What happens when you take a well-respected fighting game community member and tournament player, and give him the freedom to make his own game? Skullgirls happens. Mike Zaimont (Mike Z) and the folks over at Reverge Labs have taken their time (a seemingly long time) to create a deep fighter that almost anyone can jump into. Skullgirls follows eight female fighters and their quest to obtain the mystical Skull Heart that allows the possessor to ask for wishes, but at a disturbing cost. Each character’s fighting style is unique, yet those accustomed to fighters should find it easy to pick up any cast member.
The second you begin the game you’ll notice the bright anime-influenced art style and beautifully animated character sprites. Sadly, there are only eight fighters, but with that said its good to remember the best fighting games began with small rosters. Anyone remember Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter II? And even those had a few cloned characters.
You won’t see clones here. Each character model in Skullgirls is highly detailed and the time dedicated to each character shows. At the moment, I find both Double and Ms.Fortune to be my favorites. Double’s a monstrous creature that can take any form, but chooses to appear as a nun. Ms.Fortune on the other hand reminds me of an immortal cat woman. She’s a diamond thief who swallowed a jewel that has makes her immortal. Shortly after swallowing the jewel she is then cut into several pieces and uses that to her advantage, sometimes throwing limbs at her opponent. The anime fan service is also included with constant skirt upshots and revealing poses, just incase the action on-screen wasn’t grabbing your attention.
Beginners will find one the best tutorials ever put together in a fighting game, and this is where the game shines. The varying tutorials don’t only prepare you to play Skullgirls, they teach both the basic and advanced techniques that you’ll need to know for other fighters like pokes, mixups, tech-grabs, and special canceling. If you’re new to fighters this is where you want to start.
The second you begin the game you’ll notice the bright anime-influenced art style and beautifully animated character sprites. Sadly, there are only eight fighters, but with that said its good to remember the best fighting games began with small rosters.
Don’t let the tutorials fool you, however; this is a very deep fighting game that mixes elements from other fighters quite nicely. You can air-dash cancel to continue combos like in the Guilty Gear series, mix and match your team like in Marvel Vs. Capcom, and even call in characters for assists. There are also launchers to set up characters for air combos. However, Mike Z and his team worked diligently to remove game-breaking infinite combos — pummelled players can perform one-button infinite breakers that allow them to escape the combo. The system works well and creates fair matches.
The combo system and game engine are robust allowing more advanced players to string together damaging combos, although the training mode is a bit lacking and does not include input displays or a move list (which players have to download). The story mode gives us insight on the characters and their motivations through short animated pieces that are cheesy, but well drawn. That said, don’t come into Skullgirls expecting a compelling story; keeping with tradition, this fighting game’s story is all over the place.
Everything isn’t peachy, however. There are some issues with Skullgirl’s online mode. Players need to manually set the frame delay each time they enter a room. The game has a recommended setting based on your opponents connection, so it’s hard to understand why would have to set it yourself. Many opponents I faced failed to change their frame delay, leading to matches with large amounts of lag. There are also a few visual glitches that display the onscreen characters as hit boxes; this happened many times.
Load times are also disappointing. Skullgirls crashed during loading, and sometimes took extremely long to boot. Thankfully, this isn’t anything a patch can’t fix. Those issues aside, with Skullgirls you have phenomenally deep fighter that is a breath of fresh air to a well established genre.
Skullgirls is something different for fighting fans to enjoy, and serves as a good place for newcomers to get into the genre. The low price makes overlooking some of the flaws more tolerable than a full price release, and as such, it wins the 2D-X Excellence Award.
You can purchase Skullgirls at XBLA for $14.99.