KILL la KILL – IF Review

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Title: KILL la KILL – IF
Developer: A+ Games
Publisher: Arc System Works, PQube
Website: https://www.kill-la-kill-game.jp/en/about/
Genre: Fighting, Action, Arcade
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 07/26/2019
Price: £49.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.

KILL la KILL – IF is based on the 2014 anime KILL la KILL by Studio Trigger, which received plenty of critical praise. For those unfamiliar with the series, it blends a combination of magical girl glamour and transformation (Sailor Moon) with the over the top battle and constant stakes upping of a Shounen Anime (Naruto or Dragon Ball). But unlike many anime that are turned into fighting games, KILL la KILL is comprised of a mere 24 episodes, which are expanded upon in KILL la KILL – IF.

Right away, I want to say that I won’t be addressing any of the fan service elements of KILL la KILL. I don’t think they are a meaningful component of the game, beyond utilising the style of the anime. With that said, we can now answer the question of whether or not the game lives up to the reputation of the anime? Or is it a callback to the disappointing licensed games of old? Read on in this Rapid Review to find out.

KILL la KILL – IF is a 3D arena brawler from A+ Games, who have worked with Studio Trigger in the past on the Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time game. The game uses a very simple control scheme that will make it easy for most people to have fun with the game at least. Your offensive options in combat consist of a melee attack ranged attack and a guard break. You can also dodge and block, as well as jump and follow up with a homing dash.

You can combine these moves into some combos, or you can mash out some auto-combos using melee and ranged. You’ll get some cool visuals either way. It is not the most in-depth combat system you’ll encounter in a fighting game, but it’s a simple enough control scheme. Almost anyone will be able to take a crack at the game and feel alright about their performance. The camera follows you around the arena and does a decent job of keeping the action in frame, but sometimes your fighter can end up quite far away from the camera.

While attacking, and being attacked, you will build up a meter that you can expend to do a special version of each of your attacks. Or, you can launch into a rock-paper-scissors mechanic that will allow you to increase your damage, restore health, or restore your meter. If the initiating player wins the bout of rock-paper-scissors, a second-round will begin, up to a maximum of three rounds. Upon winning a total of three rounds, the player enters a powered-up state which will let them use their finishing move, a one-hit KO (if you connect). Spamming this will help you quickly progress through the survival mode, as your powered-up state is permanent and progresses with you to subsequent battles, with a few exceptions.

I didn’t have a chance to try out any online battles in the game, so I can’t comment on the online experience, but I can say that playing a few rounds with friends on the couch was fun enough. Though, if your friends aren’t already fans of KILL la KILL, you may get some questions about the attire of a few of the characters and end up spending more time explaining than playing.

The game utilises a health system similar to Injustice, where the winning character does not recover to full health at the end of a round. The winner maintains their health from the previous round, while the losing player will get a new health bar. If you’re familiar with the system, you know how you feel about it, and if you aren’t, it shouldn’t cause much of an issue.

They have to dress like that because life fibres are too powerful, so they need to have as little contact with the Kamui as possi… where are you going?

Each character feels unique, which is very important due to the incredibly sparse roster. There are a mere 10 characters in the game at launch (8 unique, 2 variations), with another two announced as DLC, which will be free. When you’re basing the game on a single season anime like KILL la KILL, it’s understandable to have a small roster, but I would have preferred to have seen them hold the game until both DLC characters were finished and just be included in the game. Even beyond the announced DLC characters, there are a handful of others from the anime that could have been featured.

Also, while I wanted to like all of the characters, some of them felt significantly less powerful than the others. Jakuzure was a particular disappointment in this regard. She uses the power of sound to pelt her adversaries with various lasers and energy balls, forgoing a traditional melee strike. That may be due to my personal preference though, as I tend to prefer up close and personal combat in fighting games. Most people should be able to find at least one character they enjoy, as the game covers most archetypes.

The game has a few modes to occupy your time aside from the standard versus. You’ll need to progress through the story to unlock the few characters that aren’t available at the start and to unlock some of the bonus modes, like survival. The story starts with you playing as Satsuki Kiryuin, which was a surprise to me, as she isn’t the protagonist of the anime. It picks up around episode 9 of the anime but becomes a separate story from the show quite quickly.

The story was supervised by the original writer of KILL la KILL, Kazuki Nakashima, so authenticity shouldn’t be a concern. Overall, I’d say that the game is very faithful to KILL la KILL in the right ways. The survival mode pits you against enemy after enemy, with your health from the previous round carrying over, and handicaps changing over time to increase or decrease damage for both you and the enemy. It’s nothing groundbreaking, and if you make use of your finishing move, fights are trivial for quite awhile.

One thing that A+ Games nailed was representing the art and music of KILL la KILL. The original voice cast is back, with English and Japanese language options, so no matter if you prefer subs or dubs, you’ll find what you’re looking for. The game looks fantastic in motion, helped by a solid frame rate. Story mode cutscenes don’t look quite as sharp, though they do capture the feeling of the anime in the way they are framed and styled. Oddly, they lock the ability to listen to the soundtrack (and other superfluous things like a photo-mode) behind an in-game currency you earn by playing the game. However, as far as I can tell, they don’t allow you to change the music you listen to while playing.

There are better ways to listen to the OST that don’t necessitate turning on your console and booting up this game. The photo-mode also requires you to cough up more of that in-game currency to unlock poses, expressions, and the like. I can see this appealing to a few people, as you can stick up to five characters into a shot and pose them in a few different ways to create a somewhat dynamic scene.

The photo mode isn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but it does the job.

Overall, I find KILL la KILL – IF hard to recommend at the moment. The price point is simply too high for what is offered for the average player, and only those who are superfans of the anime will get much out of it. Even for fans of fighting games, I don’t see this game having a long or robust competitive scene. It’s much easier for me to suggest that you stream the anime on Netflix than buy this game right now. Maybe then you’ll feel the drive to play the game, but overall I’d say the anime is a superior experience. KILL la KILL – IF is not poorly made by any stretch of the imagination, but it is far too sparse in its offering for me to comfortably recommend.

Rapid Reviews Rating

You can purchase KILL la KILL – IF from the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch/KILL-la-KILL-IF-1587456.html#Overview

You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.

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About Andre Cole

Andre is an English teacher in the Kansai area of Japan. You can keep up with his thoughts on games by listening to his podcast, Gaming Fyx (www.fyx.space).

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