When I found out that Arc Systems was going to be publishing a Kill la Kill game, I was ecstatic. Mixing together two of my favorite companies, Arc Systems and Trigger should have been a match made in otaku heaven. The keywords there are “should have been”, because despite having both studios involved in the project, Kill la Kill IF feels like a fan game – an unfinished, rushed fan game. While there are positives to Kill la Kill IF, it is bogged down so heavily with missteps and problems that trying to find them is akin to finding a needle in a haystack, or in this case, a piece of hay in a needlestack. Read my full review to find out why.
Kill la Kill IF
Publisher: Arc System Works
Developer: Arc System Works, APLUS Games
Platforms: Windows PC, PS4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 26th, 2019
It should be noted that I went into Kill la Kill IF as a fan of the anime moreso than a fan of fighting games, even though I am a fan of both. I consider Kill la Kill to be my biggest guilty pleasure anime and I genuinely loved it from start to finish.
Despite all its shortcomings, Kill la Kill is a funny satire on needless fanservice and what it lacked in depth, it made up for in it’s heavily stylized presentation. In some ways, I think that the Kill la Kill game tried to copy that formula, because it certainly lacks any form of depth, but does look great. It just does not look great enough to cover up all of its flaws.
I had figured going into Kill la Kill IF that it was a game made for Kill la Kill fans first and fighting game fans second. Much like the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm games, it was going to be more about style over substance, and I was okay with that.
Truth be told, I prefer that most of the time, sometimes I just want to be able to sit down and shut off my brain and mash buttons until things die. I do not have the time or brain power to master complex mechanics of another fighting game when there are already so many that I play.
Despite that, I was hoping that even if the game was not complex, that it would at least have something to offer me as far as substance was concerned. But it didn’t, I put about 10 hours into Kill la Kill IF, and what I was doing at the beginning of those 10 hours was no different than what I was doing at the end of those 10 hours.
The amount of disappointment that I felt after playing this game is hard to convey in a number score, even in a proper review. I feel like I need to talk to a counselor to get over the secondhand grief that I feel for anyone who had paid for this game.
At no point did I ever put down the controller feeling satisfied with my experience, nor did I ever feel like any victory was well deserved or awesome. Maybe it was just because my expectations were too high that I was bound to be disappointed, but at the same time, I do not think that there are many Kill la Kill fans who are going to enjoy this game any more than I did.
I am the kind of person that makes sure to go out of my way to avoid absolutely every piece of information about a game that I am interested in prior to its release. So much so that I assumed that Kill la Kill IF was going to be a traditional 2D fighter rather than a 3D arena fighter up until I started up the story mode.
I was a bit surprised when I first got into the game, but I was not turned off by this. In fact, I am a big fan of arena fighting games, so I was open to giving it a fair chance to win me over. It would make sense that Arc System Works would not want to publish yet another 2D anime fighter on the market when they are already support so many.
The issue with Kill la Kill IF is not the fact that it is an arena fighter, it is the fact that it is a barebones arena fighter that devolves into only two buttons for proper attacks and automatic combos without any sort of effort. There is a melee attack, a ranged attack, and a guard break button.
There are also special moves that can be used by holding a shoulder button and pressing one of those three buttons. There are also rage attacks by filling up a super gauge, but they are almost completely unnecessary as battles will end faster by using the same combos into super moves.
There is nothing else to it, the game feels like it actually rewards mashing buttons rather than having any sort of proper strategy. When I got to one of the bosses in Satsuki’s story mode, I was practically throwing my controller with how frustrating the gameplay was.
A boss that spams the same three moves over and over again is not a fun fight, nor is it suddenly a fun challenge when it has 100x more HP than I do and does 4x the damage. This is the textbook definition of artificial difficulty.
There are also levels where the game suddenly becomes a brawler, a la Dynasty Warriors, where the player has to take down dozens of the same enemies with small health pools.
Because the combo system is automatic, it is little more than mashing buttons for five minutes until the fight is over. There is almost no danger to the stages and they honestly feel like blatant attempts to pad out the game – which still does not work when it can be finished in only a few hours.
In fact, the only real villain of Kill la Kill IF is the camera, because someone thought it would be a great idea to have the camera swap around the perspectives to create a more cinematic experience. I don’t know about you, but the one thing I do not want to see is the camera shift being the back of my opponent so that their big head covers up where I am and I get confused or lost.
One of the easiest things to do that would improve the gameplay of Kill la Kill IF, even if it was just marginally, would be to fix the camera so that it never shifts away from the player’s back if they are just running around.
I do not mind the camera moving around during a combo to show off the animations, but when I am moving around the arena that last thing I want is to become disoriented and lost when I am trying to dodge an AI spamming projectiles at my back while I fight dozens of mook enemies.
The biggest selling point of Kill la Kill IF was the story, where in the game the player is able to experience the story from Satsuki’s point of view. This was at least the thing that made me happy when starting the game up since she was my favorite character in the anime.
But much like the rest of the game, this does not live up to its potential either. The story plays out more or less the same as the anime but with small changes near the end. It does not truly branch of or become a “what if”, and most importantly it doesn’t change the ending it any significant way.
Creating a story around the idea of “What if this character showed up instead of their subordinate?” does not really change anything when both of their end goals were more or less the same anyway. The story plays out almost identically to the anime, even if the details are different.
To make matters worse, the story is inconsistent with its gameplay, is not that enjoyable, and is incredibly short. All the campaigns can be finished in a few hours. It was so short that near the end of the campaign the developers put in pointless and obnoxious padding that was very obvious.
Some levels have you fight one on one with an opponent, others you have to take on two at a time, and some even have you take on dozens of enemies at once. None of these modes are fun and just end up feeling like there was no focus on trying to perfect any of these modes.
When the player finishes Satsuki’s campaign they will unlock a new campaign where they can play through the same story, but this time it’s from Ryuko’s perspective. Still, even with this in mind, there is nothing exciting or special about the story mode.
It should not be a surprise that the presentation of Kill la Kill IF is the most enjoyable aspect of the game. Arc System are the masters of bringing anime to life while somehow managing to use cell shading to nearly perfectly mimicking 2D animation and developer A+ Games did a great job at continuing this trend.
Kill la Kill IF is no different, all the character models look great both in and out of cutscenes and the environments are crisp and well detailed even though they are mostly empty and bland. Despite the game’s overall awesome look, it is just a shame that it is in service of something that is so lackluster.
One feature that surprised me was that Kill la Kill IF ships with both a Japanese and English dub, meaning the player can choose whichever they enjoy the most. The sound design is overall decent as well, the music still has a nice flow to it, the voice acting is great, sound effects are still over the top and top notch.
Gamagori’s voice acting is still one of my favorite things ever. But what quickly got on my nerves was the lack of unique voice lines. After only a few minutes, I was hearing the same lines over and over again. This comes back to the problem with the AI relying on spamming, due to its surface deep command list.
The arenas are not particularly interesting and there are only 6 total, but most of them look the same regardless. The animations are nice, but you will be seeing the same few animations repeated anyway so there is nothing new or exciting after a few hours.
Saying that the game “looks nice” is not enough of a selling point when there are so many other anime fighters that are already on the market. The only reason to choose Kill la Kill IF is if you are a fan of the IP, but even as a fan myself, this is not a game I would pick up if I had not received a review code.
The most offensive thing about the lack of content in Kill la Kill IF is that there is such a massive roster of potential characters to play as in the game, but there are only 8 playable characters (10 if you include super forms). Where are all the awesome club presidents from the show?
Where is Kaneo Takarada with his giant crab and gold grill, where is Omiko Hakodate with her cute shark girl teeth? Where are Ryosuke Todoroki, Masuyo Watari, Maimu Okurahama, Maiko Ogure, Aizenbo Fuguhara, Jack Naito, and Mako’s family?
I mean for goodness sake, Aikuro Mikisugi and Tsumugu Kinagase are DLC characters and not part of the story. There is a massive pool of awesome characters that could have been put into the game, but it feels like they put in the bare minimum amount of content with this release.
Honestly, if Kill la Kill IF were released as a $20 digital game, I would not be nearly as upset about it as I am now. It has been quite some time since I last played a game that had such little bang for its buck. The story can be completed in 3 to 5 hours maximum and beyond that there is nothing to do.
There are not many worthwhile unlockables, in fact there are so few unlockables that you have to actually unlock versus and online mode by playing the story. It is that kind of padding that makes Kill la Kill IF underwhelming, so much so that I doubt I will ever have the will to play it again.
That does not mean that I would not be interested in a revision down the line, as Arc System is known to frequently put out. But as it stands now, Kill la Kill IF is no where near worth buying for anything nearing full price.
Kill la Kill IF was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a review copy provided by Arc System Works. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.