Having released a superb Dragon Ball game last year in Dragon Ball FighterZ, Arc System Works has set its sights on a more challenging follow up: Kill la Kill, Trigger’s skin-baring, clobber-clobbering, mental anime about a girl in a sentient sailor uniform that turns into an extremely risque battle suit. The game gives away a reveal from well into the series and I’ll be spoiling things from it and IF’s story, so bear that in mind as we go forward.
The story is split into two paths: protagonist Ryuko and antagonist Satsuki, except she’s never really viewed as the antagonist because the game immediately reveals that she’s been secretly planning to overthrow her evil mother Ragyo. There’s very little context as to who these characters are and what they’re after: the story starts at the Naturals Election where Ryuko defeats the Elite Four in thirty seconds during a cutscene so Satsuki can destroy her in a tutorial fight. From there Harime Nui pretends to be an ally to Ryuko for some reason, before the game jumps straight to the Sports and Culture festival, where she reveals herself to have killed Ryuko’s Father. We never see her Father in this version, he’s never named, nor is it revealed that Ryuko and Satsuki are sisters. Nudist Beach are given one off-hand mention but are never seen, COVERS don’t destroy anything and are quickly dealt with, and the whole thing ends on a poorly explained “We’re all in Satsuki’s dream” twist that I have two problems with. Firstly, why is she able to see Anime-quality stills of things that happened in the series? Senketsu mentions time being warped but that doesn’t really explain anything. Secondly, why, if the whole story is a dream, is the best Arc Sys could come up with a heavily truncated version of some parts of the anime, devoid of context, excitement or humour and just slightly altered in a way that illicits the response “…that’s a bit different to the anime”? Senketsu is sliced to pieces and repaired almost immediately, the tri-school raid is relegated to a paragraph of exposition, Harime Nui listens to Satsuki’s order despite the latter being knee-deep in a coup against Ragyo. It’s rushed, it takes place in four locations where they cram in as many story beats as they can, and the aforementioned dream reveal makes the whole thing feel even more unimaginative. Worse still, the story mode often pads things out by having you fight groups of COVERS until you’ve killed a certain amount, which is utterly tedious. Multiple timelines bleeding through into a dream, with Satsuki as the core who can see those timelines and possibly interact with them; that’s a good idea. What they came up with is completely forgettable at best and frustratingly bad at worst.
So the story mode is a bust, which is a shame because the gameplay is pretty good. It’s a one-on-one fighter but with free movement around an arena and a camera that moves around to try and give the most useful angle. Like DB FighterZ and JoJo All Star Battle, repeatedly mashing the attack button results in combos, but like the former you are encouraged to mix things up. Every character has close and long range attacks, launchers, sweeps, a block, a dash, a guard break and a homing dash, which supplement the barrage of attacks with variation as and when it’s needed. There are three special attacks each: close, long and break, in keeping with the attack methods, and despite the uniform control method the characters do play differently: Satsuki and Ryuko are nimble and focus on melee, Nonon uses ranged attacks, Gamagoori and Sanageyama are slow but strong, and the former’s masochism based attacks come into play, stuff like that. It’s the kind of thing Arc Sys have done well before in Persona 4 Arena and DB FighterZ; easy enough to get to grips with and fun, but with an extra layer of depth for those who are looking for it. The one thing I don’t get is the weird rock paper scissors mini game, similar to clashes from Injustice that the game made no effort to explain to me and at the time of writing still hasn’t. You pick one of three face buttons in the hope to gain things like increased damage and a health refill, alongside gaining a “Valor” level that brings different benefits, but I’ve no idea what to do and I’ve only ever won by accident.
The fighting in this Kill la Kill fighting game is enjoyable and well designed, but the roster isn’t huge and the selection of arenas is measly. The story in this Kill la Kill fighting game is utter shite. So that’s the breakdown, and unfortunately the lack of content makes it hard to recommend it in the way I could with DB FigherZ or JoJo Eyes of Heaven, which supplemented their weak story modes with excellent gameplay and extremely detailed fan service respectively (DB FighterZ has good fan service too, but it’s not on the same level). If you like Kill la Kill and want to be able to stage fights between some of the characters from the anime in a way that decently recreates the style of said anime, this is worth picking up in a sale, definitely not full price. If you have a passing interest or are new to Kill la Kill, there’s nothing here for you. I am disappointed, but I did have fun. Make of that what you will.
By James Lambert