Skullgirls Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

Xbox 360
Release date:
April 11, 2012
Reverge Labs
1 - 2 local and online


A throwback to the classic fighting game era.

Review by Chris Bahn (Email)
May 2nd 2012

We need more productions like Skullgirls to grace the fighting game community. While I applaud the industry initiative to make certain concessions in order to appeal to a broader audience, this shouldn't come at the cost of compromising certain gameplay mechanics. Fortunately, developer Reverge Labs and lead producer Mike Zaimont agree.

Don't even think about trying to dial-a-combo here.

To help ease newcomers into the game, Skullgirls provides one of the most interactive training modes ever featured in a fighter, starting players off with the basics. Literally. The first few lessons instruct you to get familiar with rudimentary tasks such as blocking and jumping before moving on to the more advanced techniques. It's a great tool to potentially help players become more successful at the game and internalize the information, though this doesn't guarantee that they'll evolve into the next god of war.

The gameplay represents a crossover of ideas heavily influenced by Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Melty Blood, and Guilty Gear. In the same fashion, players can execute OTGs, air dashes, snapbacks, juggles, delayed hyper combos (DHC), and supers, among other useful tools. One caveat, if one should interpret it as such: the gameplay runs somewhat slower and focuses heavily on exploiting damaging combos and precision execution. Don't even think about trying to dial-a-combo here by mashing; you won't get very far.

Matches can consist of the traditional 2D one-on-one format or you can opt to configure your team in pairs or even three characters à la Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Playing solo offers the player a substantial level of health and damage output. This option only works well for characters that can readily control space and offense at any range. The option more commonly seen is two-on-two, which provides more versatility, including the ability to tag out, call in an assist for mix-up situations, or aid in team-based attacks. While three characters offer similar advantages, players should recognize the additional diversity comes at a high cost: normal powered characters. As with any conventional tag-based fighter, team synergy is very important in order to generate the best results.

I love the characters in the characters. While the cast is limited in comparison to the retail-disc selections currently available, Alex Ahad's artistic vision breathes a unique world inspired by slapstick humor, anime, BioShock , and Ren & Stimpy.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares the same appreciation, and some have decided they would prefer to opt out of playing the game based on its aesthetics alone. Really? This cast has a lot going for it based on personality and detail alone. One favorite is Peacock, who literally looks like she came straight from a Steamboat Willy cartoon. Her specialty focuses on runaway tactics, attacking you with everything including the kitchen sink. Then there's Valentine, who can be best described as Ibuki with a Harleyquinn complex. I also dig Parasoul, who is one of sexier characters in the game, specializes in long-range attacks, and comes equipped with a Chun Li-esque headstomp. She can also dispatch her soldiers (called "Egrets") to aid in deflecting projectiles or in setting up off-the-ground combos.

There's also a great deal of fan service, featuring tons of pop culture and video game references -including but not limited to the freaky girl from The Ring, the bird from JoJo's Revenge, Bullet Bill from Super Mario, Wolverine's Beserker Barrage super, and many others. I was surprised that a few were turned off by this, and I wonder if these things are inappropriate to incorporate in a fighter or if some folks are simply devoid of light-hearted humor?

If you lack the ability to spar with a group of local friends, engaging competition online is the only alternative. It's great that Skullgirls opted to use the GGPO netcode, recognizing the importance of delivering an exceptional online experience. Overall, my matches have been smooth and I almost never needed to make an adjustment higher than a 1- or 2-frame delay. GGPO isn't perfect and you're bound to encounter some lag periodically, but you won't have quite the same dreadful experience as seen in that other game that used to be my digital crack. Most of my matches averaged a ping between 89 to 100 ms, facing competitors from the Midwest , North Atlantic, and Southern regions. I can only recall one instance where I experienced lag, but that was with a friend who I've explained needs to seriously look into upgrading his hamster wheel to deliver something more reliable.

While there are a number of things that I love about Skullgirls, there are a few things that left me scratching my head. For starters, it lacks an in-game move list - it's a flaw that the developer did openly acknowledge by posting a digital copy, but it's a strange omission. The training room also lacks a few essentials, such as the ability to configure the dummy to perform specific actions, or the most important feature of all: an input display. I like to know my execution is on point. All these things make it very obvious that Skullgirls was rushed right out the gate.

With so many other options available at retail, Skullgirls will have a difficult time resonating with players on a grand scale. The aforementioned bugs and lack of polish are just enough to turn off potential buyers, especially if these are the same users who invested in Street Fighter x Tekken (and you know how the reception on that's turned out). Reverge has already offered promises to patch the game and introduce more content in the near future based upon whether the current release does well financially. This has prompted many to request everyone shell out $15 to show support in the hopes the game will get patched sooner than later. Those willing to take the leap of faith won't be disappointed. Skullgirls possesses all the building blocks of a solid fighter filled with passion, creativity, and depth.

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