Under Night In-Birth II: Sys:celes Review – The Hollow Night Arrives

Fighting games are my main genre. No matter the game, if you tell me it’s a fighter, I’m in. Up until recently, I hadn’t played many anime fighters. Aside from the DragonBall Budakai games, one of the Persona fighters, and more recently Guilty Gear Xrd (which shares the same publisher), my experience was limited. However, I was lucky enough to get my hands on Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes (shortened UNI2) recently, and let me tell you, I’ve found one of my favorites.

Released on PS5 and PS4, Under Night In-Birth II is an entry in the fighting game series by developers French Bread. With a novel-style story presentation and superb fighting animation, UNI2 is a marvel of a fighter. I had seen some high level EVO play of a UNI game just last year without knowing the game title, and it looked intense then. But man, I had no idea it felt so intense to play, in the best of ways.

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I’m not the most well-versed in the story of UNI, as this is my first time with the series, but I’ll try my best to explain it here.


Every full moon, in Kanzakai, Japan, the Hollow Night begins. During this time, the entirety of the city enters a realm populated by menacing beings known as Voids. These forces of evil seek to consume the bodies of humans that have wandered off in this alternate realm.

While most people fall victim to the Voids, there are some who survived and benefit from the encounter. They are reborn as In-births, beings with the power of EXS, essentially a power brought upon by life energy. This is also the same energy Voids are seeking when they devour a human. There’s a lot of lore to dive into in the series’ 10+ year run, but I’ll leave that up to you to to discover. It does get pretty extensive, and deserving of a deeper dive than I can get into in a review.

Main Story

The main focus of this story is on our protagonist Hyde. After meeting princess Linne, his powers had awakened and he began his journey. Now, some time later, Linne has went missing and it’s up to Hyde to track down the evil Kuon the Aeon and put an end to the Hollow Night. 

The story is presented in character episodes, with Hyde’s being the only definitive canonical one. Every other is more of a “what-if” or side scenarios, aside from a few other characters from my experience. It is presented in arcade ladder style, full of fights with visual novel scenes in between. I’ve only played through the stories for Hyde, Linne, Kaguya, and Enkidi so far, and I gotta say I’m loving it. The gameplay is where all fighting games must hold their own though, and UNI2 holds its own well.


Like I said before, I’m not the most familiar with anime fighters, but UNI2 doesn’t stress that. With an extensive series of tutorials, I found footing pretty quickly. The basic combat is broken down into your typical normal, medium, and strong attack buttons. However, it’s far from basic. For Street Fighter vets, there’s your typical quarter circle and dragon punch inputs and charge attacks. This made the game very accessible for me, personally. Also, if you’ve played games like Dragonball FighterZ you’ll have an idea of how the fighting system works, too. Still, there’s a bit more to it.

The Mechanics

UNI2 has a system called the grid system. This lies between both characters’ EX meters. Consider it a tug-of-war system, where your performance dictates your advantages. If you perform well in a match, your side will fill up gradually. Defensive and offensive options benefit you here, so don’t feel you need to stay aggressive to gain this advantage. The advantage you’re given is in the build-up of the EXS meter, which gives you access to special states and moves. When you do get that advantage, though, you can turn the tide in a losing match or solidify your win. With that being said, this system is a vital part of the combat. All in all, the fighting is fast-paced and fluid. And the tutorials will take you far if you’re unsure where to begin. 

That Grid Meter at the bottom plays an integral role in how the match goes.

Single Player

There are plenty of modes on display here for those who play fighting games for solo gameplay. You have your arcade, survival mode, time attack mode, score attack, and missions. Most of these are pretty straightforward, and the missions are essentially your combo trials. The main attraction here is definitely the arcade mode. It works like most games, except instead of just fighting to reach the ending cinematic, there’s a story being told throughout. 

Each character has their own storyline, and whether or not they are canon is not always clear, but it’s 100% a blast. You’ll get a better idea of what everything means in the universe and the roles everyone plays through this mode. And with 21 characters at launch, there are plenty of stories to experience.


As with any fighting game review, I always feel it’s necessary to cover the online aspect. UNI2 handles its online service very well. From what I’ve been reading, this entry introduces rollback, as a lot of modern fighters seem to be. Even on an 8-frame rollback delay, I never had trouble inputting commands and getting the upper hand against opponents. As far as ranking goes, I had some problems at first due to my low ranking. To find matches, I had to seek fights against people well above my rank if I wanted to match up fast. But that’s less of a game or net-code problem and more of a “me” thing.

Under Night In-Birth II: Sys:Celes has some seriously solid online multiplayer.

The cool thing about matchmaking is it gives you a lot of control over who you’re matched with. Of course, there are the typical settings like connection standards and the like. You can set the range of ranks you face off against, meaning you can go for people closer to your level or go for the top players. It really gives you full control over who you face. All in all, the multiplayer works very well, and the rollback performance is phenomenal.

Graphics and Sound

The soundtrack to this game is absolutely amazing. The music is very befitting of an anime fighter, and it really amps up the matches. The game’s sound effects are satisfying as well. Each hit and special moves packs a punch and has enough flair to make you feel like you’re living out an anime. The voice acting is high caliber as well. Along with this comes a well-animated game with smooth performance.

I can’t stress it enough, this game looks amazing.

The graphics are so stunning, and not just for a 2D fighter. Rather than use 3D characters with the appearance of a drawn space, the characters are full-fledged 2D with 3D rendered backgrounds. It literally looks like an anime fight scene playing out in front of you. The backgrounds are well designed and animated as well, and quite honestly the whole thing is a feast for the eyes.


UNI2 is filled to the brim with mechanics and techniques to learn and master, and you will find yourself playing for hours on end once you fall into its gameplay. And that’s just scratching the surface. Between earning currency to customize characters, the different unlockables, and the plethora of stories you can play through, the options are hefty. And that’s just the solo side of things. Those looking for a competitive experience will be just as satisfied. The replayability is high with this one.


Under Night In-Birth II Sys:Celes is an anime fighter for all types of fighting game fans. Whether you’re into fighting games or you love anime fighters specifically, you are bound to have a great time. It has everything you could ask for fun and extensive single-player, addicting multiplayer, a cool story, pleasant aesthetics, and all-around solid gameplay. It holds its own amongst the Guilty Gears and BlazBlues without sacrificing identity.

From a casual to a competitive level, UNI2 remains just as entertaining. French Bread clearly has love for both fighting games and anime, and it truly shows. The amount of passion in this title is apparent, and I believe it deserves an award for what it accomplishes. I don’t know how I was missing this game series, but I’m glad to have played it now. If you’re thinking about giving it a try, stop thinking and take the leap. You won’t be disappointed.


  • Fast paced, fun combat
  • Smooth animations and a great aesthetic
  • A fitting, pumped up soundtrack
  • Superb rollback and net-code
  • Extensive modes and bonus material


  • Can be hard to find ranked matches at lower levels
  • No straightforward explanation of story and lore

Under Night In-Birth II: Sys:Celes


Whether you're a fighting game fan in general or love anime fighters, UNI2 is one of the best. I can't recommend it enough!

Trevor Walker
PS4 version reviewed. A review code was provided by the publisher.