Kill la Kill – IF: Clothes Fit For Badasses
After 5 years, Kill la Kill finally gets the video game treatment with Kill la Kill – IF. Fans of the series can rejoice as they are finally able to pit their favorite characters against each other in this anime fighting game developed by A+ Games and published by Arc System Works. The latter of which brought us Dragon Ball FighterZ. While fitting for any action-oriented anime, 5 years is a long while to wait for new material. Does the anime centered around super-powered clothing make a smooth transition into the 3D space? Kill la Kill – IF has some big shoes to fill.
Unlike most anime fighters’ first installments, Kill la Kill – IF puts that subtitle to good use by giving players a ‘what if’ scenario through the game’s story instead of a direct adaptation of the anime. An interesting idea that gives a slightly different take on some of the events that happen in the show. The story unfolds between two separate character chapters: Satsuki and then Ryūko. Each character has 10 episodes with fights sprinkled throughout along with fully voice-acted cutscenes rendered through the in-game engine.
It’s become almost a bit of a cliché for games based on anime to use cell-style graphics. There really is no better way to do it though. The game is a one-for-one recreation of the look of the anime. If it wasn’t for the more rounded and cleaner looking nature of 3D polygons, it’d be hard to tell the difference. Even then, the seamless blend of 2D and 3D animation can easily fool an untrained eye. It goes without saying for anime fighters, but the game is a beautiful spectacle to behold.
The game’s presentation is also excellent. With faithful reenactments of some scenes from the anime and the top-notch voice work from both the English and Japanese voice actors. Fans of the show will definitely get goosebumps during character intros before fights. Watching Satsuki issue a challenge to her opponent before unsheathing her weapon causing an intense gust of wind to form around her never gets old.
The original score in Kill la Kill – IF also rivals the show’s soundtrack. I found myself nodding to a character’s theme in the background on more than one occasion during fights. And while the overwhelming amount of noises that occur during matches can be a little ear-wrenching, it’s just the nature of a fast-paced anime fighter such as this. It’s easy to tell that this game was definitely crafted by fans and lovers of the IP.
Although, while the developers certainly cut no corners on Kill la Kill – IF’s presentation, some other areas fall flat.
As mentioned, the story follows the perspective of Satsuki Kiryūin through a few key events of the anime. This then unlocks Ryūko Matoi’s route through the same events. While seeing situations play out through the eyes of Satsuki is great, the entire game’s story leaves you wanting more. The campaign will take around 4 hours or so to complete and it skips over context established by the anime, starting around the Natural’s Election Arc.
It leaves me wondering whether or not it would’ve just been better to adapt the story of the anime fully instead of going with this ‘what if’ route. There certainly would’ve been more content to work with that would keep the player playing for at least a few more hours.
What is here isn’t too bad though, just short and little too fast-paced. It’s weird to say for an anime but Kill la Kill has a thing for fast-paced storytelling. It would just be nice if there were more here. The ending might leave you a little sour. The game even employs you to just go watch the anime if you feel like you missed anything. This feels more like a lazy slap to the face than a genuine suggestion to go watch a good anime in this context.
Kill la Kill – IF is an anime fighter through and through. The controls are simple and the combos are as easy as mashing one button. It’s a nice cross between Dragon Ball FighterZ and the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm series. Animations are fluid and have a satisfying amount of weight behind each hit.
While the primary game mode is 1 v. 1 fights, the game’s story mode also features 1 v. 2’s and Dynasty Warriors-style PVE’s. Although, the execution of these features isn’t the best. The game’s combat system isn’t really tailored for you to fight against more than one opponent at a time. There’s no lock-on system, so it becomes difficult to focus on a particular target. The game automatically selects one for you depending on your distance from them. So, if you wanted to focus on the zoner before handling the grappler, good luck. Fortunately, there are very few fights like that in the game.
You’ll spend the majority of your time in one-on-one fights. This is when the game is at its best. Like any anime fighter, it doesn’t take much to make cool-looking stuff happen on-screen. Characters are given a handful of universal basic actions along with a couple of special moves that use a special meter. There are no complicated motions needed to perform these special moves. It’s all very easy to pick up while still having a small amount of depth to it. The dynamic camera can take some getting used to when executing dodge steps though.
It’s all compounded with the ‘bloody valor’ mechanic that works like a rock, paper, scissors event in the game. You and your opponent choose between three options that each give a bonus if the selected one is successful during a series of cinematic clashes. Each successful clash also powers-up your valor level which gives your character-specific enhancements depending on who it is. I never found myself using this mechanic very often in matches. There are just much better ways to use your SP meter in this game. Though, I’m sure it will amuse the more casual fans of the fighting genre.
The tutorial mode and training tools in the game could do a much better job in teaching you all of this. The tutorial is very, very basic. It only informs the player of the basic actions and special moves and maneuvers with little context or explanation to any of them. It also fails to explain some of the game’s deeper core mechanics like wall-splatting, special canceling, dash canceling and crumple states. Anime fighter or not, a game like this must have a more informative tutorial mode and this one is just disappointing.
The training tools aren’t that much better either. The training menu gives you several different options like making the dummy loop a specific action and adjusting meter behavior and recovery. It doesn’t allow you to better fine-tune some of these options to create specific situations in which to practice them more reliably though.
My time spent in the lab of Kill la Kill – IF often had me grabbing a second controller so I could better test certain in-game situations. Even then, some of my results were inconclusive at best since there are no reliable frame data in the game. Thus, some options like oki can feel more like luck than a real calculated effort given the number of invincibility frames every character gets when getting off the ground or recovering. It really makes me question the skills gap, especially since there’s an online ranked mode.
What’s also disappointing is the number of playable characters and overall content. There are currently only 10 characters on the roster if you count the Ryūko and Satsuki duel wield variations. While they all feel very distinct from each other–and two more characters are coming as free DLC down the line–it still doesn’t justify such a paltry number of fighters for an entry title.
On top of that, substantial content in Kill la Kill – IF is very sparse. There are no alternate costumes for any of the characters and only a few alternate colors which are barely interesting. There are only a few other extra modes like survival and covers challenge. Both of which only provide maybe a few extra minutes of distraction. The game’s gallery is where most of the extra content is. Here you can purchase voice lines, musical themes and other goodies with the in-game currency you earn by fighting in matches. While some of this content is very amusing, putting it all behind an arbitrary purchasing system feels lazy and there to just waste your time.
You won’t have to pay any real money for any of it, sure. But they hardly feel like rewards worth grinding out matches for. They feel more like items you should unlock by completing goals in the game not by having the right amount of in-game cash. Let’s just hope that microtransactions aren’t anywhere in this game’s future.
It’s also worth mentioning that the PC version of Kill la Kill – IF is a borderline unplayable mess. Bugs, glitches and tons of graphical and UI errors liter the PC port. Loading screens are primed to crash your game and frame rates drop in several places during gameplay. If you own a PS4 or Nintendo Switch, do yourself a favor and pick it up on either of those consoles or wait for the obligatory patches.
Kill la Kill – IF is a dedicated recreation of its source material both in looks and in personality. It has a considerable amount of flair and flash just like any other anime fighter on the market. Although, it lacks the amount of substance that those same anime fighters have. Between its very short campaign, lack of any other sort of extensive modes and content that feels tacked on rather than being significant rewards for the player, it’s hard to recommend Kill la Kill – IF at its $60 price point. Even to the most hardcore fans of the series, Kill la Kill – IF will probably leave you feeling somewhat empty. There are just more anime fighters out there that do what Kill la Kill – IF does but much better in most aspects.
If you’re absolutely dying for more Kill la Kill material, then I recommend trying the demo on console first. Just to see how you like it before buying the full product. Otherwise, leave this expensive, pretty looking dress on the rack.
Kill la Kill – IF is out now for Playstation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch.
How did you like Kill la Kill – IF? Leave your comments below! And while you’re at it, check out my last review on Katana ZERO!
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