Set in the fictional Canopy Kingdom, Skullgirls
pits players against ranks of deadly but beautiful opponents in an attempt to
control the enigmatic Skull Heart, a mysterious artifact with the power to
bestow wishes - but not without a substantial price. Should the soul be less
than pure, both the victor's wish and her being shall be corrupted into a living
nightmare that haunts humanity. She will be known as the Skullgirl, a monstrous
entity of immense power.
Skullgirls manages to
bring the "weird & different" to the fighting game realm.
It must be an intimidating and challenging
ordeal for an indie company to set out to compete with the
"big dogs" of
the fighting game genre, especially these days. Created by
the young company, Reverge Labs (founded in 2010 by industry veterans
Richard Wyckoff & Emil Dotchevski), Skullgirls is a 2D
fighting game with a roster of bizarre female fighters in an original, dark, deco world.
Featuring artwork by Alex Ahad of Scott Pilgrim & Lava Punch fame,
and a gameplay system designed by renowned combo-expert Mike "Mike Z"
Skullgirls certainly has its foot in the door.
With balance at the forefront of their game design, the dev-team set out to
create a competitive 2D fighter that would appeal to old school fighting game fans
players looking for something "different" from the fighting genre.
First let's talk about the art style, because the visuals are clearly what
define Skullgirls from the start. Alex Ahad's trademark
transitions to the game itself... the art style literally becoming the game.
Ahad's vision of the Skullgirls world is portrayed beautifully on each stage,
each of which hosting colorful, artistic backdrops and intriguing background characters.
The "Skullgirls" themselves fill the screen as impressively
sharp, large 2D sprites that are packed with personality and hilarious
animations. Some of their wacky and clever attack animations will
no doubt make you chuckle.
There are only 8 playable characters from the start, but they are as different as can be.
The girls also manage to feel like "complete" characters, each with a
full range of priority attacks, special moves & a few super moves.
Expect the unexpected
in Skullgirls... unless you're expecting girls.
One thing I immediately noticed
about Skullgirls is
how many gameplay nuances are borrowed from one of the most fan-loved 2D
fighters of all time, Marvel VS Capcom 2. I
remember watching many "Mike Z MVC2 combo vids" back
in the day (early 2000's)... Mike obviously spent a lot of time with MVC2, and
has incorporated many of MVC2's iconic gameplay elements into Skullgirls.
To name a few: Tag-in Attacks, Assist Attacks, Super Cancels, Push Blocks, Snapbacks, and a 5-tier
super meter. Additionally, many character attacks (and even play styles) resemble some
notable ones from MVC2... for example, if you were a Cable player, you
might like using
Peacock. However, the Skullgirls definitely have plenty of
attributes and considerably unique play styles.
a Ratio System (inspired by another fan favorite, Capcom VS SNK 2). Before each match, players
choose to use either one, two, or three characters
Single characters dish out more damage and have more HP, but lose the strategic
advantages of character assists and the ability to regenerate health while off
screen. Teams with two or more characters have less HP and do less damage, but
are able to take advantage of assists and different play styles. The variety
that the Ratio System brings to the table makes things fun and interesting (especially since
there are only 8 characters).
One of the headlining features of Skullgirls' gameplay engine is
the "infinite detection system," which was
created to help maintain character balance. If the game detects that a player is
performing a loop or infinite combo, the hit sparks will change color and the opposing player can end
the loop with a single button press. However, as long as the player is not
performing a loop in their combo, they can continue their combo. It's a pretty
innovative idea, and I wonder if the current leaders of the 2D fighting genre
are going to take notes.
Like MVC2, assist attacks can be used creatively in a variety of
ways, and of course allow for some pretty sick combos. Skullgirls' innovative
"unique assist" system allows players to choose any one of a
character's attacks to use as an assist during gameplay (by inputting the
command on the selection screen). Players can
choose any attack type, with the exception of super moves. These include: throws,
normal attacks, dashes, and any special move. Each
character also has a few preset assist attacks to choose from.
In need of a pure 2D
fighter in this era of fighting games? Download now!
manages to stand out in this era of fighting games (which is always a good
thing). The art style
pretty much makes up 95% of the overall
"graphics"... and while it looks impressive
(especially in 1080p), the game doesn't offer much else when it comes to
eye candy. I think the visuals would greatly benefit from some more graphical
flare & effects. The hit sparks could be more exciting, and there's no
special effect at all for finishing the round with a super move... making a
stylish victory very anti-climactic.
When normal attacks connect, the
impact is generally dull as
that note, that "ouch
factor" that many of us appreciate in fighting games really isn't there
very often. This could partly be attributed to the characters' sprites & animations looking
a bit flat. You might think I'm weird for calling 2D sprites
"flat," but games like KOF XIII & 3rd Strike have proven that
2D sprites don't necessarily have to appear so "2D". In fairness, the
character sprites are shaded very nicely, pack a lot of cool details, and suit the
The jazzy/relaxing music of Skullgirls is a nice change of pace than what
we're used to in the fighting game realm. A lot of BGMs are pretty catchy and
also compliment the environments. The impact sound effects, on the other hand,
aren't as much to my liking. You might think I'm nitpicking, but I've always
considered sound effects in fighting games to be important... they help to
define the game and enhance the action greatly. Thankfully, Skullgirls
does have a few unique sounds (like the KO sound) that help to define it.
Lastly, the voice acting isn't bad... but something
about a lot of the voiceovers is "sleepy". I dunno... it seems like
the voice actors were a bit tired, or uninspired.
Oddly enough, it actually kind of suits the whole mood of the game.
As a pretty cool fan service, Skullgirls contains quite a few interesting tidbits
& features that "old
school" fighting game players will appreciate. For starters, accidental
pauses will never happen in Skullgirls, since you actually have to hold the
button down... nice touch Mike Z!
There's also a few cool taunts & quotes that are throwbacks to
classic games & characters, but I won't mention any to avoid spoiling it for
anyone. Characters also have unique spoken dialogue directed at each other from time
to time, which is always nice to see in a fighting game.
Finally, Skullgirls features a Story Mode which is comparable to
Blazblue's, except that each character's story is short & sweet. There's a
respectable amount of story artwork per character, and many interesting support
characters as well. However, I find it a bit odd
and irritating that the artwork & text boxes "disappear" after each
segment of dialogue. Also, the story is 100% text based (with no voiceovers), so it
doesn't quite live up to Blazblue's presentation in that aspect. The Tutorial and Training Modes are also appreciated, and definitely help new players get acquainted
to the system. The Training Mode has some solid features, like: the ability to restart in either corner, dummy recording, reversal/guard/tech
options, input display, and even hit box display. However (and a very big however),
there are no character movelists in the game....
That might be a first for a console fighting game. Ohh well, thank
goodness for the internet! Speaking of online, Skullgirls uses GGPO netcode
and offers some pretty smooth online gameplay too!
Labs, Lab Zero Games
Marvelous AQL (PC)
(project lead & designer), Ian Cox, Peter Bartholow
Ahad (lead artist)
Mariel Kinuko Cartwright
As an "indie" fighting
game, Skullgirls clearly has a lot of heart, which doesn't go unnoticed. Skullgirls has a "cute"
appearance... but it definitely has a grown-up gameplay engine. In the end, I
think the game really lives and dies by the spunky art direction.
If the art style doesn't really float your boat, hopefully the innovative
approach to gameplay design will win you over. In any case, Skullgirls is
definitely worth trying out... especially
for a very reasonable $14.99.
I respect Skullgirls for being different and innovative in some
areas, but I have to be honest and pull the "it's not my kind of
card. I never was a fan of "all girl" fighting games,
or those made up of primarily "oddball"
character designs... and Skullgirls doesn't change my mind. The character
designs do have a coolness about them, but I'm just not fan of the designs or
art style in general. The ladies of Skullgirls do get an
"A" for originality at least... I mean... Skullgirls is
There's really not a straight forward character in sight, but if you like
"weird & different," there's a good chance you'll like Skullgirls.
The gameplay engine is something like a cross between Street Fighter, Blazblue
and MVC2. While the gameplay mechanics are very much respectable and
feature a pretty
fun air combo system, the game is actually kinda slow for my
tastes. To be honest, I stopped playing the game after about a week (as I
expected). Nonetheless, I'm still interesting to see how the sequels turn out.
Skullgirls in its original form doesn't quite feel "complete". It
also presents the smallest roster of characters in a fighting game in quite some time. In
Arcade Mode, you'll
literally fight against the same character 2 or 3 times in a row.
That fact obviously isn't going to differ in multiplayer, and I think the tiny
roster does lower the
game's overall lasting appeal for "non-serious" players. In closing,
I'd imagine Mike Z. and crew are far from done with Skullgirls. How they decide to
release new characters and/or sequels will define the future and success of Skullgirls.~TFG