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I’m as surprised as you are. Bravo, Kill la Kill!
Kill la Kill is one of my favourite anime series of recent years. It’s creative, weird, super high energy and wonderfully animated. It also manages to indulge in, while simultaneously parodying, many classic anime tropes.
If you’ve never seen it, the basic story set-up sees teen protagonist Ryuko Matoi searching for answers about the death of her father. She transfers to Honnoji Academy in the dystopian Honno City, which is run with absolute authority by the student council and its ruthless president Satsuki Kiryuin. Ryuko finds herself facing off against a bizarre parade of characters, all of whom have special uniforms that boost their abilities to an insane degree… and also transform. Ryuko, meanwhile, has an outfit that’s even more powerful.
To say more would spoil the insanity, but what I will say is that having now played Kill la Kill the Game: IF, the kinetic energy of the show is very much intact, but just as importantly, it’s great to see the approach publisher Arc System Works and developer APLUS are taking in order to bring the series’ utterly over-the-top characters to life.
The Tokyo Game Show 2018 build, for instance, introduces Uzu Sanageyama and Ira Gamagoori – two of the student council’s Elite Four. Gamagoori is particularly novel. He leads the disciplinary committee and in the series has a power called Shackle Regalia where he’s wrapped up like a mummy and simply absorbs any attacks against him, storing the energy until he explodes. And if his opponent refuses to hit him, he starts whipping himself to build the charge up.
This ability is brought across wholesale to Kill la Kill the Game: IF. To deal damage you need to flagellate yourself, with a percentage on screen showing how much power you’ve stored. It’s fantastic from a mechanical perspective, because Gamagoori is big and relatively slow, yet you have to find these moments to basically stand still and whip yourself. Your opponent also knows that this is what you need to do, and knows exactly how to counter it. Regular attacks do no damage, and in fact, simply help Gamagoori build up power, but using the counter button – which breaks through a guarding opponent – will open him up.
It makes for a delicate dance as the Gamagoori player tries to find moments to charge, and it’s particularly interesting seeing him go up against the very fast and mobile female leads Ryuko and Satsuki. During my session I got the chance to see game director Hideaki Mizota use him, and this clearly illustrated just effective the character’s unusual strategy can be. You can watch Mizota-san and an Arc System Works staff member duke it out below.
Coming back to Ryuko and Satsuki, these more accessible characters were a blast to play with, as you can very quickly get a sense for the game’s rhythm; unleashing flurries of close and long range attacks, using the dash to try and evade, looking for opportunities to counter, and – of course – trying to open your opponent up to the ridiculously over-the-top special moves. Seeing Ryuko’s scissor blade extend out before she unleashes hell is awesomely iconic.
Speaking of scissors, by landing a hit with L1 and R1 pressed, players can trigger a mini-showdown within each fight. The perspective shifts to side-on and each player essentially chooses rock, paper or scissors. The wrinkle, however, is that each choice represents a different buff to your character if you win. You can boost your damage, for instance, or increase the rate at which your super bar charges. This makes things pretty interesting, as it adds an additional mind game on top of the tactics of combat. And if you can win three of these in a row, you’ll bump your opponent down to effectively zero life, and need to land just one more hit to win the round. You can see what that looks like in the fight below.
In terms of broader details, we already know that the game is set early on in the story the anime tells, but actually branches off into its own “what if” scenario – which is told from the perspective of Kiryuin Satsuki – Ryuko Matoi’s main adversary in the series. It’s a neat twist, and is being written by Kill la Kill scriptwriter Kazuki Nakashima, which certainly bodes well.
From what I was told, the story will be presented in-engine, with the 3D character models exchanging dialogue, so its presentation may be relatively simple. That said, the team members I spoke to are clearly excited about the potential of the game’s story mode to further illuminate the relationships between characters, so I can see it – particularly as it focuses on Satsuki – being a lot more compelling than some offerings from the genre.
We’ve seen four characters so far, and while the team wouldn’t be drawn on how big the roster will be, I can’t wait to see who else they’re bringing to life. The next logical reveals would be the other two members of The Elite Four – Nonon Jakuzure (the Non-Athletic Committee Chair) and Hoka Inumuta (the Information and Strategy Committee Chair), both of whom have absurd powers – the former, who dresses like a band leader, has powers like Symphony Regalia Grave, where she controls a flying mech with massive embedded speakers that blast enemies with bass, while the latter is essentially a hacker that can engage optical camouflage and is constantly gathering data on his opponents.
The booklet we were given at the show indicated as much, with silhouettes for the two characters next to text that basically said “additional characters will be announced.” Mizota-san actually pointed to these two when I asked about the difficulty in making Gamagoori’s unique approach to combat work from a gameplay perspective, saying that these two characters were every bit as difficult to implement.
It’s an exciting time to be a Kill la Kill fan, and if you missed it, check out the initial details revealed about the game, as well as the key points from our interview with animation studio Trigger’s Hiromi Wakabayashi and developer APLUS’ Hideaki Mizota.
Cam Shea is Editor in Chief for Tech’s Australian content team and tries to spend as much time as possible in Japan. He’s on Twitter.