KILL la KILL – IF Review (PS4)
Last year developer A+ Games created a video game adaptation of an anime series that I had, at the time, become recently enamored with. That anime was Little Witch Academia. A cutesy anime about a bunch of kids going to school to become witches. Like Harry Potter meets The Worst Witch but in anime form.
Unfortunately, that game was relatively lacklustre. It nailed the art style and the voice talent. Running around the school talking to people was fun. But then the actual combat was an absolute slog. And there was so much of it. So when A+ Games announced their next game was going to be another Studio Trigger anime that I enjoyed, I was a little apprehensive. Adding to that apprehension was the fact that most of the marketing around the game seemed to be leaning on the publisher’s reputation. Pushing the game as a fighting game by Arc System Works, and leaving poor A+ somewhat by the side. Early footage looked promising, but so it did with Little Witch Academia. They seemed to have nailed the style, the art, the cast was all there, the music was all there… but did they nail the game part of it this time?
Yeah. They totally did.
KILL la KILL – IF is an arena fighter in the style of games like Jump Force, Dragon Ball Budokai Tenkaichi or the Naruto games. You have full 3D movement and thus can run around the environment while attacking your opponent. Generally I’m pretty picky with this style of fighter. But KILL la KILL – IF is by far the most fun I’ve had with one in quite some time and definitely the best playing of any of the recent entries in the genre. Attacks are split into regular attack, ranged attack and a (guard) break attack, which are all pretty self explanatory. Every character has a meter which builds up as they fight. Then you can do a special version of each of the three attack types by holding L1 when you attack. This is then usually followed by a flashier animation and, of course, more damage done to your opponent should it connect.
Everything flows and combos together really nicely. Honestly, far nicer than I was expecting. It’s the closest to a traditional fighting game that I’ve felt one of these types of fighters be, although it’s a pretty shallow one. You’ll spend matches trying to block or dodge opponents attacks and counter them or break their guard when they aren’t expecting it. The limited moveset means this game is pretty much all about catching your opponent off guard and taking as much advantage of it as you can. Without letting your own defence slip. It’s fun in bursts but I’m not sure it has the depth to be a game worth coming back to over time.
By pressing L1 and R1 together you can either break out of an opponent’s combo if you’re taking damage and knock them away a little or knock them into a rock-paper-scissors minigame that while very styling and nice looking is just… not very fun. It’s not a great mechanic but it’s not that big a deal thankfully. Depending on what you win with (if you initiated the clash) you can get a buff to your health, special meter or attack damage. These are relatively minor, but can help out in a pinch. The main incentive to use this mechanic, however, is that if you win three of these clashes you end up entering an “Overcharge” mode. This lets you use an upgraded version of one of those L1 specials I mentioned earlier, or to use L1 and R1 again to do a finisher attack. These are even flashier, pulling from the show in nice referential ways. For example, Ryuko’s finisher is her “Sen’i Sōshitsu” attack from the show. Her clothes grow crazy jet-like vents on the back and propel her forward as she launches her opponent into the air, destroying their powered clothes. They’re all pretty great and the randomness of rock paper scissors prevents them from being thrown out often. So they are infrequent enough to feel special when they do land.
KILL la KILL itself is an anime that even if you don’t like anime, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of in some way already. Even if it’s only the name. It’s absurd, it’s silly, it’s over the top and, most importantly in the context of this review, it’s not for everybody.
The show follows the revenge story of Ryuko Matoi, a high school aged girl whose father was murdered. All she has to track down the murderer is half the weapon that killed her father; a scissor blade from a giant pair of scissors. She gets some super powered clothes and fights some other people with super powered clothes. Her scissor blade can fold out into a bigger scissor blade like the best secret Bloodborne weapon we never got. Personally, I kinda love it but like I said it’s not for everyone. Whether you like the source material or not will be integral to how much fun you have with KILL la KILL – IF.
As someone who is generally pretty mediocre at fighting games, I love when a fighting game has some solid single player content. KILL la KILL – IF’s story mode definitely checks this box for me. Although it is also why I mentioned earlier that liking KILL la KILL is integral to your enjoyment of the game. The story mode takes you through a series of fights against different characters from the show and connects it all together with some really well made in-engine cutscenes. However, the story in this mode isn’t exactly the story of the show. It introduces some of its own elements and as a result you really need to have already been into the show to appreciate it. It is potentially pretty good on its own, but it definitely feels like it’s made with people who already know the original plot in mind. As someone who did watch that show and knew the plot I really enjoyed what A+ did with this mode. The cutscenes are not only graphically impressive but it’s also just impressive how much they managed to capture the style of the show. Despite the change in perspective to using 3D models. The fights themselves vary in some interesting ways, and while I’ll avoid any spoilers for what the mode throws at you, I will say that I enjoyed my time with it.
And you’ll be spending time with the story mode whether you’re interested in it or not. For some bizarre reason KILL la KILL – IF locks most of its modes behind story mode progress. The range of modes isn’t anything special. There’s Versus, a couple of Survival variations, online Lobbies and Online Ranked. But each are gated by different levels of progress through the story. It’s an odd decision that ended up hindering my enjoyment with the game somewhat. At a certain point I didn’t want to watch more cutscenes and take in more story. I wanted to jump online and hit some people with scissors! But the game doesn’t allow you to do that until you’ve met its arbitrary metric for who is allowed to do that. There are also character unlocks tied to the story, but I don’t mind this as much.
Speaking of characters, the weakest part of this game is by far the roster. Most of the main characters are here, Ryuko, Satsuki, Ragyu, Nui, the Elite Four… but that’s it? The roster is painfully small compared to similar games. And while each character has a pretty distinct feel they don’t feel so different as to warrant a smaller roster. There’s a couple of DLC characters announced but the roster feels so limited at the moment that it’s a shame they weren’t already included in the game.
As mentioned earlier I’m pretty mediocre at fighting games so most of my experience online was me getting stomped by better players. I never encountered any noticeable lag or slowdown during those matches though, so the online seems pretty solid. Again, somewhat of a rarity in this genre of game. It’s definitely far above the travesty that was Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven…
So, do I recommend KILL la KILL – IF? If you like the show, definitely. If you like or think you’ll like arena fighters? The demo is definitely worth a shot. It’s a solid fighting game that doubles up as a love letter to the anime it’s based on. It’s just a shame there isn’t more of it… Now let’s all pray for an Inferno Cop game?
7 nudist revolutionaries out of 10