REVIEW: Kill la Kill – IF

Monday, August 12th, 2019

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Bloody Valor and Valor levels are possibly the strangest mechanic in this game. It can potentially lead to a massive comeback, since SEN-I-SOSHITSU immediately ends the match, regardless of how many rounds the player would ordinarily still need to win, and can be used out of a regular combo if you have a full SP meter. You can also end a combo with Valor Burst rather than a regular ender or a special, and since SP gain in this game seems to be quite fast, it’s something that is worth doing fairly frequently, giving up some damage on your ender for the potential promise of various buffs and even an instant kill if you get lucky with the rock-paper-scissors. There’s very little risk in using it on the offense, since there’s no way for the defender to get a Valor level from it and two out of three possible results are in the attacker’s favor. That being said, if it wasn’t skewed so heavily towards the attacker, its value in general would be questionable at best. It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure if there would be a better way of implementing it, I’m at a loss with this one. It’s far from the only strange and poorly-balanced mechanic in this game, but I’ll go more into that later.

The game has two separate story modes, with Ryuko’s path unlocking once you finish Satsuki’s. They’re both fairly short, and tell the story of Kill la Kill more or less as it would have been if Nudist Beach had never involved themselves in the fight with REVOCS as they did in the anime. Ryuko’s path simply tells the same as Satsuki’s, but from Ryuko’s perspective. You need to complete the story modes in order to unlock Nui, Ragyo, and Ryuko and Satsuki’s dual-wield forms, but this can be done in an afternoon if you’re playing through it normally and probably in under an hour if you crank down the difficulty all the way and skip all the cut-scenes. As far as other single-player content goes, there’s not that much. There’s a COVERS challenge mode where you fight against a horde of AI-controlled drones, a standard survival mode against a series of AI enemies on a single life bar, and an assortment of gallery modes such as voice clips, music sound test, and figure dioramas.

Kill la Kill - IF | Bloody Valor argument

After Bloody Valor selections are made, this clashing argument happens. It’s a neat touch, but it takes a long time, so thankfully it can be skipped.

So, much of the focus in the game is on its gameplay, which is fine. The gameplay is fast-paced and places a heavy emphasis on aggressive play, especially with the easy availability of unblockable moves with many normal strings able to lead into break attacks, as well as a generally high rate of SP meter gain. The somewhat frantic nature of the gameplay and the way it disincentivizes defensive play is fitting for Kill la Kill, and while I find it’s janky and doesn’t come close to a more measured, balanced style of gameplay that is common in more standard fighting games, it still makes for an experience that’s enjoyable to play and watch, especially if you’re a fan of Kill la Kill. Some move interactions are inconsistent and have deceptive hitboxes, especially when anti-airs sometimes punish homing dash and sometimes clash with it, which leaves neither player at an advantage. There’s also a fairly large period of invulnerability when getting up after a knockdown, making it extremely difficult to maintain pressure, without accidentally mistiming your attack, missing, and getting punished. Homing dash is hard to react to, hard to punish consistently even when you do react, can be cancelled into a dash in any direction as well as attacks, and many characters have mixups out of it that force you to guess what they’re going to do. It’s frustrating at times, but incredibly enjoyable at others, and fits the Kill la Kill name surprisingly well.

The music in Kill la Kill – IF is composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, same as the anime, and in the story mode there are several background tracks from the anime, including well-known vocal tracks such as Before My Body is Dry and Blumenkranz. The other music all has the signature Sawano sound, fitting the Kill la Kill style perfectly. This goes for the graphics as well, perfectly replicating the look of the anime with a similar cel-shading style used in Guilty Gear Xrd, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Granblue Fantasy: Versus. The stages all have different sizes and shapes, but some don’t do a good job of making it clear where the edges are; this can be important to know when trying to go for a high-damage wall-splat combo, which are already inconsistent enough without it being hard to tell where the walls are.

Kill la Kill - IF | Satsuki fighting Nui

Nui will never know what hit her.

The netcode, based on the online matches I’ve played, does its job well enough. It’s harder to tell with this type of game than a traditional fighting game exactly how well it works, but aside from the game freezing completely after one online match I didn’t notice any major issues playing with a 3-4 bar connection restriction. When playing random people on Ranked mode (I could never find open lobbies in Player match), it unfortunately doesn’t tell you how strong your connection is. It also doesn’t allow for rematches in Ranked, always kicking you back to searching after a single game, which doesn’t give time to learn or develop your playstyle to counter your opponent.

If you’re a fan of Kill la Kill, you’ll probably be able to get some enjoyment out of Kill la Kill – IF. Just how much enjoyment that may be depends on how much you like janky, fast-paced, and aggressive combat, without much tolerance for patient or defensive playstyles. The story isn’t much to write home about, and the single-player content in general is somewhat lacking, but if you’re willing to dive into online play or find people to play with locally you’ll likely either love the wildness of the fights or find them frustrating and hate them. I personally enjoyed it, and would look forward to potentially getting chances to get more into online play as well as playing offline. It’s poorly balanced and it seems like every character has some kind of ridiculous things they’re able to do, and it may not have any viability for major competition, but I think that’s fine in this case; Kill la Kill simply wouldn’t work as a more balanced, grounded, less crazy game. I totally understand how some would bounce off of it pretty quickly; if you’re interested, I’d recommend that you give the demo a try before dropping $60, and if you enjoy the gameplay, then go ahead and pick it up.

Kill la Kill - IF | Ryuko normal combo ender

Having the best idle animation in the game didn’t save Inumuta.

Review Score

Review copy provided by publisher

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.

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