a good job of bringing newcomers into the fold and helping them learn the ins & outs of its intricate systems. Veteran players will be pleased by the new battle mechanics, which include the new "Creeping Edge" dodge mechanic, the immense power-boosting "Celestial Vorpal" feature, and a host of new moves for every past member of the roster.

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Arc System Works

The biggest reason to step into the world of Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes is its reliance on rollback netcode instead of bringing back the past series entries' spotty delay-based netcode. For me, I rarely get into a match where constant lag disrupts the flow of the hyperactive action. Your usual gamut of online modes (Casual, Ranked, and lobby-filled Player Match options) are all here and accounted for, of course. With a smoother online experience for this sequel, those modes have become even more worthwhile since the majority of your matches will feel like you're playing someone sitting right next to you. THANK GOD FOR ROLLBACK!

Now when it comes to my biggest issue with Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes, my main complaint has to be lobbied at its single-player mode suite. I've never been a fan of new-age anime fighters that rely on dialogue sequences with static character art to relay the plot - sadly, that storytelling approach to this game's arcade mode is still a thing here. While the return of "Score Attack," "Time Attack," and "Survival" modes are fine enough, I was hoping that some more substantial single-player experiences would have been included here to make this sequel more feature-rich. A mode along the lines of Street Fighter 6's "World Tour" mode and Mortal Kombat 1's epic Story Mode may be too much to ask for from this game, but I would have gladly taken something in this game more akin to Them's Fightin' Herds clever take on your usual fighting game story mode.

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