Evo 2018 presented a unique opportunity to interact with fighting game developers in person. Among them was FGC mainstay Arc System Works, who are obviously well-known for their popular titles like BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and Dragon Ball FighterZ. Their Western-themed booth had more than just casual stations, however; attendees had the chance to play their most recently-announced project, Kill la Kill: The Game.
Based on the 2013 anime, the teasers from Arc System Works certainly caused much excitement, even in the FGC at large. At first, no one was sure whether it would be a competitive fighting game or more of an action title, and it’s rather the latter. Presented in 3D, protagonist Ryuku Matoi and her rival Satsuki Kiryuin were available in the demo. The gameplay feels a bit like the Naruto 3D fighting games, but a little more dynamic and responsive.
The combat feels divided between zoning and close-quarter encounters. At a distance, it feels satisfying to spam meaty projectiles as Satsuki. She could slash up to four times with her sword in a row, with the final hit pinning Ryuku against the wall. Alternatively, she could charge it for a stronger shot. The other player can counter this by rapidly dodging, in a sliding side-step kind of way, which looked especially cool when two players circled each other. I easily executed combos by pressing the Square button multiple times, often ending on cinematic close-ups and taunts (there seemed to be variation if you held a direction with the inputs). Once I gained enough meter, I could execute either short, long, or Break supers, the later aimed at breaking guard. There were no parries or “Instant Blocks.”
“Ketsui” is a unique system in the game. When under attack, pressing L1+R1 executed a Burst of sorts, getting me out of trouble and initating a rock-paper-scissors face off. It’s very cinematic, conveying a lot of drama and passion, like in the show. Each option stood for something like “Taunting” or “Mocking” and gave an advantage if you succeeded. It initiated some dialogue at the cost of a smooth pace, but this will get touched up a bit; also, it will be very exciting to see this happen between more characters, as for now there are only two.
I liked how seamless the fights felt; even though a match was divided into rounds, it used one 180-second timer, and the music swelled in intensity as it approached zero. The graphics resemble Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2‘s 3D anime aesthetic, and every match was filled with the gratuitous shots and cinematic passion that will surely be familiar to fans of the show.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to shoot pictures or take video ourselves. However, I did take the opportunity to speak with Takeshi Yamanaka, a producer at Arc System Works’ fighting game department, to learn more about the game.
[The conversation was translated live by an Arc System Works employee. Edited for length and clarity.]
Woocash: How did the collaboration come about?
Takeshi Yamanaka, Producer in the ASW Fighting Game Development Department: I have been received requests from Studio Trigger, the makers of Kill la Kill, for a while. But at the time, we were short-handed, and we couldn’t do it. They kept offering, and initially we declined, saying we couldn’t handle it because of the workload. They were persistent and passionate about doing this, so we decided to do it in the end.
Woocash: Are you a big Kill la Kill fan?
Yamanaka: Yes, I watched the original series, I do love it. What this anime has that others don’t is a burning heat and passion that is portrayed, that’s what I love about Kill la Kill.
Woocash: What was the thought process in making it a 3D fighting game, as opposed to 2D?
Yamanaka: The first reason being, with this being a Kill la Kill title, our target audience is obviously Kill la Kill fans. So we wanted them to enjoy the game. If we had gone with a 2D, anime fighter style, we thought that the hurdle or entry level to that sort of game would be a little bit too high. We wanted to make sure our audience could enjoy it, so we wanted to make it more entry-friendly.
A second reason is that the setting of the battlefield is a very iconic, important part of it. We really wanted to recreate that atmosphere; in 2D, we didn’t feel confident that we could bring out that space, that “spatial impact” that the anime has. That arena, epic battle-feel only comes in 3D.
The third reason is that I feel like as you see all these cute girls, the 3D is definitely the way to go to see them in action, so we went with that.
Woocash: What are some ways the game conveys the feel of the anime? I noticed the music increases tempo as time goes on, there’s the zooming, etc. How does the game’s art lend to that?
Yamanaka: We obviously want to mimic that 2D style shading, bring that atmosphere of the original. In the process of trying to recreate the anime, the original character designer, Sushio, who is very, very particular about how the characters are portrayed, meets with the team every week. We show him what we developed, and he gives his feedback: he jots down many notes and has a lot of requests, and we make those changes very quickly.
Woocash: What can you tell us about the modes in the game? I’m sure there will be a big emphasis on Story Mode.
Yamanaka: It’s going to be kind of like Guilty Gear Xrd’s Story Mode, where it’s an animated tale. As far as the scenario, part of it is written by Kazuki Nakashima, who is the original author of the anime, and he’s also supervising the production of the Story Mode. And this is an original story.
Woocash: Any other modes you can talk about?
Yamanaka: Another mode that you might find interesting is the Digital Figure mode, which you might find familiar from Xrd, where you can set 3D models in a diorama.
Woocash: Can you talk about any characters?
Yamanaka: As the demo stands now, there are only two characters, but it’s not going to be just them. We will be adding more, and I can’t name any fans, but I hope that fans wait in anticipation. We want to keep the fans happy, especially the big ones.
Woocash: When can we expect a reveal or more information?
Yamanaka: We plan on releasing a demo build that will have more characters at Tokyo Game Show, which is in September. The release is planned for 2019.
Woocash: What are the plans for the Western market? Would the release be simultaneous?
Yamanaka: Yes, we’re making many preparations. Our goal is to have a simultaneous, world-wide release.
Woocash: Does ArcSys see this game entering the FGC, appearing at tournaments and such, or not so much?
Yamanaka: We definitely would like this game embraced by the fighting game community; it is a bit on the easier side, but we also would like the fans to enjoy the deep level of reading and interaction in the gameplay, so that even the hardcore fighting game community can enjoy it too. That is the challenge that we’re facing right now.
Woocash: In its current state, is the game complete mechanically?
Yamanaka: In terms of the basic level of gameplay, it’s sort of rock-paper-scissors. The basic low/high, punch/kick, that “circle of carnage” system still needs polishing, but it needs some polishing. As far as the Ketsui demonstrations system is concerned, we want to add a little more of a risk or excitement factor that gets the player going. We want to make it a bit more speedy and not break the tempo as much.
Woocash: Anything else you’d like to add?
Yamanaka: As soon as we announced Kill la Kill: The Game, we received a lot international feedback on YouTube and streams, commenting. We realized that Kill la Kill is kind of an old anime, it aired five years ago, but we still have a lot of fans out there. I think that the fans are really excited; this is what they were waiting for. In that regard, it’s put a pressure on us in a good way. We want to do our best to meet those expectations and maybe even exceed them.
Additional source: PS360HD2