Kill la Kill: IF is the latest from Arc System Works, the developer/publishers behind a plethora of anime games including Blazblue and Dragon Ball Fighterz. Kill la Kill: IF is an arena fighter with a range of fighting modes, as is expected with this type of game. Players take control of one of 8 (yes 8) characters in order to pummel either the CPU or friends, both locally or online. As well as the standard 1v1 fare, KLKI also allows players to fight bots (called covers) in various modes, either as many as possible in 1 minute or endlessly until the player dies. The cover mode starts of great fun but unfortunately, doesn’t last very long as the ai is terrible and most of the covers don’t bother putting up much of a fight, if at all. When it comes to the 1v1 mode, this ranges from standard versus matches but also includes a survival mode, which again is initially fun, but gets tedious very quickly due to the limited amount of characters and a learning curve that goes from mind-numbingly simple to very difficult in the space of 1 match. KLKI also has a gallery mode in which players can listen to soundbites, use digital models to create a sort of 2D diorama, or watch the anime from the story mode.
Speaking of the story mode, there is one, but it’s short, very short. Players first take control of secondary character Satsuki and play through 5 ‘episodes’ covering an alternate version of the story from the anime, whilst meeting and fighting familiar characters along the way. Upon completion of Satsuki’s chapter, players then get to play the story from Ryoko’s point of view across another 5 episodes, although unfortunately a fair few scenes and fights are jut straight repeats with the entire story only taking around 2-3 hours from start to finish. The anime style works well and the action scenes blend into the fights smoothly enough, but even as an avid anime fan, I found myself getting a little bored with the big speeches and monologs, which for someone who has yet to watch the anime, didn’t mean a whole lot. Those fans that have watched the anime first may find the story a little more interesting but from a simply gaming point of view, I felt it fell flat.
Right, onto the nitty gritty of the game, the combat. When watching the game, it looks like great fun, with epic combos juggling opponents across the stage and glossy animations when special moves are triggered. Playing the game however IS fun, but it’s very simple. Square is the basic attack button which when mashed will unleash the aforementioned epic combos with slight variation if a direction is held when starting the combo. Triangle is a long-range attack which becomes a combo when mashed, circle is a guard break and X is jump. Players can dash with R1 and by combining this with X (or double jumping) the player will home in on the opponent and can use this to start a combo. When it comes to combat, there isn’t really much more to it than that, which at first I thought was great as I felt like a pro, pounding characters into the dirt with 15+ hit combos, but the simplistic nature of the system meant after a fairly short amount of time, the combat became very tedious. Each of the characters have their own animations and moves but they all feel very similar and can be triggered by mashing square, leaving very little variety between them – one character may do a 10-hit combo by hitting square, another may do a 20-hit combo, but both will do the same damage just with different animations.
There are a few added extras in the form of a special meter which is split into 4 bars, when 2 are reached, the player can press L1 and either square, circle or X to perform a special version of either close/long/break attacks and if landed these attacks trigger an animation, which is quite satisfying to watch. The final mechanic is bloody valor, which can be triggered with L1+R1 after filling 2 bars up. If landed, this triggers a rock/paper/scissors like menu in which both players choose between additional damage, life recovery or filling of the special bar – with the winner not only receiving one of these perks but also raising their valor level. If a character is able to raise their valor level 3 times, they enter a sort of overdrive mode, and with a full special bar, can trigger a move that is an instant KO (by removing the opponents clothes). Although pulling off this move in incredibly satisfying, it is near on impossible to do in a standard match before one of the players dies, the only time I was able to pull it off was in survival mode as the valor level and special gauge carry over between matches. This is a real shame as its very gratifying and a lot of fun, but many players are unlikely to get to use it at all, without carefully setting it up and a lot of luck.
When it comes to the look of Kill la Kill: IF, it looks pretty, like most ‘3D’ anime games, but doesn’t really do anything to stand out from the crowd. The characters look great, with a cell shaded aesthetic that blends well with the anime sections of the story, but the stages and environments are boring and sparse, with only a handful of stages to play. These stages all have walls surrounding them which can sometimes be used to bounce the opponent off, but other times have an invisible barrier which is irritating to say the least. The sound works well enough, with either a Japanese or English voice track to choose from and the banter muttered by players is a nice touch (although repetitive) and each character has their own music track to accompany them into battle. The problem with the sound and graphics, much like the rest of the game, is just a lack of variety – the same few characters with the same few stages and the same few music tracks which just makes everything feel a little…..monotonous.
This brings me nicely to my overall thoughts. Kill la Kill: IF starts out well but needs…..more, in almost every area. On the surface it’s a nice-looking anime game with simple controls and smooth combat but play for more than half an hour and the cracks start to appear. The desperate lack of variety in characters to choose from, the same handful of boring stages and the same 8 music tracks means the game feels very shallow and is unlikely to hold your attention for very long. When you compare KLKI to other fighters such as DOA, which has similarly simple controls but is so deep that it is easy to pick up, difficult to master, KLKI just falls flat in every area. Fans of the series will enjoy taking control of their favourite characters (if they are featured), but those who pick it up just as a fighting game will be disappointed.
- Easy to pick up.
- Fun to start with.
- Overly simple combat.
- Not enough characters/stages/music.
- Too short in all areas
Kill la Kill: IF is available from July 26th for Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and Steam.
Kill la Kill: IF is great fun to play to begin with but gets tedious very quickly due to a lack of variety. Even as a couch brawler with friends, the sparse amount of characters will mean the fun wont last long.