Skullgirls (Xbox 360 Review)
This startlingly beautiful game is the first to be made Reverge Labs and is the culmination of almost a decade worth of work. Skullgirls is the first game to be produced by Mike Z. It has gained fame amongst the fighting game community as being the game designed by the community for the community. And with a tagline like that, who can resist?
The story starts with the arrival of the Skull Heart in Canopy City. This heart possesses the power to grant any woman/girl a wish. It almost sounds like a fairytale but with every fairy tale there comes a catch and this one is a biggy. Although the skull heart can grant any of their wishes, they must be pure of heart for it to work, if not they are consumed by the power it holds and become a Skullgirl destined to torment humanity. As with every fighter, each character has their own needs and wants for the artifact. Some wish to destroy it and others want to abuse its power but they all inevitably end up at the same point face to face with the current Skullgirl.
With mountains of experience behind him Mike z has taken the best ideas from across all different types of fighting games. There is your standard 6-button layout with light,medium and heavy punches and kicks as well as an intricate tag system. The game also boasts the very original “variable tag battle” in which there is no restrictions on either side meaning that a single character can face off against a team of 3. This would seem that one sided might be slightly disadvantaged having less characters but the game allows this team of one to have more power and health whereas the team of 3 could have a lot more variety for different situations. There is also the infinite prevention system that prevents the player from discovering an abusable loop and puts the player in a position where they can develop their own combos with different ways around them.
The game confidently enters the arena of fighting games, drawing inspiration from BlazBlue, Marvel vs Capcom and Street Fighter. You can see in the mechanics alone that there has been a lot of love and care put into the game to make it a truly fun experience.
With such a hardcore fighting game experience, naturally it would need a good tutorial and Skullgirls has taken the prize for introducing new players to the true basics of fighting games. What a player would usually learn from peers or trial and error is laid out in front of you. The game takes the time to explain the meaning of important fighting game terminology and what it means. Each stage places the player in situations where the intuitively build upon skills to deal with more complex strategies and increase their understanding. This is something that has never really been tackled before within a training mode, or at least not as in -depth, and it is nice to see it done so well.
As with any fighting game there is a story mode an arcade mode and a local versus. Unfortunately it is within the single player aspect that the games faults rise to the surface. The story lines are short and have very little deviation from a set list of fights. Although the world in which the game is set is vibrant and bursting with character the short cutscenes struggle to convey such an awesome atmosphere.
What really sets Skullgirls apart from the majority of modern fighting games is the hand drawn art. Other games do have bragging rights in this area but none of them breathe the same character into the world or its inhabitants in quite the same way. Each level has a vibrant colour scheme that compliments the madness that surrounds the fights. This art style is another testament to Mike Z’s involvement with fighting games from an early age and you can see where 2D art and BlazBlue have influenced the game. There really is some truly inspiring design and the art style will leave you begging for more.
With a cast of 8 characters many would be quick to judge the game on its lack of variety. For those of you who do echo this sentiment, shame on you. The 8 characters present are nothing like you expect from a fighting games, with no multi -coloured ninjas with slightly differed moves, palette swapped american rivals or duplicated move sets. Skullgirls’ cast is something else. Each character has their own quirky puns and pays homage to other famous games, attacks and characters.
Another point of interest is that even with an all female cast each of the characters have their own style, story and even bra size all laid out on skullgirls.com. If you don’t like the look of the big breasted nurse then maybe the more sinister shape shifting nun will take your fancy but you will be hard pressed not to find a character that doesn’t stir up some curiosity inside of you.
As a massive fan of the game and genre I have got more bang for my buck from Skullgirls in the past week than some more high profile fighting games released in the past year and with a price tag of 1,200 MSP to boot you will struggle to justify not buying the game too. If you are really interested in a larger roster it has already been announced that there will be more characters and stories added to the universe throughout the year. In short, with characters as unique as the art style, you will struggle to pull yourself away.