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Skullgirls Review

April 19, 2012

Fighting games have really made a comeback in the last few years — But the majority of the games have a hard time drawing in new players. So the don’t sell. Normally, if a fighting is announced nowadays, it’ll be some kind of rehashing of an old franchise or continuation of a series. Skullgirls is definitely the first new game in this generation of console fighting games; and the term “Diamond in the ruff” suits it perfectly.

Skullgirls is a 2D fighting game developed by Reverge Labs for the PSN and Xbox Live. There are already a few fighting games from these downloadable arcades, but none like Skullgirls. It’s easy to see this game has a lot of elements from past games, while creating it owns that will definitely change this genres future. Fighting in Skullgirls has simplicity with complexity all together. The premise is the same as in any fighting game, beat your opponents character down and don’t die. But Skullgirls lets you do much when fighting its overwhelming. So you have the basics — light, medium, & heavy attacks for punches and kicks. You’re able to cancel normal attacks to make combos and loops for maximum damage. Little touches to the game like giving all the normal attacks for each character it’s own name and calling the supers “Blockbusters” really give Skullgirls uniqueness. Like I said, you can notice a lot of similarities and mechanics from other games. Things like push-blocking (pressing two attack buttons to “force” the attacker off you), air dashes, teching… if it was stable of a genre, it’s in here. Another is the Ratio/Variable Tag system. You can select a single character to fight with or play with two or three. Take a team of 2 vs a team of 1 or 3 — the Team of 2 gets a bonus 115% heath, 130% damage. A solo team vs a team of 2 or 3 will get a bonus 175% health and 200% damage. If the teams are even, health and damage will be at the base of 100% but with a 3 vs 3 match, the game will go to the ratio 2 setting to prevent matches from lasting too long.  Of course, playing a solo fighter makes you a powerhouse, but you’d have to go without the great use of assists or multiple Blockbuster combos. Assists or (Ensembles as their called here) are crucial when it comes to teams since you can pick two preset moves or create a custom one. You create any custom Ensemble by imputing a move for that character, as long as it a ground move and one single button press. Unblockable Protection, The Infinite Protection system, there is a ton of stuff to talk about more with system wise but I need move on to how I learned to play Skullgirls, the Tutorial.

Above is the video walkthrough of the Tutorial mode from commentator Maximilian. It’s a fairly lengthy video but it covers everything in there so give it a watch.

This tutorial mode is the best ever made for beginnings. Period. To whatever poor, misguided, unloved, bastard child out there that has never learned to play a fighting games and wants to, download Skullgirls now. Here is why. This tutorial teaches you how it play fighting games (Skullgirls specifically), apply techniques to fighting games, and come up with your own stuff… slightly. Now I said it’s the best, which it is… but the bar’s not set to high. You get the “advanced” basics here.  To the veterans, it’ll feel like a portion of this mode is missing. Don’t it twisted though. Play through the Tutorial a few times and you’ll learn good amount of moves for a couple of characters — Anything else and your on your own. Which isn’t all bad. Part of the joy of playing a fighting games is coming up with stuff on the fly. People are still finding new techniques for games like SSFIV AE, Marvel VS Capcom 2 everyday. So there’s no reason to not wait it out and give Skullgirls time to grow.

Of course, when not grinding it out in training mode, Skullgirls has a Story, Arcade and Versus mode. The Story here for each character is short but sweet. With each fighter you get a about 5 to 7 fights, mix with few cutscenes and one very annoying final boss. Short but you get the rundown of a character and how they fit the story. It’s nice change compared to most of the fighting games I’ve played where only get a simple beginning and a end. Arcade mode has that feel to it too. About 8 randomize fights with CPU opponents and then against the final boss. A another great way to hone your skills since the CPU is really on some next level difficulty but the real bulk of the game comes from the Versus mode.

Versus in separated by Local and Online. Local is the basic one on one fight with characters of you choose. You can change out characters right after fight and even switch buttons on the fly mid match. Online is that and more. There’s the standard online ranked and unranked matches. Unlike other games, Skullgirls lets you pick your region server and the which region to search by. To add to that, with the GGPO (Good Game, Peace Out) netcode, you can set your ping, see the level of your opponent and set the delay for ping. I’ve played other games with GGPO and none of them have ever run as smooth. That 1st week with the game I can definitely say I had zero lag matches, almost like a real arcade experience. Setting or joining a room is easy and rarely takes more then a minute to connect to opponent. In fact the only reason I’m not playing now is because of a busted arcade stick (It broke because it was being old and stupid, not like I threw it or anything. >__<).

I adore the look of this game. Alex Ahad and Mike Zaimont took their separate ideas for a game and made something special. This art style here blended so well with 50’s theme menu and jazz music playings in the background. With a soundtrack created by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night composer Michiru Yamane, all the music is catchy and sets a tone, especially the stages. Normally what I see in 2D fighters are flat, boring stages but in Skullgirls the backgrounds move and have life, and the music accents everything. I do also love design of all the character. Reverge Labs and it’s developers were apparently under fire for making an “overly sexist” video game. Blogs calling the game gimmicky, shallow, and childish because of it’s inclusion of “panty flashes and large breasts”. I promise I won’t rant now… I’ll save all that for the podcast review. I do want to say that I that I think it silly as shit to dismiss Skullgirls as just some teenagers wet dream. Every single animation of these characters was hand drawn by a team of artist, both men and women. Nothing in this particular game is overtly sexual and demeaning to women. There are a other forms of media out there are really demeaning but that’s neither here nor there. Skullgirls is a beautifully crafted game from the floor up and because of it’s deep game system that offers a lot more the other fighting games, it definitely deserves a shot with the competitive scene.

Before I give my final grade on Skullgirls, I do want to discuss my dislikes with the game. I do like the small, 8 character roster. Because the characters are so individually interesting, I want to learn them all and don’t mind fighting against the same characters over and over. But I do want more. A lot more. Games in the past year alone have had huge 30+ rosters, so in order to contend with other games, additions need to be made. Mike Z has already said that DLC will depend on the starting success of the release so hopefully Reverge Labs will want to ante up soon. Another gripe I have is the training mode. While having things like a hitstun bar and hitboxs are great additions, it’s missing dummy setting and movelist. My method of training involves spending hours just fighting the CPU over and over and without that, it’s a bummer. And while there are movelists everywhere online now, I shouldn’t have to Google Skullgirls to check up on one move. Lastly the lack of hosting larger lobbies make sense for a $15 game, but it’s still a misstep. Part of the online gaming experience nowadays is playing multiple opponents at a time. Lobbies are another viable method of training for ranked matches. It’s a letdown but sure it will be addressed.

Skullgirls is the perfect example of what can happen if fans of fighting game had the chance to create their own. While have so many familiar elements from games like Guilty Gear and MvC2, the game has its own features that should be implanted into future games. Whether it’s big things like the Unblockable Protection or little things such as showing who has the life lead in the fight, Skullgirls makes it stamp in this genre. This is a must buy for any fighting game fan. It can give newbies a starting point as well. Skullgirls earns a 9/10.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more



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