Skullgirls is a fighting game featuring a cast of mostly females, Anime-esque art style and jazzy music. The story revolves around the Skullheart, a wish granting item, but those weak of heart are doomed to becoming the next Skullgirl. The cast of characters have their own stories about either beating, claiming or stopping the Skullheart.
The main campaign is much like any other fighting campaign, brief dialogue scenes with the odd matching. Each character has unique quirks and traits, with their own reasons for wanting the Skullheart. Some characters feel more fleshed out than others due the encounter rate being higher. But the overall world building in Skullgirls with the city New Meridian, is full of life and characters that help make its world believable. Capturing a living and breathing world, it manages to maintain a diverse cast of characters despite its small roster.
The writing is okay, nothing to write home about. Doing what it needs to, it doesn’t attempt to build an overarching narrative, which other fighters have done. What it does do is slightly ruined with its lack of character depth. But this doesn’t detract from the overall experience. At least in the grand scheme of things. What this game does do though, is capture the essence of what fighting games boil into: names with that one defining attribute.
Using 2D hand drawn animated frames, it creates characters that exude personality and style in their fighting. Balancing responsiveness to its animation and ability to convey each action, the response time is snappy and a joy to play with. That’s assuming you’re used to playing with six inputs for attacking: low, medium and heavy hits for punches, and kicks. As well as the usual combo system, that combines directional inputs, and a special meter that charges up as you execute moves. What it doesn’t feature in Skullgirls is a rebound system as seen in Street Fighter 4. It does, however, feature a nice balance system based on the player’s roster size for a fight.
Skill-wise there’s a decent balance of low skill floor and high skill ceiling characters. With some characters being very aggressive in a certain playstyle. These characters can be countered if your awareness of spacing is good enough to spot openings. Juggling isn’t a huge concern, but depending on the opponent’s skill you may find different results. What can be criticised is the lack of variety with the combat options, effectively becoming stale if the core gameplay loop of fighters isn’t your niche. But this is a general problem with fighting games if the AI or multiplayer isn’t sufficient. The AI proved sufficient for time to time practice, but they don’t generally steamroll you with some of the more insidious juggles..
Coming from a slightly more experienced perspective of fighting games, Skullgirls hits a weird niche of being accessible with the tutorial being solid. Being slightly daunting with the cutthroat approach, it teaches you how to play each characters and some of the basic principles in fighting games. Being better than some fighters I’ve played, but not quite as intuitive as some have been experienced. The main criticism being the timing portion of the tutorial being a bit too abstract and not breaking down when to follow through with a combo. Although playing with controllers is probably a terrible decision, since its joystick isn’t that great for concise inputs.
But then its themes are rather playful in that regard, being less serious and more swashbuckling fun. The character dialogue being very tongue and cheek in its approach. It leads to the plot being somewhat lacklustre as a whole, being hit and miss with some characters. Having quite the plot, it tries to serve its justice somewhat slyly. Except when you compare characters together its cohesive writing becomes slightly jarring. Even without the DLC characters, the core cast act slightly like rubber and glue.
Apart from the core experience is this a good party game? Aside from group likes and dislikes, a game needs to have a low enough skill floor for everyone to join in. Aside from a few characters, there is a relatively open floor for anyone to jump in and have fun. But compared to something like Street Fighter and Tekken, two heavyweight titles of fighting games, it lacks the variety needed have a tavern like brawl system. A slightly more apt comparison would be Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, both of them achieve a stylised approach of combat with a somewhat diverse character roster. So from a number’s perspective this isn’t a full recommendation for those nights. But for those that fit this niche of fighting games, this is probably something you’ve already picked up.
Skullgirls (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Even if fighting games aren’t your thing, the music here is exquisite with the jazz and flamboyant tunes. But as a fighting game, being somewhat indie in nature, this is still a solid game that’s easily recommended if you’re in the mood for something aside from the heavyweight fighting games. But those not into the Anime aesthetic will probably be dissuaded with the suggestive character designs.