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Video Game Review: Skullgirls

April 23, 2012 | By Uma Smith | comment on this post
Skullgirls
Your headpiece looks like it can pack a punch!

While most fighting games feature females as relatively weak eye candy, games like Arcana Hearts 3 have helped to dispel that concept. And with more developers following suit, there may be even more hope. Most recently, Reverge Labs has come up with an all-female cast in their newly-released title, Skullgirls, available on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, which begs the question: is there too much girl power to handle?

CONTROLS (4.25/5)

Figuring out each character’s moves and abilities will take some time, like all fighting games. Even though the learning curve could be steep for beginners, Skullgirls has a very good tutorial that helps players understand the basic mechanics of the fighting system. However, it’s a pity that there isn’t a moves list accessible during the game.

Nonetheless, the game’s control scheme is similar to that in the Street Fighter series, making it very easy to pick up and play. The buttons are laid out in an old-school fashion with three punches and three kicks. Ultimately, it’s a matter of skill in pulling off the combos at the right time rather than simply testing your memory with complicated sequences to perform moves.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4/5)

Skullgirls is filled with dazzling characters that are loaded with spunk and artistic value. You also get fluid animations that are full of personality. Furthermore, the environments are populated with some colourful designs and lively effects that really stand out.

Each of the girls’ personalities comes to life thanks to some very nice voice acting. And to top it off, Michiru Yamane, well-known composer of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, contributes to the music behind Skullgirls. The resulting audio helps to bring out both the characters’ persona and the game’s gothic flavour.

GAMEPLAY (3.75/5)

Skullgirls’ premise centres on a legendary artifact known as the “Skull Heart” — anyone that manages to get their hands on it will have their wish granted. However, those without a pure heart may end up cursed, as is the case with Bloody Marie, who has taken the form of a monster because of the Skull Heart currently in her possession.

There are eight female characters that are somehow associated with this Skull Heart. The roster may lack depth in comparison to other fighting games’ on the market. Nonetheless, the characters themselves are unique and charming enough to overlook this limited selection.

When playing in story mode, each character has their own path and story to tell via cut scenes. Knowing this, players are given the incentive to complete the single-player mode with each character, which helps extend the game’s value.

Skullgirls’ gameplay is similar to that of Capcom’s fighter titles, like SNK vs. Capcom, where you have a tag-team partnering system in place. You can decide on the number of characters you want to have on your team. If you choose to have only one, your character will boast more powerful attacks and be able to sustain more damage. On the other hand, if you choose three, each would be relatively weak. However, having multiple characters allows you to switch between them and have a more diversified set of attacks and special moves at your disposal.

The way the system is set up provides some well-balanced mechanics as well as a great deal of customization. During fights, you can tag your partner so that he or she will take over. Additionally, you can call on your partners for brief assist attacks. These aren’t just limited to special moves, either. They can actually perform regular attacks or even launch your opponent to start an aerial combo. As a result, you get an added element of strategy to incorporate into your battles.

Computer opponents put up quite a fight but without resorting to cheap tactics. In other fighting games, enemies can anticipate your moves based on what you’re inputting on your controller, making it seem that they’re always a step or two ahead of you. But for Skullgirls, enemies execute combos whenever you leave an opening or make any errors in your attacks. So the fights feel fair.

When you reach the final boss, you face off with Bloody Marie herself. Here, she can be as ruthless as Gill from Street Fighter 3. Unfortunately, she does not get added to your roster no matter how many characters you use to defeat her. Could this be foreshadowing of a future DLC? I hope so — as long as there’s not a price tag attached.

Most fighting games retain value from their ability to challenge opponents other than the computer. That is also the case with Skullgirls where you can engage in a two-player sessions both locally and online. As always, you may want to brush up on your skills before taking on the challenge online. Otherwise, you may end up being schooled!

OVERALL (4/5)

Skullgirls packs a punch with its superior artwork, excellent voice acting and familiar controls. If you’re a fighting fan, it shouldn’t take much to get it through your thick “skulls” to purchase this title.

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