Taking the Skullgirls’ IP, Lab Zero Games turned the original game into a mobile game with a Gacha system where each character and their different colourations have created rarity tiers and elemental system. As daft and dumb as it sounds, this is probably one of the best Gacha games period. At least when compared to games where it’s more number and RNGesus than skill based.
Most of the basic fighting game principles have been ported over, having certain elements adjusted and/or simplified for a more seamless experience. Using swipe gestures for the main component of combat, the player is able to utilise special moves that were combo moves in the original game. What’s been added is a progression system with the previously stated features, different rarities relate to the numerical power of the unit: Bronze being beaten by Silver and Gold being best. The typical Gacha formula of green, blue and red is implemented with a White Vs Black combo. Green beats Blue which beats Red and Red beats Green, with White and Black having an advantage against each other, but don’t have benefits against the other three and vice versa.
Each Character Card (CC) has their own level system with a shared upgrade point pool for each Character. As an example, having two Cerebellas of different types and levels will still share the same Character Upgrade points that are needed to upgrade a certain character’s skill tree. This means a CC to be tailored for certain movesets and stylised combat, an example being Cerebella giving the team a Throw attack buff with moves does moderate damage and defence debuff to the enemy. These moves are split into either Blockbusters or Special Moves with different rarities, with varying numerical stat buffs. Blockbusters require charge time, gained by attacking and blocking the enemy. Whilst Special Moves have a timer between each use, you can upgrade them both to improve damage and benefits and reduce cooldowns.
What makes this “probably one of the best Gacha games period” is due to the skill based portion of the game. Unlike other games that I’ve played at length such as Crash Fever, Puzzle and Dragons, and Phantom of the Kill, all have either huge Gacha elements or tough level curves. Even Fire Emblems Heroes has somewhat sinister Gacha system for getting better units, assuming you find systems like IVs in Pokémon as the worst thing possible for Gachas. The listed above do have skill elements that can be offset stats and numbers. In Skullgirls mobile version, to some extent you can “always beat” (within reason of power) a unit or boss CC at a lower level. An example is running a unit of CCs which were severely underpowered, but won through some luck and skill to counter every attempt the AI did to destroy my underpowered team.
It’s only when a battle throws in additional modifiers beyond the core campaign that things become more numbers check. But as stated these can be circumvented within reason of power, this is due to the hidden values and the ability to spearhead attacks or become an unwavering wall of defence that whittles the opponent down. In some fights, the Cerebella mentioned was able to take down a 967 Pea Shooter Peacock despite having a type disadvantage (Blue vs Green). This was without relying on the second character allowed in the fight. Actively, Skullgirls rewards the underdog with varying XP bonus multiplier based on power difference. This led can lead situations where the player is able to continue playing for sometime before the energy system kicks in.
Balancing this type of approach to game design, where the game needs to recoup costs can become either concerningly sinister, or unplayable without coughing up is tough. Taking the approach of each CC having their own individual energy system, where it takes some time to fully recharge back to full bar. The game does a slightly better job at being balanced, when compared to Sword Art Online Memory Defrag. With a consistent leveling system, it gives the player an active chance to beat the game as opposed to be beaten by it, and to come back when you’ve spent some ordeal either grinding or spending. However, both had similar issues, both lacked a diverse pool of characters to begin with. Memory Defrag has greatly increased its character pool since its launch, but Skullgirls’ roster pool is still relatively not diverse or contains uniquely redesigns that warrant spending or grinding to get. But, this is probably the only criticism of the Gacha I can muster when compared to other Gachas as stated.
Finally onto the core gameplay, fight modifiers are a thing. Daily and regular events happen consistently, since they look to be automated. With each Character having their own day where you can grind out for the Character Upgrade points that are somewhat scarce. Regular “PvP” tournament system know as Prize Fights, featuring AI controlled teams. It grabs different teams from other players (from what it looks like) and has a percentage based group weighting along with top tens. The story mode is very barebones though, lacking a definitive narrative or some kind of coherency feeling more like a cheap sandwich that’s enough to get by, but wouldn’t be called a lunch.
However, this isn’t all bells and whistles. What’s fundamentally flawed in the game is the requirement and implementation of the “online required” connection, or at least not being to play without it. Having tried to play it multiple times on the commute on the Underground proved impossible, nor are there any easy workarounds for offline play. Obviously this is to help reduce cheating and energy time exploits, but when the game fundamentally lacks fully functioning online gameplay, it’s hard to find a compelling reason to require online connection. Which is rather disheartening to know a great mobile game like this, is limited to online without actual PvP or some kind of online only event that features active score boards or some weird faction war between the Egrets, Medici, Fishbone and Cartoons.
Skullgirls Mobile (Reviewed on Android)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Both exceeding and underwhelming at the same time. As a game it features compelling gameplay that can be addictive with its intuitive design and combat, with all the gimmicks of a Gacha. The game does very little in the way of hand holding, throwing you into the fray. It’s just a shame the game doesn’t offer more in terms of the main campaign and actual online functionality. Updates are slow and sporadic, so this will be dropped if you’re progression players.