TA Review: Skullgirls

TA Review: Skullgirls

It's showtime!

Written by litepink on 18 April 12 at 12:41 , updated on 18 April 12 at 12:41

An original 2D-fighter with beautiful hand drawn visuals sounds like a fresh idea to most. However, many people might be a bit timid to try an all-new IP when there are other well established franchises in the genre that they already know and love. Does Skullgirls have enough style and substance to match or surpass the familiar favorites?

Logo


You have to commend Reverge Labs for being an independent studio making an original IP fighting game as their freshman effort. The development team contains many people familiar with tournament style fighters, looking to make a tournament style game. An original fighter at the higher end of the XBLA pricing scale would have to do a lot to prove it’s a worthy opponent.

For starters, a scantily clad all-girl cast is a good way of getting [some] people’s attention. The characters don’t leave much to the imagination with short skirts, obnoxiously large bouncing chests and plenty of skin. Various moves and specials seem like a way of sneaking in a panty shot. This is probably what you’d expect from a fighting game, but the over-the-top sexuality in this game can come off as juvenile. Even fans and observers of the SoulCalibur series started to take notice to Ivy’s growing and more revealing bust line, and how it has become tacky. The same applies to a large majority of the Skullgirls cast. Ultimately though, this aspect of the character design will likely pay off in terms of sales and recognition. To me though, it came off as typical and predictable.

Screenshot 1


With that said, the characters and their design aren’t all bad. The entire game benefits from an appealing Dark Deco style, and crisp hand drawn visuals allow the fighters and stages to burst out with a unique personality. While similarities can be drawn to other 2D fighters, Skullgirls really has a style of its own. Each stage offers something different, but they all feel like they belong together. The same can be said of the characters too. They are all quite different from each other, but at the same time they all seem to fit under the canopy of the Skullgirls universe. The downside is that there are only eight characters to choose from, so your opponents become familiar all too quickly. This is something I’m sure will be remedied by downloadable content, but a starting lineup of only eight leaves more to be desired, especially when the potential is there.

Nobody ever expects a fighting game to have an enthralling story, especially one with roots of old-school arcade games. Skullgirls doesn’t break that trend with the cast of girls all motivated to seek the Skull Heart. If a girl obtains the Skull Heart, it will grant them a wish if their heart is pure. If they are not, the Skull Heart possesses them and they become cursed as the corrupted Skullgirl. You’re presented with six different story lines, with two more to unlock once you complete them. In-between the five to six battles, you're presented with a bit of text dialogue while the characters stand there and occasionally change facial expressions. The stories are somewhat interesting, but nothing special. I found myself skipping dialogue for some and reading others depending on how they started out. Occasionally there was some amusing or humorous text that made me smile a bit, but nothing that stands out. Each story could last you about 10-20 minutes depending on how skilled you are, and you could easily zip through all of them in one sitting. Of course, you could amp up the difficulty to increase your playthrough time, but there are no achievements motivating you to do so.

Gameplay screenshot


The gameplay itself shines for the most part. You’re not restricted to just one-on-one fights; you and your opponent have the choice of two or three person teams as well -- whatever fits your style. If you’re comfortable with swapping characters and using assists, you can do so, otherwise you can do battle with a single character that you’re comfortable with. The HP is balanced out so three-person teams are just as powerful as a two-person team or even a single fighter. There are two preset assists to choose from for your team, or you can even make a custom assist before each battle. These team and assist combinations brings a good deal of strategy to each battle.

There’s your basic set of moves: three levels of punches and kicks, and a throw move. If you know what you’re doing you can combo them together, and throw in some specials and blockbuster moves for a devastating effect. Button-mashers will not survive here, complex combos and moves will guarantee you the greatest success. The AI will punish you with large combos on just about every difficulty level as well, so don’t expect a break there either. The hardcore fighting fan will appreciate the level of competitiveness and difficulty against both human and AI opponents.

Newcomers will likely become frustrated when they are being juggled in the air as the hit combo climbs higher and higher. The detailed Tutorial mode and Training looks to solve some of that, but I don’t know if it’s enough to call this an accessible fighting game to all. You actually learn something from these modes, but don’t expect it to be a master training course in fighting games.

Screenshot 3


Besides Story and Arcade modes, you’re left with some limited multiplayer options. The online portion consists of ranked and player matches and that’s it for the most part. There’s no ranking or XP system and, besides the global leaderboards, there's really nothing to strive for. The leaderboards only display your spot and nothing more, not even a win-loss record. How ridiculously good is the top ranked player? You won’t know unless you get matched up with them. Some personalization or customization would have been a nice touch but, again, there’s nothing. Absent are any profiles, title cards or anything of the like. Replay sharing features promised when the game was announced have apparently gone by the wayside. The bright spot is that the netcode is solid and relatively lag-free.

I’ve also come across some other gripes, a few of which I’d like to highlight:

• In online matches, I found it odd that you are tasked at manually setting your frame delay every single time. This is a nice feature to be able to manually set it, but an automatic option should be expected. Although it gives you a recommendation as to what to set it to, if you’re not familiar with it or overlook it you could be in store for unnecessary lag.

• A glaring omission is the absence of a move list present in the game anywhere. You can’t find it in the pause menu or even in Training. The move list is made available online in the form of a PDF, but I find it odd and inexcusable that there was no move list in the game itself. This is something the developers said they would possibly include later via an update, but there’s no guarantee to it.

• The Tutorial is an excellent way to teach you some universal fighting tips and strategies. This is definitely a welcome addition that every fighting game should have, but a few things put a slight damper on it. Some of the first few lessons could have been forged together to avoid several loading screens, like moving, jumping, and hitting any button. Later, some of the lessons actually become quite difficult, asking you to perform precise combos that would be very difficult to actually pull off in the heat of battle.

• Then there’s Training, which again offers great features such as hit boxes and damage meters, but loses points with no button entry display to see if you’re doing things right. Additionally, as mentioned, no move list.

• As alluded to in other parts of the review, the game lacks in the department of unlockables. Besides some new character color palettes and the two unlockable stories, the rewards and motivation (besides the knowledge that you did it) are few and far between.

Screenshot 4


Speaking of the achievements, the list is varied and creative and you can tell the developers put a great deal of thought into them. The list is far from the predictable story progression achievements that you might expect. The descriptions give hints for you to decipher rather than just spelling it out for you. Achievement hunters had to come together to figure out the clues as to how to unlock them. Of course, it wasn’t anything too difficult, as most of the solutions have pin-pointed the unlocking criteria now. For better or worse, most of the achievements can be grinded in local two-player matches, and the one for completing the story with all the characters can be done on the lowest difficulty. Some of them are a small grind though, so beware; because of this I wouldn’t necessarily call this an “easy” list, but it’s manageable for just about any skill level if you have the patience.

With rich visuals and a solid fighting system, Skullgirls had the foundation of being a great XBLA fighter. The list of shortcomings and omissions adds up though, and leaves the title feeling like it isn’t a complete package. Despite this, if you’re a big fan of the genre, it’s something you’ll want to try out.

The reviewer, litepink completed the story mode with all eight fighters, completed the tutorial, and delved time into the online multiplayer en route to completing all the achievements as well

Review score: Given 3 stars by litepink
AuthorMessage
Dat Boi Treezy - [drool] Mass Effect 3. I've waited so long for this. :D
Achievement Completion Percentage: 91.65% (Includes owned DLC) - 27 more achievements required to reach 92%TrueAchievements Newshound6,875 posts
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 12:46
Sweet review lp! MIGHT, check this one out... if I ever get through my huge Arcade game backlog.
Twitter @TA_Treezy I YouTube.com/19873009 I "Wu-Tang is for the children" - ODB.
Jaggexedge
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Jaggexedge
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Last post: 27 Apr at 10:10
Posted on 18 April 12 at 12:51, Edited on 18 April 12 at 12:51 by Jaggexedge
Great review. I do want to pick this up, but I have a massive backlog of games currently (And it doesn't help I just bough a bunch the other day), When I'm done with them (Or it goes on sale) I'll make sure to pick it up.
Daeryoon
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Daeryoon - Ascend grinding for the final achievement. Sarcastic yeah!
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Last post: 17 Sep at 17:31
Posted on 18 April 12 at 12:56
Good review, but it does not motivate me to add this to my backlog for full price. Might be good for fans of the genre, but not for me. I'm passing (unless it goes on sale...)
lord verh
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 13:19
Too bad you can't give away arcade games...
Godkarp
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Last post: 01 Sep at 21:21
Posted on 18 April 12 at 13:21
Good stuff, good stuff.

This is definitely one of the better fighting games out there, it's honestly worth the full price. Figuring out the achievements from the clues definitely added to the fun.
Barad XBA
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 13:44
Great review, might consider it.
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Ryot Control
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Last post: 09 Sep at 23:19
Posted on 18 April 12 at 14:10, Edited on 18 April 12 at 14:14 by Ryot Control
litepink said:"Even fans and observers of the SoulCalibur series started to take notice to Ivy’s growing and more revealing bust line, and how it has become tacky."I thought that was part of a running gag.

A scantily clad all-girl cast is a good way of getting [Ryot Control's] people’s attention.

The music was composed by the guy who did lots of Castlevaina tracks, but the stage music started to grate at me after a short while. I really enjoyed the game, and I'm hoping the inevitible DLC comes quick.
Zacry072
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 14:23
The trial was pretty cool I guess, but I don't plan on making this a purchase. Good review, though.
Einarath
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 14:26
Got it, and it's pretty good. Only complaint is that there is essentially no point in me playing online, as there appears to be no balancing in the matchmaking. I don't play many fighters, so I'm really not that good, and most matches online consist of me not being able to do anything as I'm combo'd to death within the first 20 seconds.

Still, it's a pretty cool style, and fun game offline playing local and against the comp.
Ra1neX
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 14:31
Good review over all but I have to disagree with
"Later, some of the lessons actually become quite difficult, asking you to perform precise combos that would be very difficult to actually pull off in the heat of battle."
Yes they are slightly difficult, but they are quite easy to pull off in the heat of battle with practice, without being able to pull off combos like that it will be quite difficult to get good at the game.
Compared to some combos I've seen from other fighting games it seemed quite easy
Speak of the devil! hahaha
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Last post: 07 Oct 13 at 17:06
Posted on 18 April 12 at 14:39
Ryot Control said:litepink said:"Even fans and observers of the SoulCalibur series started to take notice to Ivy’s growing and more revealing bust line, and how it has become tacky."I thought that was part of a running gag.

A scantily clad all-girl cast is a good way of getting [Ryot Control's/Dog of Thunder's] people’s attention.
Just had to echo my creepy, I own up to it, buying habits.

On another note, regarding the lack of a movelist: The UI was done by one person and also, given that this game is aimed pretty squarely at the hardcore fighting game type (hence the netcode adjustments), having an in-game move list was not a high priority. Mike Z, the brains behind Skullgirls and regular tournament player, laid it all out on the table during UltraChen TV and Wednesday Night Fights a while back.

Very interesting seeing the point of view from someone that, to my knowledge, basically sticks to 3D fighters (litepink is a beast in SoulCalibur, she's got fighting cred, but this is clearly in the BlazBlue camp).

Totally buying this once I get done with the semester and can actually enjoy it.
Polerand
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 14:58
Can breasts really be obnoxiously large?

I tease, I tease - great review. Not a fighting fame fan, but it seems like they did a decent job considering it was their first go at it. Lack of moves being available in game is irritating, but I think I could overlook that in this day and age. Might be easier to have on my phone anyhow.
Dark Rocky X
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 15:21
Ryot Control said:litepink said:"Even fans and observers of the SoulCalibur series started to take notice to Ivy’s growing and more revealing bust line, and how it has become tacky."I thought that was part of a running gag.

A scantily clad all-girl cast is a good way of getting [Ryot Control's] people’s attention.

The music was composed by the guy who did lots of Castlevaina tracks, but the stage music started to grate at me after a short while. I really enjoyed the game, and I'm hoping the inevitible DLC comes quick.
I agree, Ivy's breasts are not tacky too me. Women with breasts or growing breasts doesnt bother me one bit in a fighting game. I love breasts and what guy doesnt??? The music is also great: The Medici Tower and Maplecrest stages have the best music in my opinion.headspinheadspin
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Last post: 26 Jul 13 at 17:57
Posted on 18 April 12 at 15:23, Edited on 18 April 12 at 15:25 by TakahashiDemon
I'm waiting for a DotW, I enjoy most fighters, but this doesn't look as good as Arcana Heart 3 which was the same kind of thing, cast was full female, loads more characters, then they each could have Arcana powers too, its only really available to Japan and PAL regions though..

The main reason though now why I am waiting for DotW is so they add a command list into the game itself, its common sense if you're making a fighting game that you should have the command list in the pause menu, rather than the gamer having to grab the manual (in this case, PDF) to look up how to do that move, while the pause menu method is usually a lot easier as it shows every move of the person you're fighting with, rather than having to scroll down a PDF with every character's details in it.

Also, SCV Ivy covered up a bit compared to her IV counterpart lol I thought it was more or less her clothes started disappearing with each game.
Dark Rocky X
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Dark Rocky X - My bro Duane did a poll & I also want to see my friends's interesting choices! What's your favorite 360 game?
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 15:24
Oh by tha way Litepink, Great Review though. I bought it when it came out and i love tha game, even though i only went online just to show my brother how to do some of those moves in the tutorial, but not once have i fought online cuz its no point for me to do that.
Itzz Sh0wt1m3
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 15:49
yeah it is Itzz Sh0wt1m3
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Last post: 13 Aug at 19:52
Posted on 18 April 12 at 16:33
Appreciate the review! Doubt I will ever pick this one up though.
blkalleykat
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 17:58
Nice little review. I'll get the trial
STRESSER1
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Posted on 18 April 12 at 18:12
I'll buy it when the proce goes down significatley