Skullgirls review

by Ozzie Mejia, Apr 20, 2012 6:45am PDT

Skullgirls in many ways pays homage to classic 2D fighters. Its art style and overall presentation show reverence for the heyday when numerous titles competed for the fighting game crown. Likewise, its fighting mechanics often borrow from the heroes of the genre. Once the final take is complete, however, Reverge Labs firmly establishes its new fighter as more than merely an ardent admirer of the craft. Skullgirls stakes its claim as a new star in the making.

Like many arcade fighters, the story behind Skullgirls is secondary. There's a rare artifact out there called the Skull Heart and it will grant any young woman her wish. That is, unless she has an impure heart, at which point the Skull Heart slowly corrupts her until she becomes an unstoppable force of evil known as the Skull Girl. It's the typical over-the-top narrative these sorts of games are known for.

An outlandish story needs some equally outlandish characters and Skullgirls has that covered. It includes eight playable characters, with more coming via DLC. Each character and stage is drawn with a cel-shaded anime style that's crisp and pleasing to the eye. I will admit that the proportions on fighters like the schoolgirl Filla or the scantily-clad nurse Valentine are ludicrously curvaceous. However, it's completely in keeping with the style and something I feel anime fans will appreciate. Balancing things out, there are enough bruisers on the roster, like the sentient hat-wielding Cerebella, that players may quickly forget about the curves some characters may have.

The fighting mechanics stood out to me as both fresh and familiar. The basics follow a standard six button arcade fighter system (three punches, three kicks), alongside special moves inspired by classic fighters. I breezed through the basic Arcade Mode by hitting basic special moves and tossing in some ground attacks to juggle opponents. Pulling off combos using this method was surprisingly simple and served me well against both CPU and human adversaries. I enjoyed the simplicity of the combo system and the time window allowed for follow-up moves. Chaining together large combos, along with well-timed dashes, often led to faster-paced fights.

As for the structure of each individual fight, it felt like Skullgirls couldn't decide if it wanted to be a one-on-one fighter or a team-based game. So it decided to be both. I was presented with the choice of picking a single fighter or up to three different characters. The game automatically set a handicap for uneven matches, with solo fighters receiving less damage than two or three-person teams. I noticed throughout my time with the game that strategies could change significantly depending on how many characters I was using. I could either pick one character and try an all-out assault or pick a team and employ well-timed switches and customized assist moves to keep opponents on their toes. It's a kind of flexibility that I haven't seen in fighters before and I was impressed with the idea and its execution.

I also had plenty of opportunity to exercise different strategies against real opponents because Skullgirls' online ran without any issues. The Good Game, Peace Out (GGPO) netcode fully delivers on its promise of a lag-free fighting experience. Granted, there aren’t many online features to choose from--the game only offers ranked and unranked lobbies; however, given how many arcade fighters are plagued with online glitches, Skullgirls earns praise for getting the most important part right.

Reverge Labs released Skullgirls with the hope that it could succeed as a tournament fighter. From what I experienced, I can absolutely see the potential. The game only features eight characters (normal for a fighter's debut), but the fighting mechanics are well-refined. The characters are well-balanced and simple to use. Most importantly to me, the game also fully acknowledges the existence of infinite combos. This is normally an unwelcome Easter egg that I run into in other fighting games. However, not only are infinite combos integrated into this game, but players are given easy-to-execute infinite combo breakers to counter them. These aspects of the game encourage me to get better, while also assuring me that the overall experience can remain balanced. At no point did I enter an online match with the feeling that I was about to get creamed.

While the fighting genre is filled with established franchises, I'm happy to see a new challenger enter the ring. Skullgirls is a pleasant surprise and this downloadable title holds its own against many of its larger retail brethren. In the words of the game’s announcer, "It's Showtime!" for this colorful cast of female furies.

[This Skullgirls review is based on a PlayStation 3 copy of the game provided by the publisher.]





Comments

See All Comments | 1 Thread | 12 Comments