In a genre consistently flooded with sequels and rehashes, Skullgirls is definitely a breath of fresh air. Reverge Labs has listened closely to fans of the game as well as the fighting game community, and has been noticeably meticulous of the development of this game.
- Amazing tutorial mode
- Well-thought fighting engine
- Unique art style and top notch music
- Limited character roster
Skullgirls is a mash-up of renowned fighting game player Mike Zaimont’s expertise and Alex Ahad’s artistic vision. We’ve seen the crazy character concepts. We’ve read about the deep fighting engine. Reverge Labs has been open about the game’s development, and as such we’ve seen the game evolve steadily since its original inception. We’ve been hearing about and anticipating this game for quite some time now. Does the sum of these parts equal a solid fighting game?
Dare To Be Different
The very first thing you’ll notice about Skullgirls is its unique art style. It dares to look different and doesn’t seem to mind one bit. The game’s quirkiness and attention to detail is comparable to that of SNK Playmore’s Metal Slug, with each character being carefully animated from jab to win pose. The characters range from strange-looking (Peacock) to downright bizarre (Painwheel). This unique style, combined with the efforts of legendary music composer Michiru Yamane (of Castlevania fame), create an immersive world that has a drastically different atmosphere than that of your typical fighter. Love it or hate it, the visuals definitely stand out in a sea of fighting games that are often inundated with Eastern influences. Watching Ms. Fortune literally fall apart after a time-out does not get old.
The Aim To Please
Skullgirls’s fighting engine has been purposefully modeled after the classic Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, which includes airdashing, screen-clearing super attacks, Delayed Hyper Combos, 5 stocks of super meter, and even snapbacks. Players can choose a single character to play as, or form a team of 2 or 3. Single characters deal more damage and have higher vitality, but lose the utility of teammates for assist calling and the ability to regenerate health on the sidelines. One of Skullgirls’s best features is its take on Marvel Vs. Capcom 2’s assist system: you can choose a Custom assist type, then input the command for the attack you wish that character to perform when called upon as an assist, giving the player ownership of their team configuration.
As you go through the game, it becomes obvious that many of the game’s features have manifested through player input. For example, the button configuration (which can be done at the character select screen) uses a press-to-set system similar to that of the original Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo, which is far easier to manage than the scroll-to-set system many fighting games use now. Additionally, pausing the game is done by holding down START rather than tapping it, preventing accidental pauses during the heat of battle (which smoothens tournament play). The game also features an effective anti-infinite system to prevent brainless attack loops, a feature that both casual and hardcore fans can embrace. Skullgirls also uses GGPO for online play, software designed specifically for fighting games to emulate near lag-less gameplay. Fans have been pushing for GGPO since the beginning, and Reverge Labs listened.
Fighting Games 101
One of the most notable features of Skullgirls is its comprehensive tutorial mode, which goes above and beyond the call of duty. It’s clear that the developers want players to play the game “properly”, which is demonstrated by the first chapters of the tutorial mode focusing on fundamentals such as movement and defense rather than special moves and combos. Furthermore, players are taught universal fighting game concepts such as punishing unsafe attacks, defending against mix-ups, countering tick-throw setups, and even hit-confirmation; these techniques and ideas can be applied to most other fighting games, both old and new. The tutorial mode doesn’t just teach you how to play Skullgirls, but how to play fighting games in general and the mindset in which to approach them.
On The Other Hand…
Skullgirls does have its blemishes. In an age where players have become accustomed to fighting games that boast a sprawling roster of characters, Skullgirls’s current roster of 8 playable characters is sure to disappoint those looking for more variety in character selection. In addition, the game’s unique, bold art style is different enough to turn off those who prefer more traditional themes; you’ll either love or hate the way the game looks. Skullgirls is also missing an in-game move list, which has become a staple of most (if not all) modern fighting games.
Though a few clicks on the internet will bring up comprehensive move lists (which can be found on the official Skullgirls website), players that are more casual and/or lazy might be put off by this inconvenience. And though the training mode has features that hardcore fighting game enthusiasts are constantly requesting (such as hitbox data), it is missing a few key features that have become standard in fighting games (such as setting the dummy opponent’s behavior). It’s important to note that the development team is well aware of these shortcomings and plans to address some of them in future updates: 2 extra characters have already been confirmed as DLC and an in-game move list has been recently mentioned by the developers.
Solid Game Is Solid
In a genre consistently flooded with sequels and rehashes, Skullgirls is definitely a breath of fresh air. Reverge Labs has listened closely to fans of the game as well as the fighting game community, and has been noticeably meticulous of the development of this game. These efforts have not been made in vain; it is a beautifully crafted game that builds upon good ideas of fighting games before it while addressing issues that fighting games often have. At a mere $15, Skullgirls is definitely a solid purchase.
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Editor's Note: Skullgirls was reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy of the game; however, we also played the PS3 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.