By Chris Melchin / August 12th, 2019
|Title||Kill la Kill – IF|
|Publisher||Arc System Works|
|Release Date||July 26th, 2019|
|Platform||PS4, Nintendo Switch, Steam|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Mature|
It was an exciting moment to see one of my favorite developers, Arc System Works, teasing a video game adaptation of one of my favorite anime series, Kill la Kill. It made me somewhat less excited to see that said adaptation would be an arena fighter, rather than a more traditional fighting game. It made me even less excited to see that it also wouldn’t be developed by Arc System Works, but rather by A+ Games, the developer behind the somewhat poorly-received Little Witch Academia game, with ASW taking on a publishing role. But now Kill la Kill – IF has been released, and it’s up to me to see if it retains any of the anime’s fun and excitement, or the depth and complexity that Arc System Works is known for, even outside of their wheelhouse.
Kill la Kill – IF has a somewhat slim roster of only ten characters, two of which are variations of others, with two more promised as free DLC. It stars heroines Satsuki Kiryuin and Ryuko Matoi, both with regular single-wield as well as dual-wield variations; the head of the disciplinary committee Ira Gamagoori; the athletic clubs head Uzu Sanageyama; the non-athletic clubs head Nonon Jakuzure; the information and strategy committee head Houka Inumuta; the CEO of the clothing manufacturer REVOCS Ragyo Kiryuin; and Ragyo’s trusted Grand Couturier Nui Harime. In addition, Mako Mankanshoku as well as the Nudist Beach boys Aikuro Mikisugi and Tsumugu Kinagase combined as Ultimate Double Naked Dotonbori Robo (DTR) will be coming as DLC in the future, but were not available at time of writing.
It’s a disappointingly small roster, but at the same time, Kill la Kill itself doesn’t really have that many characters, at least those that would work in this sort of game. The characters here are actually surprisingly diverse in their gameplay; while both forms of Satsuki and Ryuko are both understandably straightforward, being the protagonists, the others each possess their own unique abilities and mechanics, even beyond simple archetypes. For example, Nonon, Nui and Ragyo are all zoning characters based on controlling large amounts of the screen while being weak at close range, but they do so in different ways: Nonon uses projectiles that create stationary orbs that boost her attacks, Nui creates clones of herself to attack, and Ragyo uses projectiles that transition easily into a close-range combo for high damage. Every character also receives a different bonus to specifically enhance their unique traits and abilities when they reach Valor Level 1, which I’ll explain a bit later.
When I say this game is an “arena fighter” rather than a traditional fighting game, I mean it’s set up similarly to a fighting game, with players facing each other one-on-one with the preset capabilities of their chosen character and no customization, but it controls more like a standard third-person action game. Characters have a full range of movement around the arena, while the camera swings around to different angles rather than being fixed, like in many 3D fighting games such as Tekken or Soul Calibur. Blocking and jumping are both done with buttons, and the game forces you to use analog control with a full 360-degree range of movement rather than just eight directions. As with other arena fighters, the game also allows characters to homing dash, either in the air out of a jump or on the ground out of a block. The camera also moves around quite a bit, and especially as player 2 you’ll need to be able to deal with it being centered behind the other player with you further away a decent amount of the time. It also changes angle during the endings of regular attack strings to give an extra visual touch, as well as for special attacks, break attacks, and Valor Burst.
On that note, there are three types of regular attacks: quick close-range, slower and often more unique long-range, and unblockable but slow break attacks. Holding left or right on the stick while close attacking will give a wider attack that’s more difficult to avoid by dashing to the side, and holding up or down while doing so gives an anti-air. You can do this on the last attack of a close string as well for different enders that provide different benefits, such as continuing the combo in the air or giving a bigger knockback. At the surface level combos are very simple, but there gets to be significantly more depth and very high potential damage when you start taking advantage of the game’s wall-splat mechanic, and other ways you can find with any given character to extend combos beyond the basic attack strings. There are also special attacks for each type of regular attack, which spend 50% of a player’s SP meter for extra damage or other benefits.
The SP meter can also be used for Valor Burst, which leads on hit to the game’s most significant unique mechanic, called Bloody Valor. Bloody Valor is a rock-paper scissors element where players choose between Provoke, which boosts the initiator’s SP and beats Mock, which restores the initiator’s health and beats Taunt, which deals extra damage and beats Provoke. Both players choose one, and if the initiator wins, they gain one Valor level (up to level 3), gain their choice’s associated bonus, and Bloody Valor repeats. On a tie, the same happens, but Bloody Valor ends. If the defender wins, Bloody Valor ends, and the initiator takes damage. Valor levels provide various benefits; the aforementioned character-specific boosts at level 1, changing the regular beak attack special to a stronger break attack super at level 2, and giving passive SP gain and access to the SEN-I-SOSHITSU Secret Art (this game’s instant kill) at level 3. You can also burst while taking damage to break your opponent’s combo, but it will not lead to Bloody Valor.
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