Skullgirls has an unusual back story. In one corner you have Mike Zaimont, an independent developer who built himself a robust fighting game engine. And in the other corner sits Alex Ahad, a creative who pieced together a world for a colorful cast of characters to live in. The two eventually met through friends of theirs. They put their heads together and landed at developer Revenge Labs. Soon after, 2D fighting game throwback Skullgirls was born.
If you've played Street Fighter and its ilk, then you understand the basics of Skullgirls. Two sets of three buttons govern light, medium, and heavy punches and kicks. Pressing both medium attack buttons simultaneously tags out your fighter; three are selected for your roster before a typical match. It's impossible to say how well the game is balanced, as only three fighters have been revealed and facts like that won't come out anyway until fans spend a good amount of time with the game, but the fundamentals are there.
The big feature that Skullgirls touts ahead of other 2D fighters is its infinite detection system. If you've ever played this sort of game and found yourself screaming "CHEAP!" as your opponent bashed you over and over again with the same, unbreakable move, you'll appreciate this. Essentially, if the game detects that one fighter is performing this sort of attack, the chain can eventually be broken with a single button press. It's not exactly a leveling of the playing field between the casual and the hardcore, but at least it gives newcomers more of a fighting change against veterans who are happy to abuse specific moves.
Three of the game's eight planned female fighters were revealed at E3 2011. First there's Fillia, an amnesiac schoolgirl who is aided by a parasite named Samson. Cerebella is probably the most bizarre-looking, wearing a hat with "horns" the function as a second set of arms...VERY muscled arms with a long reach. Finally, there's Peacock, who looks and performs like a cartoon character. The art style is very bizarre and hard to classify; seeing the game for the first time with no knowledge of its background, you could be forgiven for thinking that this world springs from a comic book or some other creative medium.
Visually, the game looks spectacular. The art style is all well and good, but the characters move with cartoonish grace, flailing and flying around the screen while letting loose with a range of unique standard and special attacks. We only got to see the game's tag match type, with pitting three vs. three, but other modes will allow for single fighters and multiple human players, as well as, of course, online play.
The video game industry's preview system is not built for fighting games, and this is especially true for titles being demoed on the E3 show floor. Too much time is required to fully appreciate the extent of the game's balancing, what works/doesn't work and how unique features, such as the infinite detection system, factor into moment to moment play. That said, Skullgirls is immediately captivating to look at. It's got a great origin story and a strong pedigree, thanks to Zaimont's experiences as a tournament-level fighter. Look for the game later this year.