A bold new challenger enters the ring of the increasingly crowded fighting game genre.
The impressions have been positive since it’s showed up on the radar. We’ve been anticipating it for different reasons, I’ve gushed over the sexy sprites, and the internet has already opened the rule34 floodgates.
Does the rookie have what it takes to compete with the big guys? Find out after the jump.
Systems: Playstation 3, XBox360 [Reviewed]
Developer: Reverge Labs
Publisher: Autumn Games, Konami
Released: April 10(PS3)/11(Xbox 360), 2012
MSRP: $14.99/1200 MS Points
Even at just a glance, Skullgirls is immediately striking and stands out from many fighters past and present. Instead of the archetype martial artist and tournament setting, the game has its own vibrant characters and universe. Every character is beautifully designed in terms of looks and gameplay. The music is distinct, the backgrounds are detailed and varied, and the characters’ stories are well thought out and intertwine with each other. All of these things combined with a lot of small touches give the game its own atmosphere and cohesive universe.
For as unique as the style and world is, the gameplay influences are really obvious, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Skullgirls’ gameplay is heavily influenced by the likes of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Guilty Gear, with bits of other classic fighting games sprinkled in. You can expect lots of chain combos, air dashes, crazy super attacks, and even multiple characters on screen. Seeing as the game was designed by tournament veteran Mike Z. this is no real surprise.
However, those games came with their share of problems; problems which Skullgirls does a pretty good job of addressing. The biggest of these are infinite combos, where the opponent can do nothing to retaliate once caught in one, and has plagued many fighters to this day. Skullgirls has included what they call the Infinite Prevention System (IPS) – It signals whenever an opponent is doing a loop combo and gives the player a chance to burst out. The other major problem addressed is humanly unblockable setups, which are combated by giving the opponent a brief moment of protection whenever they block a high or low attack.
These systems may seem limiting, but to the contrary, the overall game is way more open because of it. The Infinite Prevention System is really forgiving and steps in only when you’re using cheap and easy loops. It pushes the player to be more creative and there are still a lot of ways to make long and fancy combos. You’re only limited by your creativity and execution level, no need to worry about characters falling out of combos because it was too long.
Add in variable team sizes and custom assists and the freedom expands even more. You can have a single character or choose a team of up to 3 members. Each character is well designed and every move feels useful. All the fighters can hold their own individually or used to set up some crazy shenanigans for the team with their custom assists. I was having a blast in training mode just going through the characters and figuring out what team dynamics can be formed.
All this freedom can be daunting at first but Skullgirls has an excellent set of tutorials. They’re quick, but cover important concepts that other fighting games never even mention in their tutorials. Sure you’ll learn how to perform combs, but more importantly, you’ll learn principles and techniques such as “mix-ups,” which opens up your opponent so that you can actually use the combos you learned. It won’t make you god-like in one sitting but it’s a very good starting point.
But if you’re not interested in grinding it out in training mode and just want to mash buttons while looking at beautifully hand drawn swaying breasts, there’s a story mode to keep you interested while you do that. The mode goes through each of the characters’ motivations for wanting the Skull Heart, the object that can grant a young woman’s wishes but also comes at a cost. They’re not just throwaway stories either, like slipping out of ninja camp to meet cool guys; they are focused and interesting. The stories aren’t as long-winded as BlazBlue, but they get the idea across with nice artwork and dialog between fights. A single character takes around a half hour to finish, so to see all of them should give yourself around 4 hours.
However, the game does have its share of problems. The most obvious being the absence of a complete move list for each character. This isn’t so bad since you can find them very easily online, but not everyone has their laptop near them or wants to be looking at their phone while they play.
There are some more glaring issues that aren’t easily fixed. For one, the sprites occasionally aren’t loaded fast enough and glitch out, leaving only the green hit boxes in its place. Online play is pretty good but there are only 2 person lobbies. Compounding the lack of online features is the absence spectating or replay modes.
But perhaps my biggest irritation is the lack of training mode options. I appreciate that you can set up your meters and attack displays before you even start, but other than that it’s pretty bare bones. There are no input displays, dummy control options, quick restarts, or any of the common features found in many other fighters. For a game with such a deep fighting system it’s a shame that there aren’t convenient tools in place to explore them. Hopefully these will be patched by the developers (they have been very vocal about addressing the existence of these issues). For the moment though, we’ll just have to wait and see and use the tools we have.
Skullgirls is a fine game that makes a lot of smart design decisions. The art style may be a turn off for some but it is undeniable that the game is beautiful in motion. The music is equally strong and compliments the universe and characters. The game may be missing some key features, and is hampered by a small roster, but Skullgirls is a compact and well crafted package especially for the asking price. Even if you’re not interested in going super deep into the game’s fighting systems, Skullgirls is genuinely fun to play and a treat for the eyes.
Being an all-girl cast you’d probably expect a lot of titillation. Alex Ahad forgoes the usual character designs and instead brings his unique style of combining sexy and cute ladies with grisly monsters. Sleek waists and wide hips combine with fangs and Lovecraftian appendages. The only school girl you’ll see here is the one that has a demonic parasite attached to her head.
Because of this style, not all of the girls are designed with cheesecake in mind. Peacock, the projectile spamming rascal, is a living reference to classic western cartoons. Painwheel is a murderous rush down monster fueled by rage and can produce spikes from her body. Double is a shape shifting bucket of organs disguised as a nun. These characters are all awesome to play as but don’t offer much in the way of arousal. You wouldn’t expect rule 34 from them, but then again the internet usually proves you wrong.
The ones that are supposed to be a bit more sexy do not disappoint. Filia, the Ryu of the game offers plenty to love for fans of big hips and asses. Cerebella takes panty shots to excess (if you can have excess) and shows them off in practically every move she performs. The animators probably watched too much Aika while designing her. Valentine gives Mai a run for her money in the category of how much cleavage can be shown without a boob accidentally popping out. I’ve personally gotten rather attached to Parasoul for her scarlet hair and long legs. And Ms. Fortune may be pushing the envelope, but is sure to provide a bunch of pussy-to-head based hentai for being a catgirl with detachable limbs.
Every character is amazingly animated with a great care for detail. There are an astounding number of frames given to jiggling and swaying breasts. Panty-shots and up-skirts can be seen on practically every character. I can’t count the number of times I’ve used the screen freeze on my TV to get a better look at the sprites.
The sprites are also given variety by some very nice alternate colors you can unlock in the game. Instead of the usual pallet of random colors, Skullgirls makes some nerdy references to other characters with theirs. Some of my favorites are glasses and Kneesocks Parasoul, Hatsune Miku Filia, and R.Mika Cerebella. There is no color editor so you can forget about creating a commando Valentine or an almost naked Ms. Fortune, a real shame.
All the characters are strongly designed and their personalities come alive through the amazing sprites. In addition to badass violence, the animation staff fully embraced the chance to provide as much mesmerizing 2D T&A as possible. For once, I like all the members of a fighting game cast and enjoy playing with every one of them. What else can I say; the provocatively dangerous ladies of Skullgirls have enticed me to keep on playing until all those missing features I mentioned above get patched in.
– Sullivan O. Bradley