Skullgirls Review

By Adam Ma on June 3, 2012

Fighting games these days feel like they're almost dime a dozen, and getting one that doesn't have the Capcom brand plastered somewhere on the box can be hard to do. But that's what makes Skullgirls so interesting from the start. Developed by the new-to-the-fighting-scene Autumn Games, Skullgirls aims high by trying to bring a competitive fighting experience to the downloadable space, a tall order considering how many other competent fighters are often ousted by the flashier AAA titles. So how does one go about challenging the best in the industry? A good sense of humor and a lot of creativity is certainly a start.

What makes Skullgirls so interesting is that unlike many fighting games out there, choice is limited. Players have a small pool of eight characters to use (seven if you consider one of those characters is a blend of the others), each of which have their own very unique move sets. Individual fighters have extremely focused fighting styles similar to the Guilty Gear or Blazblue series, with notable attacks that revolve around mastering a type of mechanic more than when to intuitively push punch or kick. Some work around ranged status effects/ailments while others can knock off their body parts to attack from multiple angles. All members of the female roster are incredibly memorable as a result, and it shouldn't be too difficult to find a girl who works well with your play style.

Gameplay in Skullgirls is fairly simple to anyone familiar with the arcade scene. Players have access to light, medium and heavy punches and kicks, in addition to the staple super bar. The moves you use in a combo may also change a special attack entirely, or alternatively may change the range/distance that an attack will go.

On the plus side, this approach makes it easy enough to jump into without a move list if you're looking to learn the basics, and Skullgirls' difficulty is forgiving enough to allow most players the chance to get a good feel with any of the characters after a few quick matches.

In fact, learning each of these individual styles can be the most rewarding part of the game as each girl is a competent fighting in her own right. Where Skullgirls starts to falter a bit isn't in its creativity, but rather in its move lists. Some characters simply aren't as interesting as others due to a lack of variety in their overall move sets, and for the same reasons feel simply not as competitive. Those character that are fully fleshed with a wide variety feel completely different to the characters that have 3-5 offensive attacks to choose from, and given that the game is already more technically complex than Street Fighter by offering reliable air combos the lack of offensive abilities throughout each character is as confusing as it is disappointing.

Almost equally frustrating is the lack of in-game move lists, as players looking to easily get a listing of all special/Blockbuster attacks needs to go download a PDF from the website at this time. It may be a relatively small missing feature, but it's a small oversight amongst a list of small oversights within the game.That being said what the fighter does right, it does right in spades by giving players options that the competition tends to charge 60 bucks for while calling it a full fledged title. Players can choose to play either offline in Story or Arcade mode or online if they feel like testing their skills against others, but no matter which way you turn there will always be the option to play using one, two or three characters at a time.

The overall strength of each attack will scale back as more characters are added, so 2v2 games and 3v3 tend to be a little bit longer than the standard 1v1 matchup. All characters selected can be tagged in, and do come with their own support attacks, which really shows how far the developers thought ahead on some features. These modes aren't just a neat addition to the game, they're just as competitive in their own right and bring a lot of variety to what could be seen as fairly limited experience.

Visually the game runs smoothly, choosing to go with 2D sprites rather than any 3D models, which certainly works in its favor. Depending on personal taste the obscure amount of cleavage that each character boasts can be either a bonus, offensive, or mildly insulting, as the characters spend most of their time bouncing around as often as possible. Breasts aside, the character design is pretty solid, which is pretty important for a brand new franchise.

Final Thoughts

Anyone who is tired of the same old stuff rolling around the fighting genre owes it to themselves to give Skullgirls a shot, particularly if they're looking to try out a brand new scene that's (at the moment) still fairly balanced. Skullgirls doesn't have it all but this is a very strong start, and considering we're looking at a fresh IP that's received a lot of praise from casual and tournament fighters there's no doubt that the obvious support developers are giving this franchise will make it far more competent as the months roll onward. A fantastic start for a game with relatively humble beginnings, Skullgirls throws down the glove with the best of the competition for a fraction of the price.

A competitive fighting experience at a fraction of the usual cost.
Easy to pick-up and have fun with.
Graphical style works well.
No move-lists in game.
Some characters don't feel as fleshed out as others.
More fighters would have been a nice bonus.
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