I will be the first to admit that I am not caught up with manga and anime trends: my era covered everything from MAZINGER Z to ATHENA NO SEINTO. However, KILL LA KILL seems to have penetrated my bubble and this game appears, at first glance, to be a great introduction into the franchise. But is the fan service too much, the story too cramped? Or does the combat system triumph over everything else?
Well, it really is a game of two halves, this. On the one hand, you have the story, which not only serves as the setting for the game, but also as a service to fans of the series. Sadly, to my taste, the story moves way too fast, introducing too much, too quickly, and the nuances of the motivations behind the characters’ actions get lost. Not only that, but as soon as you start getting into the groove of battle, you are stopped to have yet another (artfully animated, beautifully acted) anime cut scene. These are skippable, but on a game that relies so heavily on its story (which I won’t spoil for obvious reasons), it would be a disservice to do so. If you’re not a fan of the series, you might be lost regardless, and if you are a fan of the series, you’ll probably enjoy it tremendously.
The setting of the school and the importance of clothing and suits is a well-threaded trope that gets interesting twists on a character-arc level, but I don’t think a narrative-driven backbone meshes well with Action RPG combat. What could have been different, then? Well, I wish they’d stripped down the lore to its bare minimum and have the fantastic combat system be the start of the game.
And what a combat system it is: I’ve played my fair share of action RPGs, particularly on handhelds, and I think I’ve never seen a camera that so fluidly follows the action as this one. It really does feel like you’re in the anime controlling the characters (a sensation further helped by the gorgeous art style) and it allows the otherwise somewhat repetitive combat to flourish.
You’ve got tons of moves, yes, but at the end you find a combination that works for the two basic types of enemies (ranged and close-quarter combat) and button mash your way to victory. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, though, as I don’t need every game to be neck-deep in weapons crafting and party assembly. This is a much more straight-forward affair that provides instant gratification, much in the vein of the Senran Kagura series (though with a bit more clothing), where combos are easy to achieve and effective in battle. It works well, and provides endless fun in action, only to be stopped every now and then for a cut scene or two (or three).
Presentation is incredible, with cell-shaded, anime-style graphics that are not only beautiful, but perform flawlessly even in handheld mode, regardless of what goes on on the screen. Music and acting are superb, too, and the package ends up being one of the best looking and best sounding games in its genre (for the Switch or otherwise).
In the end, this game is fantastic, but not for everyone. Fans of the series will get much more out of KILL LA KILL: IF than casual players looking for a good action game to sink their teeth into. That said, if you can look past the artfully crafted, but ultimately long anime cutscenes, you’ll find an easy-to-grasp combat system that is fast and fluid, looks beautiful and runs as smooth as butter. I had a blast playing this game, and I wish I was a fan of the anime to better enjoy the lore that’s tightly packed into it. Even without that, though, the combat system is so solid, nobody should have any issues getting a kick out of kicking their enemies’ faces in.
KILL LA KILL: IF The Game
- Fantastic camera, follows action perfectly
- Combat is smooth and special moves look awesome
- Plenty of content for fans of the series
- Tons of extra goodies (digital galleries, game modes, etc)
- Presentation is top notch, graphics are amazing
- Runs flawlessly, even in handheld mode
- Way too much lore and dialog
- Unfamiliar setting for non-fans
- Combat can get repetitive