I love a good fighting game, and I have been a fan of the genre since I was a little kid. With the resurgence of fighting games thanks to the highly successful Street Fighter IV, the tournament scene, and even the online fighting game community, has exploded. An all new fighting game IP has released that has tournament play in mind.
Skullgirls is a 2D fighting game that can be played as a single character fight, a multi character fight or a combination of both. When selecting your characters, you are allowed to choose to play with one, two, or three on your team. Choosing only one will have that character be very strong, both in health and strength. Choosing a two character team will offer up two slightly high power characters, and choosing a three character team will give you three standard power characters. It’s a fine balance, but Skullgirls pulls it off very well.
The game features six attack buttons with varying attack power. There are light, medium, and heavy attacks both for punches and kicks. In combination with certain movement inputs, you can pull off special attacks with varying strength and modifiers depending on which button is pressed. In this sense, the game feels like Street Fighter, but the game has characteristics of others.
The game also uses super attacks, known as Blockbusters. These deal massive damage and multiple hits, and are performed by combination of a stick movement and two punch buttons or two kick button depending on what the attack requires. These will deplete your super meter, which can be filled up to five times. Some attacks only use one bar, while other bigger attacks my use up to three. This gives the feel of a Vs. series game like Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
Skullgirls also feels like the genre entries from Arc System Works; games like Guilty Gear and BlazBlue. This is particularly noticeable in the combo system. Certain attacks will combo into one other, and many characters don’t just throw out a single heavy punch when you hit the heavy punch button. Instead, an attack that can hit a number of times will be unleashed. These attacks, when timed right, will combo into other normal attacks, leading into a simple to execute combo.
There are dashes, air dashes and character-specific launchers. This last group sends the opponent into the air to begin an air combo. Finally, the game allows for assists if the player chooses to have a multi character team. These assists can be executed with a single button press, and you can switch out your characters by pressing either hard punch and hard kick or medium punch and medium kick. All of these mechanics flow very well, and after some practice, you’ll be creating your very own combos in no time.
Now that I have the mechanics out of the way, let me talk a little about the story. Granted, the narrative is not what makes a fighting game, but since the game offers up a story mode, I should at least do a small rundown. There is an ancient item called the Skull Heart that is said to grant the wish of any woman that obtains it, but if that woman’s heart is impure, she will become corrupted and eventually become the Skullgirl. The Skullgirl is a dangerous abomination that can destroy the world. Here’s where our characters come in. Each of them are trying to find the Skull Heart while trying to prevent the others from laying hands on it.
I have to say, the game is beautiful. It features an anime art style with amazingly detailed hand-drawn characters and backgrounds. All the moves, hectic assists and combos that appear on the screen flow very well. It often looks like you’re watching an anime show rather than playing a game. The overall presentation of the game is very well done. It gives off an old 1930’s film vibe with a cheesy announcer that spouts off funny lines here and there while using internet memes and video game lines that still crack me up at times.
The game features online play. It uses the GGPO online structure that works really well. You can even adjust your lag/frame rate smoothness before a match. That way, you can adjust the lag to your liking. There were a few matches here and there that would slow down, but for the most part, it was smooth. I wish the game had a lobby system with a spectator mode. There is only a quick match and a private match option. You will only be able to play against one person at a time rather than have two or three of your buddies in a room while watching each other fight.
There’s a lot of attention to detail in Skullgirls. The fact that I can play with only one character and fight against a team of three characters, all while having a fair and balanced fight is an amazing feat. The game will even allow you to create your own assist attacks during character select. I’ve never seen a fighting game do that before. The game is just so smart. It can even tell when a player is doing an infinite combo and automatically stops the combo after a while. The tutorial in Skullgirls is something that every fighting game should take a look at. It is very well done, thought out, and explains everything you need to know, not just about Skullgirls, but about fighting games in general.
Now, the game does a lot of stuff right, but does make some missteps. First off, there is no move list in the game. Yes, you can go to the Skullgirls website and download a full move list in a PDF, but when you want to practice combos, you really want to have that list on the screen with you. The character roster is not as big as one might hope for. There are eight characters in all, and every character plays completely different from one another. You’ll still get fatigued playing the same characters and teams over and over again, though. Even in the single player ladder mode, you will fight the same characters multiple times before finishing.
Skullgirls is a very unique experience. It does things that I have never seen before, creates some very beautiful looking visuals and fuses some very familiar game play mechanics to make a very solid fighting game. The tutorial does some amazing work getting you into the fight, and the game play both in advanced play as well as casual play is a blast. There are some downfalls with the small character roster and the minimal online experience, but everything it sets out to do is done well. This game was made with tournament play in mind. It may be difficult for new fighting game players to get into, but once you do, it is a very rewarding experience. You get a really impressive fighting game all for 15 bucks. If you’re a fighting game fan, you really should pick this game up.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.
We recently removed mention of “no pause” button in the game after discovering in fact you simply had to hold the button down. This is mentioned nowhere within the game, only on a website.