Fighting games are a dime a dozen. For every Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, there’s a bushel full of others like Tekken, Virtua FIghter, Dead or Alive, and many, many more. The fans of the genre are not just casual passersbys. They are rabid, with a list of expectations a mile long, and a deep understanding for what separates a championship fighting game from the rest of the mediocre pack. I don’t know which is more daunting; creating a new entry in an existing franchise and its built-in fanbase or starting from scratch, creating a brand new IP and trying to stake a claim in such a crowded market. Developer Revenge Labs opted for the latter, and it looks like they have a solid fighter on their hands...
Old school fighting fans may feel a bit of nostalgia when they first jump into Skullgirls, and rightly so. It’s a 2D fighter that harkens back to the heyday of the genre, reminiscent of games like Darkstalkers and Guilty Gear. Over-sexualized characters stand in the spotlight, but don’t let that dissuade you. Skullgirls is as competent of a fighter as any other, with a fast and frenzied combat system that carries the same vibe as that of Marvel vs Capcom 3, although not quite as overwhelming to the eyes.
"If you are a fighting fan, Skullgirls stands as a terrific homage to classic fighters, and should already be on your harddrive."
Let me make this clear right now: If you are not a seasoned fighting vet, be prepared to spend a lot of time in the training mode. Seriously, Skullgirls is not for the faint of heart (or the unskilled), and even on its more easy difficulty setting, the AI will beat you to a pulp and send you home crying to mommy. Fortunately the learning curve isn’t too steep. Combo building is intuitive, and pulling them off flows nicely. Again, there is some familiarity with the button presses, but the way each match unfolds is equal parts smooth and frenzied.
The story, what little bit of it there is, comes off as more of a vehicle for the combat than anything else. It follows the eight Skullgirls as they vie for control of the Skull Heart - a wish-granting artifact. While each girl does have their own origin and motivations, the story is still just as threadbare as most found within the genre. Not that it is a bad thing, mind you. The gameplay and art direction is by far the star of the show, so the missing narrative depth isn’t really hurting it.
The eight girl crew is well varied - both in fighting style and color pallet - and all of them are just plain nutty in design. One has a parasite on her head named Samson, while another has a hat that both lives and fights. And the backstories follow suit, with many of the girls having friendships and alliances in one form or another. All this is a benefit though, as it gave the artists a lot of leeway to really have some fun. From exaggerated body parts to all the little details and nuances of the backgrounds, Revenge Labs put a lot into making the visuals stand out with a sense of flair. The animations are top notch, and the palate is a vibrant burst of colors that cleverly covers up the brutal difficulty.
The biggest chink in Skullgirls’ armor is in the meat of the package. Simply put, there isn’t much. Mode selection amounts to Training, Story, Arcade, and Online, and with only eight characters at the player’s disposal, there isn’t a whole lot here. The Online portion is a solid option though, with nary a lag or connection issue to be found (and tag battles are a blast with a little twist of their own).
Short of the thin story and tiny mode portions, Skullgirls is a rock-solid fighter that stands proudly amongst its brethren. And as a digital download, it offers arguably the best brawler option on with platform (XBLA or PSN). Again though, novices had best be prepared to do some intense training, but vets will have no trouble justifying their investment. The art style and animations are a real treat, and the combat is just as satisfying. If you are a fighting fan, Skullgirls stands as a terrific homage to classic fighters, and should already be on your harddrive.
Release date : 2012-04-11
Publisher : Konami
Developer : Revenge Labs
Gameplay : Fighting & Wrestling
Here we are. The next generation of consoles is among us and it is finally time to start thinking about finally unplugging our beloved current-gen systems. Could there be a better swan song for one of these systems than taking a trip back to Rapture?
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