I can only count the number of current generation Western-developed fighting games with the fingers of my left hand before SkullGirls was released. In a genre fairly dominated by Japanese staples like Street Fighter, Tekken and King of Fighters, it’s surprising to see that a game so familiar yet so distinctively Western is released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
SkullGirls is developed by Reverge Labs and published byÂ AutumnÂ Games and Konami. What was once a pet project is now on sale on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, and I personally think games like this will pave the way for new developers to venture in console game development. That aside, SkullGirls has one thing to offer to fighting game players everywhere –Â familiarity.
Nostalgia Surge. Familiar Faces.
If you have lived through the days of six-button arcade inputs, you’re in for a treat. SkullGirls utilizes this configuration so that your late-90s self will Â possess you again for some neat femme brawling. For those who’re not aware, the six-button config is where you have three Punch and Kick buttons of varying, increasing strength. The closest thing you can have to it in today’s games is Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, to be exact. You may need a lot of getting used to this configuration if you’ve been playing other games with four- or five-button configs, but it’s not really to get back on track. SkullGirls emulates the classic arcade experience with its choice of configuration, which is a good thing with games flooded with ‘easy’ input methods.
Characters are also provide an air of familiarity as the characters’ overall design are inspired by Western cartoons and character tropes. One just cannot take off of his mind the fact that these characters look and feel very familiar, and this adds to the nostalgia factor the game banks on to attract players. From head to toe, you know you have seen these girls from your Saturday morning kid’s show. The interface and some stages are reminiscent of the 30s where movies are big and Hollywood was still corny. Call it fanservice, but it works.
My Pain Will Be Visited Upon You
The mechanics for SkullGirls is very familiar as well. You can think of it as a faster Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, but as crazy as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 with an all-female roster from Arcana Heart 3. How does that work? Allow me to explain.
The game is primarily a ground-based fighter running on six buttons, and allows you to use a character or a team of two or three characters to brawl. While in a team, you can ‘snapback’ characters and switch between your team members. You can also call for assistance when things get hefty. Other usual features include a super meter (though it is the colored Â half-ring below the character portrait, akin to Arcana Heart 3‘s Force Gauge), special moves, and super moves convincingly called ‘Blockbusters’. When you choose a team, you can choose which special moves they will perform as assists, akin to Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s assist system. You can also launch opponents for a brief period of time and follow them up with an air combo, though these combos doesn’t have ridiculously long strings (or probably I still haven’t made a 50-hit combo, they’re impractical to perform while playing against other players if you ask me, why bother?), which is somehow a good thing, as this will make a relatively slower game appear even more slower.
Is it me, or do indie fighters play better than commercial ones?
Input is also strict as you will really need to enter the precise commands at the right time to properly execute combos, mix-ups and breakaways. Even I myself find it ‘too strict’ as dragon punch commands don’t do their job but instead performs a quarter-circle command. I’m not really sure if it is me, my stick, or the game, but with input this strict, new players might find it a bit difficult to play, especially with the perception that a six-button input for an arcade game is hard. The training mode makes up for the strict input as the tutorials actually teach you to play the game. It has lessons on creating and guarding against mix-ups, reading, creating simple combos and making you remember to poke first before you continue. Â It also has an option to show hitboxes for the more technical players. It’s like the developers deliberately showed the game’s innards so that players can go crazy with it. I wonder what kind of community will this game create with a game whose focus appears to be building a community over selling tons of copies.
Single player mode has a story and arcade mode, where the story is told with a dialog box like a visual novel. The story of each character and overall settings is intriguing, but not as huge and intricate as BlazBlue‘s. Online play utilizes the GGPO netcode used for Street Fighter III: Third Strike, so a smooth online play experience is to be expected. Matchmaking is done via regions, so players can easily look for a match without any hiccups. Only issue that I have with online play is the fact that PlayStation Network doesn’t seem to have that many players and the occasional connection drops when connecting to a US East Coast host. Â The game also has unlockable characters, a homage to the games of old where you actually do something to gain access to parts of the game, rather than buy them as DLC.
Medical Board Will Be Notified
The game is all fine and dandy will all the familiarity fed to the player, but it is not without its faults. Command lists are nowhere to be found, and you will need to check the official site to see the characters’ move lists, though that is a little problem because it’s not like they’re Dante who has a thousand moves. Training mode also doesn’t have a CPU option for your training buddy, nor the options to set the dummy to do something for you. Your training dummy will just stand there staring at you while you do insane combos at her. Also, to complement the game’s Art Deco roots, the game uses music inspired by the era but sometimes the BGMs feel off. The music for the game is Â composed byÂ Castlevania: Symphony of the Night composer Michiru Yamane. It may be because music from the 30s isn’t really audacious orÂ bombastic, and such music is for chilling out, but the game could’ve used livelier melodies to keep the battle exciting despite the slower game.
Good Hunting, Commander
Nothing is new in SkullGirls. Everything we know from the games before it are there in a safe attempt at getting a piece of theÂ resurgent fighting games pie. The good thing is it takes everything we know about fighting games and presents them in a nostalgic but unique way making the game as fresh as it can get. We recently got news that SkullGirls has reportedly sold over 50,000 copies since release, probably breaking the myth the fighting game enthusiasts really don’t like having an all-female roster. The game has lots of potential to create a community of players and there are still lots to be added to its current content. We can see it thriving in tournaments soon and I personally can’t wait the the future holds for this game.
I got to get back to practicing. And to be honest, I really like Filia. She’s like pulled from an English-dubbed Saturday morning anime. I also bet every SkullGirl is a Touhou.
SkullGirls was played on a PlayStation 3 using a Hori Real Arcade Pro V3 SA for the purpose of this review. If you want a quick match in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Arcana Heart 3, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or SkullGirls, add me up: azuazunyan.