Released on consoles, and recently on Steam. Skull Girls is one of the latest titles to show off the power of crowdfunding. Designed by hardcore fighting game enthusiasts, can it hang with the AAA budgeted series’ that inspired it?
PROS: Fantastic animation. Great character design. Deep fighting system.
CONS: High skill gap may turn off newcomers. Small roster.
GARBAGE DAY: Skull Girls references a lot of internet humor, and memes.
In a word, yes. Skull Girls is definitely a game that fighting game fans should look into. Especially those who love combo centric, flashy fighters like Capcom’s Vs. Series, or Arc System Works’ many Guilty Gear, or Blazblue titles. It employs Street Fighter II’s classic six button layout so long time fighting game fans will probably be able to whip out a few combos, or special moves out the gate. It does ensure that anyone who picks it up will be able to play it with friends who come over. But outside of Light, Medium, Fierce punches, and kicks it veers far outside the scope of Street Fighter.
The speed of this game is very fast. You’ve no doubt stumbled upon a Youtube or Twitch clip of high level players doing unimaginable things in Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. These kinds of players will feel right at home in Skull Girls. It features a lot of the same things you’ve seen in fighters of it’s ilk. Combos, and links (At this point a very basic fighting game staple) are a given. But you will also see: Launchers (Moves that knock your opponent helplessly in the air to start an air combo), Wall bounces (Rebounding your opponent off of the sides of the 2D level to continue a combo), Cancelling (Stopping a move to do a different one, or when you realize you’re making a mistake), and much, much, more. It even borrows one other thing from more recent Street Fighter titles, and that’s a super meter. Filling up your meters to different levels will allow you to unleash some really impressive super moves.
Skull Girls does also have something a little different up it’s sleeve to keep high level matches from being one sided, and that’s it’s anti infinite system. Every combo in the game has at least one part that can be interrupted by a skilled enough player. This greatly reduces the odds of two evenly matched players from being able to exploit frame data (The painstaking research to find out which animation frames hurt you, don’t hurt you, or do nothing) to keep players in an endless combination of moves resulting in guaranteed wins. It’s actually a pretty good system here for both novices as well as those who consider themselves professional video game players. It reduces a great deal of squash matches at high levels of play. Another great thing is the lack of Dial-A-Combos. Simply inputting moves fast will not break out the desired results. The moves all have a timing element. Players have to really grasp the inputs, and at what time to follow one with the next.
This is where Skull Girls faces it’s greatest two problems though. The first is that there is a vast skill gap. While this is true of many fighting games out there today, Skull Girls has a community of the most die hard fighting game fans around. Folks who have mastered classics like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat or Tekken, as well as more modern popular fighters. As such, people who stumble upon it, think it looks neat, and buy it will have a bigger uphill battle than in those other games. If you’re a newcomer who goes online with this expect a winless record for awhile.
Fortunately, the game does have a robust training mode in it. It will teach you basic, elementary things like the six button layout, blocking efficiently, and special moves, right on up to the really difficult stuff like combination moves, chaining, linking, and cancelling as well as tag team attacks. Of course players will have to realize completing the training alone isn’t going to win matches, but it will increase their chances.
The second problem with the game is the small number of characters. If one buys the game early enough, it will include future character bundles for free (Although you still have to pay for the color schemes.). After that, they will be accessible behind a DLC paywall. Naturally players will want the extra characters because the base game has a scant 8 characters. While that might have passed in 1992 with The World Warrior, it doesn’t pass now. In it’s defense most of the characters are really cool, from Peacock (A mechanized girl in the style of 1940’s Warner Bros. Cartoons) to Valentine (The classic 1940’s Naughty Nurse) to Double (A shape-shifting blob that disguises itself as a Nun.). The game has a low cost of $15 but if the DLC proves too costly it could potentially turn new players away as well.
Which would be a shame because everything else about the game is quite honestly top notch. Animation runs briskly, with hundreds of cells of animation. The main story, while lacking (Like most fighter stories) does tell itself through some impressively drawn cinema screens. Stages look amazing. Taking a cue from Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, it goes for an impressive 2.5D look using 3D cel shaded backgrounds as a backdrop for characters, although Skull Girls uses sprites for it’s fighters. Beautifully drawn sprites.
The music is probably one of the best parts of the game. Everything goes with the 1940’s aesthetic, and upon beating the single player story mode you’re treated to a really well orchestrated Jazzy Big Band tune.
Skull Girls is truly awesome. Anyone who likes fighting games should definitely check into it. Just remember like other high level fighters, novices may want to stick to couch or computer desk matches for awhile before taking their chances online. That said, it’s one of the best new fighting games to come out over the last 8 years. Certainly no easy feat.
Final Score: 8 out of 10