Review: Skullgirls

Ever since the release of Street Fight IV, the fighting game genre has had a renewed surge of interest.  To the delight of fighting fanatics this has meant a plethora of games to choose from. Everything from the 3D-style such as Tekken and SoulCalibur to 2D hand-drawn games like BlazBlue. The newest contender to the genre fits that second group of fighting games.

Skullgirls comes from the minds of Reverge Labs, one of which being Mike Zaimont, former pro-tournament player. Mike walked me through an early showing of the game at last year’s PAX East. I remember thinking back then that Mike seemed to have studied the strengths and weaknesses of all other fighters and designed this game as his personal view of the perfect fighter. Seeing the game in its finished form I can see how true that is.

Skullgirls wants you to become skilled player, not just another button masher. It does this by including one of the easiest to follow tutorials that I have ever seen in a fighting game, and one of the only ones I’ve ever been able to fully complete. It starts you off with teaching very simple techniques such as blocking high and low attacks and slowly works its way up to combos. This is where I had always fallen short in previous fighting games, but no more. First they teach you the importance of ‘poking’ and learning when it is safe to follow through with a longer combo. The tutorial also explains how to cancel moves so that you can continue into a more damaging attack. These skills not only apply to Skullgirls but most all 2D fighting games. Techniques that I once only watched my opponents pull off on me, I now had gained a better understanding of the flow.

Once you moved on from the tutorials (or if you are just better than me and don’t need them) there are several modes to choose from; Story Mode, Arcade mode and Versus.  The story mode throws you into the world of Canopy Kingdom where each of the girls has their own motives to go after the Skull Heart, an artifact that grants the user a wish.  The downside is that if the girl’s soul is not pure they will then become the new Skullgirl and their wish corrupted.

The main story should not be the only attractor to this mode, as it offers much more in its slew of video game and manga references.  Between the character Peacock with her references to Tex Avery’s animations (the scientist who made her called it Project Avery, HA!), to the punny comments coming from Ms. Fortune, I enjoyed playing through the story mode a few times before I jumped into Versus.  The only thing that I would put as negative to this mode was the final boss being a cheap mutha!  While this is no different from many of the other games out today, I felt the difficulty jumped dramatically at the final boss.  All rules seem to be ignored here as she cannot be stunned and has many unpredictable attacks.  The best offense seemed to be a strong defense, waiting for every open opportunity.  In the end the struggle only made defeating her that much more victorious.

Moving onto versus mode you gain a lot more choices of how to fight your battles.  You may choose up to three fighters on your team, each with a customizable assist that can be anything except for a super move.  Speaking of super moves, the visual explosions that happen on screen when one is performed are the whip cream on top of this delicious ice cream desert.  Once they connect, you just watch in amazement to everything happening on screen.  One example is of Cerebella’s where her monster cap Vice-Versa throws your oppenent into the air, striking them down towards the ground, only to be impaled by a sword in their back and then bashed even deeper onto the sword with another hit.

Online matches are carried out with the GGPO netcode to ensure a lagless experience.  This is becoming less of a frustration in fighting games ever since GGPO has been supported.  Also to aid in players frustrations with fighting games, Skullgirls has an Infinite Detection system that prevents infinite combos from occuring, even if they haven’t been discovered yet.  Once one occurs the damage sparks will change colors and the pummeled oppenent can break free with one button press.  A great idea seeing how even the most current fighting games need to update their systems with patches to eliminate infinite combos.

While the roster of eight characters feels small, enough work and detail has gone into each one to diversify and keep the matches balanced.  More characters have been said to come later with DLC, including males to go along with the all female cast.  Skullgirls is a sign that fighting games haven’t gotten stale again, and only need better training modes and attention to balanced fighting systems to keep them feeling fresh.  Plus you can’t beat all of this packed into a $15 downloadable title.

Final Score: 4.5 out of 5

The Xbox 360 version of Skullgirls was provided to SitSam.com for use of this review. 

Written by Bryan

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Review: Skullgirls, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

2 Comments

  1. Amuntoth says:

    Hey, great write-up. I hadn’t planned to get the game, mainly because of the “anime girls showing their underwear” thing, but your review may have changed that. Sounds like it could be a deep fighter and not just some quick cash in.

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