As an avid Fighter player, my interest was immediately piqued when, some time ago, I first got wind of the busty brawler, Skullgirls. Even though it is completely developed in the West–although co-published by Konami (the other publisher being Autumn Games)–the influences of Eastern Fighters such as Capcom’s infamous Street Fighter series and the wildly popular Marvel vs. Capcom series ring true, loud and clear. But although this tournament-ready game talks the talk, can it hold a candle to such exalted titles?
Skullgirls, released on April 10th for the Playstation Network and April 11th for the XBox Live Arcade, is set in the post-war underbelly of a land called the Canopy Kingdom. At first glance, it looks like the world in which the game takes place isn’t really expounded upon, but one can gather a little intel via playing through the Story mode with multiple characters. You can also learn of the universe surrounding the first enterprise by Reverge Labs by visiting the Skullgirls website. However, right off the bat, the premise of the game is revealed to the player through a cinematic opening (as most Arcade Cabinet games tend to do), which you can skip by pressing Start if you don’t really care, but it’s worth a gander.
The story goes a little something like this: the world is ravaged by a malevolent being known as the Skullgirl whom possesses the coveted artifact called the Skull Heart, which is said to grant a woman any wish upon defeating the Skullgirl and claiming it. However, if that woman is impure of heart, her wish will backfire, and she will be corrupted by the Heart, thus becoming the new Skullgirl.
Despite this, eight adventurously motivated (and rather curvaceous) women throw caution to the wind as they endeavor its pursuit. You can follow their individual journeys to acquire the Skull Heart by playing through Story Mode. For all you players who prefer burly man-folk swinging their meat-muscles around in the fray, don’t fret. Male characters are being considered as DLC.
One standout feature of Skullgirls is the revolutionary Tutorial Mode. Most modern fighters–Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 come to mind here–just let you choose a character and then give you basic bread-and-butter chains, focusing more on the offense. That’s fine and dandy, but after exploring the facets of multiple characters, I still find I don’t really know when it’s appropriate to do what, only that I can do it. Skullgirls’ Tutorial Mode teaches you literally everything you’d need to know about ANY Fighter, even terminology! It instructs the player to intelligently defend against varying kinds of mix-ups (against a surprisingly deft AI opponent, the high difficulty of which carries to Arcade and Story modes), teaches how and when to punish (as well as what “Punishing” is), covers team dynamics, and guides players through its intricate, infinite loop-preventing combo system (with, of course, bread-and-butter tactics). This allows newcomers to the genre to learn from the ground up and become smart fighters, instead of being haphazardly thrown into the intimidating world of perfect execution without prior exposure to real-life situations. Despite this illustrious step forward in the world of teaching the unteachable, there is a colossally unorthodox drawback: there are no Command Lists! In fact, there are none anywhere in the game. You have to download a document housing them from the site. This little oversight could possibly be rectified in a future patch.
What really identifies the game is its callback to early 90th century culture (circa 1915 to 1945) with its striking Art Deco-inspired atmosphere. This sets it apart from modern fighters that feature current, non-fictional lands that have been colorfully skewed or outlandish worlds that seem impossible to relate to by giving it a nostalgic and conceivable feel despite its supernatural premise. The toe-tapping, gloomy jazz score by renowned Castlevania composer Michiru Yamane really cements the mood as the characters, in all their completely handdrawn glory, thrash about coquettishly on the screen, delivering humorous quips or solemn statements.
One game element I found rather interesting is the ability to alter the number of fighters on your team, with the lowest of course being one, and the max being three. This is, as far as I know, a unique characteristic among games featuring a tag-team paradigm, and allows for a lot of strategic leeway. Those who like using one character to do just that, while those who desire more, to use more, and the game doesn’t even bar you to fighting only same-amount teams! You can have one versus three matches, two versus two, one versus two… every combination, and the strength of each team is scaled directly proportional to how many characters are on it. You can also customize your teammates’ assists, though two default ones are provided for you if you’re a go-with-the-flow kind of player.
With an eclectic cast, smooth gameplay (on and offline), jaunty tunes and an abundance of strategic possibilities, Skullgirls promises to be the hot new tournament craze. If you want to take part in the phenomenon that even players in Japan are raving about, you can jump on in and demo this voluptuous venture for free, or snatch it up immediately as I did for the very keen price of $14.99 for PSN and whatever the equivalent is for that in Microsoft Points for XBLA.
Source : Skullgirls Website