Hands-On with Skullgirls at PAX East 2011

One thing that has been making a huge comeback since the release of Street Fighter IV is fighting games, specifically 2D fighters.  We’ve seen two new versus games from Capcom, the US release of games like BlazBlue from Arc System Works and soon a remake of Mortal Kombat.  It’s obvious the fighting genre has made a Rocky comeback and soon will be entering a new challenger.  Skullgirls is a 2D fighter being developed by Reverge Labs and is looking to jump into the fighting ring, but not without coming prepared.

From first glance onlookers may feel the artwork looks familiar.  That’s because the art design is that of Alex Ahad who worked on Scott Pilgrim.  Each of the eight playable girls were drawn at a resolution twice that of what you see on screen, that way the animations and character outlines look really crisp rather then jagged like other 2D pixel fighters.  On top of that a unique graphical system was used so that even though the characters are drawn in 2D they are given 3D lighting effects based on actions happening around the stage.  This all translates to lots of eye-candy and a visually stunning fighter.

Mike Zaimont  (Also known as Mike Z who know his fighting game skills) was at the booth to showcase the game and walked me through some of the game mechanics that Reverge is implementing.  He first told me how fighting games need to be more accessible to a wider audience but without the dumbing down the controls to single button specials (I’m looking at you Tatsunoko vs. Capcom).  Skullgirls looks to address this by allowing novices to make slight mistakes but still pull off special moves.  An example he showed me was if you were to perform a fireball move (down, diagonal foward, foward + punch) but missed the diagonal in the process, the move would still execute.  Those familiar with Zangief in the Street Fighter series know that pulling off some of his 360 moves can be frustrating when he jumps around instead of performing a throw.  Grapple characters in Skullgirls don’t have to worry about this because if your spinning the stick in 360’s you won’t jump.  All this really impressed me and it’s obvious that Mike Z’s fighting game knowledge was a huge asset in the design process.

Skullgirls doesn’t set out to change the fighting genre though.  All the characters can still perform special moves through fireball and uppercut motions.  They also have supers which are executed by pressing two punches or kicks instead of one.  Then there’s tag team which is medium punch + medium kick.  I almost feel as though a fan of Marvel vs. Capcom would be more at home here then someone who plays BlazBlue.

A story is included in all of this as well and it was great to hear when I asked Mike that the story was actually in place before the game.  This gives that game even more of a comic book feel.

“Set in the fictional Canopy Kingdom, Skullgirls pits players against ranks of deadly but beautiful opponents in an attempt to control the enigmatic Skull Heart, a mysterious artifact with the power to bestow wishes – but not without a substantial price. Should the soul be less than pure, both the victor’s wish and her being shall be corrupted into a living nightmare that haunts humanity. She will be known as the Skullgirl, a monstrous entity of immense power.”

Skullgirls will be out later this year for the XBLA and PSN.  I look forward to getting some more hands-on time with this one and see what the other girls will bring to the table in their quest for the Skull Heart.

Written by Bryan

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