Kill la Kill is a strange series. In one part, it feels like a massive, earnest tribute to the hypersexual and hot-blooded work of Go Nagai. In another, it feels like the creators of Gurren Lagann furiously masturbating. But if you toss it in a genre filter, you end up with an action show, and a high-octane one at that. So, what could be more appropriate than a fighting game, powered by what looks like the same tools powering Dragon Ball FighterZ and Guilty Gear Xrd? Arc Systems Works is only the publisher here, with Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time developer A+ Games at the development helm. What we have here is something that looks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, but is actually Power Stone. And while Kill la Kill the Game: IF severely lacks any bells or whistles, as a balls to the wall arena fighter there’s a satisfying core powering a “cute” non-canon episode.
While the story is a “what if” sort of deal, much of Kill the Kill: the Game IF’s story almost plays out like a cliff notes version of the source material. A lot of the same major beats happen, but eventually you get to the weird stuff right before it’s over. The coolest thing about it is the story starts from the perspective of antagonist-turned deuteragonist Satsuki Kiryuin, rather than Ryuko Matoi. The whole experience is super brief and very video game-y, but there are little bits of extra insight into who Kiryuin is as a person, fueled by the alternative circumstances compared to the show. Overall the story is neat, but Kill la Kill fans hoping for something substantial will likely come away disappointed. Non-fans who are still into anime might be somewhat confused, but there’s enough goofy stuff happening that it could serve as a decent gateway to the series.
Kill la Kill: the Game: IF’s true appeal is, of course, being able to smash the series’ cast against each other like so many action figures. This romp is an arena fighter, meaning the combatants are locked into an enclosed space and allowed full 3D movement, with just enough room to dash in and out of the action. Some games, like Power Stone, toss in gimmicks like power-ups and tools to break up the gameplay, but Kill la Kill the Game: IF has that Arc System Works-adjacent flavor to it, meaning it feels more competition-oriented than similar titles. That said, it isn’t as hardcore as something like Gundam Versus, as it revolves around simple commands and more of a rock/paper/scissors flow to make sure anyone vaguely interested can pick up and play.
Down to Brass Tacks
That rock/paper/scissors isn’t entirely accurate, at least to the extent of something like My Hero One’s Justice. Combat has three major components: normal attacks, ranged attacks, and a sort of guard-breaker. You can do each of those from the ground and air, and some moves have properties that either let you cancel into another action, or lead to greater combo opportunities. That all sounds familiar of course, but Kill la Kill: The Game IF often becomes a game of reacting to choices with somewhat defined responses, then capitalizing once you’ve succeeded with normal fighting game stuff. Thus, the rock/paper/scissors comparison. Guard break beats, uh guard, normal attacks beat guard break, and range usually beats out normals. Each move also has a super variant, and it’s neat to have supers also come into play in these exchanges.
Funnily enough, Kill la Kill: the Game IF also has a more literal rock/paper/scissors mechanic. If you guess right, you get some sort of bonus, and if you do well enough, you get to activate the obligatory awesome anime video game adaptation special move™. This mechanic is less exciting, as it feels sort of removed from the rest of the game loop, and is also a little too bloated for such a fast-paced fighter. It’s simply more efficient to go for the regular supers.
Despite how much the creators of Kill la Kill: the Game IF seemed to “get” the source material, the whole package does feel a bit lacking. Compared to other licensed fighters under the Arc System Works label such as Dragon Ball FighterZ, Persona 4 Arena, or even the upcoming Granblue Fantasy: Versus, this one feels a bit slim. The story mode is super brief and jittery, there’s a small collection of unlockables with poseable character models presented as the marquee feature, the modes of play available are the bare minimum, and things like the stage environments and soundtrack don’t have the same oomph as the combat and character animation.
Much like the anime that came before it, Kill la Kill: the Game is weird, wild, and loud, but also a bit shallow. But unlike the anime, the Game doesn’t have the same feeling of scale to it, the same feeling of unrestrained creators working with a healthy budget and top-tier industry names. It has a smaller vibe, from a minimal feature set and fluff masquerading as unlockables, to a far too brief story mode and a lack of bells and whistles in the actual play. However, the core is rock solid, and will certainly provide people who live in the anime fighter space a good several hours of fighter hype. Though, in a space as crowded as anime-licensed arena fighters, there are several options that will reward your attention more.
Kill la Kill: the Game IF review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a Standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.