Review: Skullgirls

Review: Skullgirls

I’m a little torn with Skullgirls. Here lies a beautifully animated, deep and generally enjoyable fighting game, but on the other hand this a title that simply isn’t for the casual fighting fan as it is brutally, brutally difficult.

So, These Are My Breasts.

At its core, Skullgirls is essentially an animated softcore pornography fighting game. Breasts, pantie shots and general ‘Wait, what was that? Oh it’s gone’ moments pop up with reckless abandon as you fight each other, while the game routinely throws bizarre-looking moves at you with equal frequency.  It all sounds very strange, and it is, but the fact that the game is so beautifully drawn and rendered with fantastic-looking animations ultimately makes a very satisfying visual experience.

If you’re a fighting pro, you’ll probably take to Skullgirls straight away. It plays like your conventional fighter with all the traditional ‘LK’, ‘MK’ and other confusing commands present instead of regular button prompts, massive combos are possible with the right input/timing and each character also has a variety of special moves to unleash at opportune intervals.  As I said, fighting pros will take to this with absolutely no problem, but coming into this title with un-regular fighting game training means you’re going to get your backside kicked over and over and over again while you furiously hammer the buttons and try to do something worthwhile.

It’s essentially all about guesswork in Skullgirls. The game itself contains literally no command list whatsoever, so you’re left floundering and guessing what each character’s special moves and combos are. There does exist a PDF on the official Skullgirls website that outlines some of the moves, but this really feels like a stupid decision that’s incredibly annoying to have to access every time you want to check a move. Why do this and not just put the commands in the game as well? It baffles the mind, it really does.

The fact that the command list isn’t in place really detracts from the overall fun of Skullgirls, as once you master some combos the game really is an excellent fighter and you can kick some significant backside. Until you get to that point though (which will take a lot of relentless button-mashing as you try to hit a few cool moves completely by accident) the game becomes a struggle against incredibly unforgiving AI opponents who – even on the easier difficulties – will break out excessively long combos and break your face into a million pieces before you can say nice panties.

If you don’t believe me, watch myself and fellow ManaTank editor Eric Pederson totally fail at playing the game even after doing the tutorials (I have got slightly better since this). Warning: expect stupidity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5s6CXT-scpQ

In terms of storyline, Skullgirls doesn’t really wow. Everything’s present nicely with some more beautifully presented cutscenes done in comic-book style with overlaid text narration, but there’s nothing really to write home about here. The basic premise of the story is that the Skullgirl, a mysterious evil entity who loves killing people and causing general havoc, has shown up and it’s now up to the collection of scantily clad female characters to put a stop to this gosh-darned nuisance. It’s a neat little idea and all but there’s no need to really connect with the characters (this is, after all, just a game where you kick people in the crotch for fun) and you’ll be too busy being wowed by all the crazy antics going on screen to really pay attention to any semblance of plot.

The eight different characters all have their unique strengths and weaknesses, and each has a wide variety of different moves at their disposal. Again, since this is the case it’s all a bit too much guesswork and not enough ass-kickage as you start due to the lack of a useful command list, the game becomes less about combo strings and more about sly punches and kicks whenever you can hit them, with an occasional totally surprising special move thrown into the mix for good measure if you happen to hit the right sequence.

The fights take place in ye olde traditional 2D fighting style. The only major difference between this and other titles is Skullgirls allows you to play as one, two or three characters at once, with more characters meaning each individual girl is slightly weaker than one character who has more power. Generally I’ve found it’s better just to use one character – if it’s three on three, the gameplay (thanks to the vivid colours and fast pace) rapidly gets confusing and you’ll end up wondering which character is actually yours at multiple times. Throw tag attacks, special moves and more into the mix and you’ve got one big panty-filled and boob-jiggling fest that’ll probably have you frothing at the mouth but will leave you with absolutely no idea of what’s going on.

The Aptly Named ‘Kick N’Flash’

Once you get to grips with the overall control schemes and start to get into the swing of things, Skullgirls really opens up as an excellent fighting game. As it’s so incredibly hard to get to grips with the game forces you to get into a routine where you learn to expect the enemies manouvers, learning when to block, when to strike and when to hopefully unleash an epic combo you’ve finally managed to learn. It takes a lot or practice, but the rewards are there for those who stick with Skullgirls and fight through the early stages of button-mashing madness.

All I can say is: learn to block, and learn it well. Blocking plays an absolutely integral role in Skullgirls, as you need to constantly fend off the moves of both the highly aggressive AI and your button-mashing chums before making you move and unleashing hell in the form of your special moves/combos.   It’s all about the pacing really; once you’ve learned how to take your opportunities, memorised your favourite combo and discovered a move that your opponent just can’t block no matter how hard he/she tries, the game turns into a fun experience where you move on from the drooling, button-mashing moron you were at the games’ start and transform into a fighting god who wipes their heels with the tongues of button mashers.

Overall, Skullgirls is a bit of a mixed bag. If you stick with it, the rewards are there, but there’s a massive learning curve here for new players, and it’s ultimately let down by a lack of command-list, slightly unfair AI and a severe phase of button-mashing madness.

On the plus side though, Skullgirls is full of lots to love and is an anime fan’s wet dream.  I highly recommend picking this one up if you’re prepared to stick with it, but otherwise I’d stay away unless you wish to drool over busty cartoon chicks sticking thermometers down their cleavages. Up to you really.

Score: 7/10

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