Skullgirls (April 10, 2012) is the latest 2D Fighter game published by Autumn Games/Konami. It was released earlier this month as a downloadable title available for both the Playstation Network and the XBOX Live Arcade.
Fighting games have been an integral part of the gaming landscape for a long time. Throughout the lifetime of the fighting game, these games tend to fall into two categories: legendary or long forgotten. When I was presented the task of reviewing Skullgirls, I approached this game with a clean slate. I’ve always enjoyed playing fighters but have never been too good at them. I generally end on the losing side of the battle while my opponent executed every trick in the book.
Disclaimer: I ask that you keep in mind that this review is not coming from a professional by any means, just a casual gamer who loves to play the occasional fighter.
The Cast of Skullgirls
Clearly every great fighting game needs a good character list, and Skullgirls is no different. The all-female cast consists of eight extremely diverse set of characters. This cast is by no means a Dead or Alive bathing beauties fest. but it is made of up some very cool, creative, and crazy fighters.
Here are just a few of the ladies of Skullgirls:
Ms. Fortune - an immortal catgirl. Her limbs are all sewed together quite poorly and can stretch to great distances. Her head is completely detachable and acts a weapon, while it rolls around and can attach to an opponent and gnaw away at them as an ability. Another ability allows her body to explode in all directions.
Peacock - Peacock seems to have been originated from a twisted Disney cartoon. Many of her abilities involved a cartoon theme. Objects such as toy guns, banjos, cannons, and even a jumbo bomb are among her arsenal.
Double - Quite possibly the most bizarre but coolest of the characters. She is a shapeshifter that disguises herself as a nun. She is normally a disgusting looking blob, but her abilities include a skill by each of the other fighters in the game and transforming into that character.
The Meat and Potatoes
All great fighting games from the beginning of time have had a great battle system. The Skullgirls battle system is done extremely well. Add on to the fact that this is an arcade release, and it makes it even more impressive. The attacks follow the usual six button system (three punches, three kicks - light, medium and heavy). Blocks are not performed with a button, but rather with the stick away from the opponent. There are two blocks, standing and squatting. Standing block covers attacks from the air and standing attacks, and squatting blocks cover standing and low attacks. Special attacks generally consist of a quarter rotation of the stick and a button or two. There are a few that are more difficult, but they tend to fall under the same formula.
Aside from the usual health bar, there is the Dramatic Tension Meter. Any attack, whether or not it was blocked, increases the meter. The character that was hit also gains meter, but at a much smaller amount. Depending on the severity of the attack the meter will increase proportionately. When the meter is full, a special move can be performed. The Dramatic Tension Meter can be loaded up to five times. Most moves only require one full bar, while some use up two or more, depending on the severity of the attack.
Other than the story mode, players have the option of choosing to fight with one, two, or three fighters. So it is possible that fights may be one versus three. While this sounds extremely unfair, they came up with a way to balance this. The player with one fighter has a proportionately higher health bar and strength than the team with three. A team with two characters would equally have less strength and health than the single fighter, but more than the team with three.
Teams with two or more also get to use tag team abilities. Conversely, an opponent can execute an outtake which forces the opponent player to substitute one of their other characters. This is a very valuable skill to when a player has a character healing on the sidelines.
My very first thought when playing Skullgirls was how great the graphics look. The fighters look fantastic and the animations are seamless. There was only one graphics issue I encountered- there were a few times when the action on the screen would get heavy and the character would be replaced with a fluorescent block. It was never a factor in winning or losing a fight, just a bit of an annoyance.
When first trying to play Skullgirls, I used the XBOX Controller. While I was able to perform the moves in the game, some of them were a little challenging and clunky. With respect to Skullgirls, this is my opinion for any fighting game using the XBOX Controller. I highly recommend going out and getting a gamepad with six buttons on the face. Once I started to use a gamepad, it made it MUCH easier.
Skullgirls is also quite a difficult game. I started playing in Medium mode which tends to almost always be my default in starting a game. As I was playing in medium mode, I was getting absolutely obliterated. I thought maybe it was a poor character choice, but no matter who I chose, I was on the losing end far too many times. Then I switched to easy mode. At first I was afraid it would be far too easy as most easy modes tend to be. Not Skullgirls. I was definitely doing better, but still having some difficulty.
While difficult, Skullgirls definitely makes an effort to help. When starting, I highly recommend the tutorials. Some of the missions are actually challenging and teach you some of the important concepts in playing, such as proper blocking. The more I played, the easier it became for these concepts to start taking hold. If you are a player that tends to button mash when playing fighting games, you will probably have some difficulty. Blocking and timing are extremely important in Skullgirls. Dare I say it, but they may be even more important than learning the moves.
The characters of Skullgirls are not only cool and unique, but they have their own style in which to use them. Some are better in a long distance fight, while others are better for getting in the other fighter’s face and hacking away. Strategy plays a large factor not only in what each fighter does, but also in the best way to exploit your enemy.
I did not put an emphasis on the story mode, and there is a bit of a reason for that. There is not a lot of differences from the story mode than the arcade mode. In between fights, there are small little scenes to create a story of the character you have chosen. I do not think that the story mode is bad. I just feel like it does not add as much to the game as I would have liked. Without the cut scenes, it is just another version of the arcade mode.
Skullgirls is a great fighting game. The characters are awesome and the fighting mechanics are great. It executes in ways that some fighting games that are full releases The game is lacking a bit at times, but do not let that sway you. It is still a fantastic game. If you have been waiting for a good fighting game to purchase, do not hesitate to pick this game up.