Skullgirls Review

Originality packs more punch in the fighting game genre. Modern staples like Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, and Soul Calibur V are enjoyable, but far from original. In this void, the unique quality of an indie fighting game echoes.

Enter Skullgirls, a brand new fighting IP from Autumn Games and Reverge Labs. Skullgirls is a breath of fresh air in a genre filled to capacity with sequels. Everything about Skullgirls, aside from the 2D  fighting format, is or contains a new idea. It’s this originality, backed by a solid gameplay scheme and incredible aesthetics, that makes Skullgirls a rousing success.

Skullgirls introduces players to a brand new world known as the Canopy Kingdom, weaving a tale of dark power and darker intentions through eight anime characters, ranging from Parasoul, the kingdom’s princess, to Valentine, the nurse-ninja hybrid. While a roster of eight characters pales in comparison to the 30+ characters of Capcom’s offerings, the idea of “quality over quantity” is more than apparent. All eight of these fighters fall into the “easy to learn, hard to master” category. Each holds specific strengths and weaknesses over others, creating a formidable balance. This title was carefully designed with competitive gaming in mind.

The story follows an artifact called the Skull Heart, a glowing orb that has the ability to grant any wishes asked of it, but at a cost: anyone impure of heart morphs into a Skull Girl, unleashing wrath upon the world. The tale then splits into eight distinct storylines – one for each character. While having possession of an artifact is clearly nothing new, each of the stories offers insight into the characters.

Gameplay may be the only unoriginal thing about Skullgirls, and even then the core game has some compelling new features. Custom Assists arrive on the fighting scene for the first time, allowing players to create their own assist attacks to use during battle. Teams can use one super-powered character, two strengthened characters, or three of normal attributes. The battles are crisp, tightly controlled affairs with the standard six-button control scheme: three punch buttons, three kicks. I experienced no slowdown or any other technical issue when I played.  My only issue is the story mode’s final boss, Marie, who – in classic fighting game style – is relentlessly difficult. All of this action is backed by brilliant aesthetics, both in music choice and in visual style, that creates an amazing and original experience.

Skullgirls is more than just a new fighting game for players to get excited about. This game signifies the legitimacy of  the genre’s great resurgence. The games that started this resurgence (Street Fighter 4, Tekken 6) were mostly sequels, games that we’d all seen before. Sure, the fight mechanics may have been different and some of the faces may be new, but these had all been played before. This renaissance was lacking one thing: an original IP. Yes, technically BlazBlue is an original story with brand new characters, but the connections to Guilty Gear cannot be denied. Skullgirls has no earlier foundation; it’s a completely original idea waiting for a fighting fan hungry for originality.

Before the game launched, I feared that the lack of familiarity for this new IP may hurt the overall experience, but after playing it I was quickly proven wrong. Skullgirls is the best original fighting game IP in recent memory. It uses beautiful graphics and music to entice the players to try it, then focuses on an excellent control scheme and play mechanics to keep them invested.

Originality may be lacking in fighting games, but it’s far from dead. Skullgirls is the best example yet.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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