Anime

Review: Kill la Kill IF – Fighting Game for Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Steam

Review: Kill la Kill IF – Fighting Game for Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Steam

Fans of the KILL la KILL anime may be in for a treat if they game on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, or PC. A new 3D arena fighting game just launched today, called KILL la KILL the Game: IF. The game features the art style of the anime while being presented in 3D. The games also features the choice to hear character voices in either Japanese or English, using the same voice acting from the anime. However, the game is more than a trip down memory lane. Here, the KILL la KILL story line introduces a new “IF” story scenario, written and supervised by the anime’s scenario writer, Kazuki Nakashima, and studio, TRIGGER.

We got our hands on the game early, allowing us to be able to share our thoughts on launch day! Let us dive in.

Story and Presentation

If you are into action-comedy anime, and you have yet to check out KILL la KILL, you should definitely do so. It is a 25-episode series written by Kazuki Nakashima and directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, both of whom worked together on Gurren Lagann. I would not have children looking into this series, or game for that matter, as the content is intended for an older audience due to language and plenty of partial nudity. However, it is a fun and entertaining anime with an interesting art style.

The story revolves around a tough and gritty schoolgirl, Ryuko Matoi, and her search for her father’s killer. Her search brings her to Honnouji Acedemy, where students wear empowering Goku uniforms made with a special material called “Life Fibers”. The academy is under the thumb of the student president, Satsuki Kiryuin, backed by her “Elite Four”. Ryuko’s wields a scissor blade that has the ability to permanently cut Life Fibers, making her a considerable threat to the Goku uniform-bearing students. She gets into battles here and there at the academy as she struggles to get answers from Satsuki, who she believes has info on her father’s murderer.

MILD ANIME SPOILERS

The new KILL la KILL – IF story branches off from that of the anime at the point where Satsuki Kiryuin holds a Naturals Election tournament, with the hidden goal of using the battles to assess Ryuko Matoi’s abilities. Ryuko ends up facing the Elite Four, the four most powerful students utilizing the best Goku uniforms in the student council under Satsuki. Following those battles, Satsuki faces Ryuko herself, after which KILL la KILL – IF’s new story twist scenario kicks in, taking the fights and plots on a different path from that of the original anime.

End of MILD ANIME SPOILERS

KILL la KILL – IF takes the visual and audio style of the anime, but brings it onto the 3D plane. The game’s story, visuals, and voice acting excite, as both gameplay and cut scenes do the anime justice. Dialogue for the “IF” story stay in line with each of the individual characters already-established personalities, making the story both easy and fun to follow. Take your pick of either English or Japanese voices, as neither disappoint. Best of all, actual gameplay is fast-paced and colorful, doing a great job demonstrating the various characters’ attacks from the anime on the 3D plane.

The only take-away I had for the Story and Presentation is that I wish there was more of it. We are intentionally not saying much about the “IF” story, as not to spoil it. However, everything you experience from the Story mode is entertaining from beginning to end. Yet, because it was so well done, it made us wish that we got to replay it again from other characters’ perspectives, even if it was still the same core “IF” story.

Fighting System

KILL la KILL – IF is a 3D Arena Fighter. Combatants are locked on each other at all times, leaving you to focus on dodging, fake-outs, attack timing and combo-stringing. Fighters can run freely around the three-dimensional plane, as they attack, guard, side step, back step, or dash directly at their opponent. Attacks can be either horizontal or vertical in nature, which makes choosing to side-step vs to jump part of the mind game.

There are three kinds of attacks: close range, long range, and break. Close range attacks are as the name implies, they are attacks on enemies that are near you. Long Range attacks are for catching opponents at a distance, leaving the opponent to consider whether to dodge or to directly guard. While both close and long range attacks can be guarded, break attacks cannot. Break attacks take longer to execute than the other two, and the telegraph their usage by having a fighter sparkle. Break attacks tend to have a wide impact area, further highlighting the danger involved with being hit by them. Once a break attack connects, you can chain it with ease with the other two attack types, making it into a nice guard-punishing mechanic.

Throughout the fight, each fighter’s SP Gauge fills up. The SP Gauge fills when you connect with attacks, successfully guard attacks, or when attacks successfully connect with you. Out of these three circumstances, the first two are more rewarding with SP Gauge growth than with the last. This of course makes sense as you do not want to be too rewarding to a fighter who is letting attacks land on them, but at the same time, you want to give them some means of a comeback. When a fighter gains more than 50% of their SP Gauge, they can then activate Special Attacks (aka “Supers”) with any of the three main attack types. That extends these Special Attacks to Special Close, Special Long, and Special Break attacks.

Going even further with the SP Gauge, you also use 50% of your gauge to perform Valor Bursts. Think of them as “combo breakers” of sorts, where can use this to break an opponent’s combo while attacks land on you. This makes it into a Counter Burst. Your opponent’s attack chain will stop and they will be pushed back. You can also use Valor Bursts on opponents who are not attacking. This triggers Bloody Valor, a sort of rock-paper-scissors quick time event. The Bloody Valor event adds a nice little anime-esque touch to the fight, where both opponents clash and the attacker either provokes, mocks, or taunts the victim of the Valor Burst.

During this sequence, both fighters must choose between Taunt (rock), Provoke (scissors), and Mock (paper). Only the attacker will gain one of three benefits upon winning the exchange. Speaking in terms of success, Provoke grants some SP Gauge, Mock replenishes Life/Health Gauge, and Taunt deals heavy damage. The defender also chooses between three options, where if they win, they damage the attacker and break the Bloody Valor sequence. The attacker wins if they either make the favorable rock-paper-scissors choice or if they match with what the defender chose. If the attacker wins, they gain the feature they chose as well as an increase in Valor level. The sequence continues until the defender breaks the sequence by winning an exchange or until the attacker reaches Valor Level 3.

As Valor levels increase, a fighter gains traits unique to them, as well as unlocking moves. At level 3 (Max Valor), the fighter is in an empowered state, where the SP Gauge constantly increases at a steady pace, regardless of how attacks are landing. It is only at Max Valor and with a full SP Gauge that a fighter can use their Fiber Lost Secret Art. The Fiber Lost Secret Art is the best attack that a fighter can use. When activated, the fighter takes a single swing, which if it cleanly connects on an enemy, it starts an animated sequence where a fighter performs their final signature attack. That attack ends the match and the opponent, severing their Life Fibers and rendering them naked and useless.

All of this so far allows for a nice mix-up of enemy engagement options, making it a nice pick up and play fighter. Close Attacks are nice for interrupting long range and break attacks, but you do not simply want to mash away with close attacks on a blocking opponent, feeding them SP Gauge. You can mix and match the various attacks into combos to leave the opponent where you want them at the end of them. For instance, you can string with close attacks and continue into long range, where you end up putting distance between you and the opponent. Special Attacks can also be strung into combos depending on the fighter and attack styles. You also cannot simply get away with spamming long-range attacks as a careful fighter will just block them to build more SP Gauge.

For the most part, characters move at a fast pace, giving you chances to side-step opponents to goad into throw out an attack that leaves them open to punishment. Opponents that fly hard enough into the arena’s boarders can also remain stunned for a very short window, allowing you to peel them off the wall before they hit the ground to allow for more combo’ing. Here’s where a long range attack combo can sometimes lead into a homing dash where you can continue the punishment. The fighting mechanics are quite simple, but seem like they can be easily be expanded on by intermediate to advanced fighting gamers.

While Bloody Valor bodes well for KILL la KILL – IF’s anime aesthetic and appeal, I could either take or leave it. Of course, this is not the first fighting game to put in a Rock-Paper-Scissor mechanic. SoulCalibur VI, the last fighting game we reviewed, even had their own variant of this sort of flow-interrupting quick time mechanic. It was often easier to Valor Burst an opponent that you had in a close range combo. Sure, you have a two-thirds chance at winning the exchange, but you could also end up blowing 50% of SP Gauge and taking a heavy attack.If seeing fancy Fiber Lost Secret Arts is your goal, just know a part of it is more up to chance than your abilities.

Even so, battles were still fun across the game’s various modes where fighting mechanics were fun enough to make fighting enjoyable. However, given the somewhat simple nature of the fighting mechanics, I did find myself wanting a slightly larger roster than eight fighters to experiment with at the game’s launch.

Other Modes and Final Thoughts

KILL la KILL – IF also features a Training Mode, Survival Mode, local and online VS, and a COVERS survival mode where you fight waves of minion drones. Survival and versus modes are pretty straight forward, where Survival pits you in continuous matches against the computer. I did like the many variations of character-specific interactions in these modes, where certain character match-ups had banter unique to them, in intros, Bloody Valor conflicts, and match ends. It added a nice flavor to the off-story battles which was in line with the game’s overall presentation.

Fights in both COVERS mode and some Story stages feature the player fighting against multiple opponents at once. It was indeed fun to whack waves of enemies with Special Attacks. However, there was no way for you to manually change your focus on the enemy you wanted to single out at any given time. The game seemed to simply automatically change your character’s focus to whomever you happen to get close to. This could even happen when you were in the middle of attacking one opponent, where you would suddenly turn and let the enemy that you were juggling off the hook. It was an aspect of the one-vs-many fights that would only get annoying when you are in the process of finishing off the most dangerous opponent at the time, to then simply turn your back to them.

If you are a fan of KILL la KILL, you will like this game for its close-to-home art style, flashy attacks and fun pace of play. It is a great tribute to the anime that fans would simply eat up. The game simply needed more gameplay content than what you get at retail. More content at launch for either of two specific aspects would make the game easier to swallow for its price point: more story content or larger playable roster. The story content was executed very well; it simply felt like there needed to be more of it, such as playing through it with more of the roster. Conversely, a larger roster would have given the game more replay value as you would simply have more characters to experiment with the game’s simple-to-pick-up fighting engine.

I imagine fans of KILL la KILL would like KILL la KILL the Game: IF, as it simply gives you more KILL la KILL content outside of the anime. Fighting game fans that are not familiar with the anime may not be as inspired to jump into a game that just may not have enough to grab or keep them. If you are a KILL la KILL fan and a fighting game fan, I can suggest this title for you as I did enjoy my time with the game, even if it felt brief.

† KILL la KILL the Game: IF review code and some screenshots used provided by Arc System Works PR.