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LoCo Gaming Update: Summer Edition

By Lonnie Coates, Jr.
On July 2, 2012

Review: Skullgirls

Release Date: Out Now (PSN / XBLA) / TBA 2012 (PC)

Developer: Reverge Labs Publishers: Autumn Games / Konami

Platform(s): PS3 [reviewed]/Xbox 360

Format: Digital Download

ESRB rating: T

Price: 1,200 MS points ($14.99)


The premise behind Skullgirls is that a magic item called the Skull Heart can grant one wish to a lady, but if she's impure of heart then her wish will slowly drain her life and she'll become the "Skullgirl". If you're thinking that the premise is just an excuse to make a shallow fighting game to market itself solely on sex appeal, well worry not. Yeah it has [some] curvaceous characters, but there's a great deal more substance than you may think.

In Skullgirls, you have Story mode (more on that later), Arcade mode-which pits you in a series of fights with random combatants and a boss at the end, Practice mode-where you can safely experiment with the game's mechanics (it even allows you to make the hit boxes visible during this mode), Tutorial-a very in-depth tool which teaches the basic mechanics of this game and even fighting games in general, and Versus (both local and online).

The game is made up of eight characters, Cerebella (a circus performer with a muscle-bound hat), Double (a big pile of something that disguises herself as a nun, and at times other characters), Filia (an amnesiac school girl with parasitic hair), Ms. Fortune (an undead cat girl), Painwheel (a female Frankenstein with a cybernetic tail), Parasoul (a princess with a napalm umbrella), Peacock (a 1920s cartoon cyborg), and Valentine (a ninja nurse).

Gameplay wise, Skullgirls is a six-button fighter that either lets you choose between one to three fighters in a team. A team of three fighters will be able to call in assist attacks (more on that later), tag in other fighters, and let inactive fighters regain a bit of their health. If you're selecting a team of fighters, you'll be given the option to either select one of two predefined assist attacks or assign an assist attack of your own.

One thing to keep in mind is its unique pausing feature. In order to pause you game, you'll have to hold the start button for about two seconds. Apparently, this feature was implemented to stop accidental pausing on fight sticks (for those who are unfamiliar, fight sticks look like the area for the joystick and buttons on an arcade cabinet). While it would be nice to be able to turn this feature off for other players, pressing the Xbox 360 guide button or PS3's PS button in the middle their respective controllers' works as a decent work around.

The tutorial, while optional, is recommended (or at least complete of chapter 1 of the four chapters) before taking your game online since it teaches you most of the gameplay mechanics in Skullgirls, such as dashing, comboing, doing super moves called "Blockbusters."

Online plays fares well mostly, with the ability host and join public & private matches. Using the GGPO netcode, lag in matches are very few and far between. In short, the online multiplayer is almost like playing against someone on local versus mode. It's also somewhat a shame that multiplayer lobbies can only go up to two players. Despite what the specs will say on the Xbox Live marketplace, it does support voice chat.

Graphically, for a 2D fighter, Skullgirls shines in both in the art and technical aspects. Displaying at 1080p output, the character sprites look crisp, has impressive (and realistic) lighting effects, and colorful. From the way Cerebella twitches her fingers while crouching, to Ms. Fortune's running animation you can tell that the developers took a great deal of care in creating this impressive animation. Some would even say that Skullgirls is one of the best looking 2D so far.

The music (featuring Michuru Yamane of Castlevania fame) also, fairs very well for this game, especially the level music. Much of the level music has a sort of a catchy jazz feel to it. In short, many of them will have you humming the various themes, including the intro, even while you're not playing Skullgirls. If for whatever reason you don't feel like listening to the in-game music, the PS3 version does support custom soundtracks.

I've already touched on the basic premise of the story, but I feel that the story mode deserves a special mention in this review, since the characters are so well written. Each character has clear visible goals and motivations for wanting to make a wish with the Skull Heart. Even Peacock, who you would think would be just a joke character, shows a bit of character development. Sadly, the story mode doesn't have any voice work. This wouldn't a big deal if the dialog had an option to turn off the auto advance text or allowed the player to pause the story mode.

From Ms. Fortune's "Cat Scratch Fever" attack (where she literately says "Furserker Purwarge"), to Peacock doing well...anything, the game is also filled to the brim with in-jokes, puns, parodies, and homage to other games, movies, and even anime. While there's way too many parodies to list in this review (it would at least take up half a page), I will mention that Parsoul's 9th color palette is a callout to an anime called "Panty & Stocking" (yes that is the name of the show and yes it is very raunchy).

Sadly the game has a few other issues. The game does not have an in-game move list. While you can print out a move list for each of the characters from the game's website, it's far from the ideal way to learn each of the characters' moves. The developers did say that a move list will be patched in very soon. The game also suffers from a weird glitch causing the characters to turn into hit boxes for about a split second. This problem was particularly noticeable when I was playing the trial version on XBLA. I should also mention that the AI can be vicious which would be okay if that was only for the normal difficulty and up, but the AI is unforgiving even on the easiest difficultly level, "Sleepwalk". This is especially noticeable if you're a causal fan of fighting games and haven't gone through the tutorial or when you're facing the character Double.

If you have an active interest becoming better at fighting games, or you consider yourself pretty good at fighting games this is a title well worth the purchase.


4. 5/5.0 (GREAT)

+     Amazing Art, Graphics, Animation, & Level Music

+     Likeable, colorful, and well written characters

+     Custom Soundtrack support, & Mostly smooth online play

+     Massive amounts of puns, in-jokes, and parodies

-     No voice acting in Story mode along with auto advancing text dialog

-     No in-game Move List

-     Unusually Vicious AI on easier difficulty settings

-     Some weird visual bugs, especially on the Xbox 360

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