Fighting games are a genre I have a life long affinity for. It stems from that insatiable joy of picking up a controller and hammering down brutal pain until your opponents health reaches nothing, leaving you to stand in glorious victory. The rewarding feeling of quite literally beating your way to the top is one that has a constant pay-off for this type of game, giving you immense power and a typically powerful enemy and leaving you to figure out a characters move set. Similar to an RPG, you gradually feel your strength grow as you learn new moves, counters and all that good stuff.
However, it does slightly have it’s limitations, in a mechanical sense. Over the years quite an abundance of fighting games have been made on just about every console, to the point that we’ve pretty much perfected the genre as a whole (save for a few new tweaks and balancing issues that come along with varying titles) This by no means bad, it’s given us so many good fighters, from Tekken, to Street Fighter to Smash Bros. Etc. But in order for a new title to really leave an impact it needs to find new means to innovative itself, which for many sees itself diving into presentation to mold something worthy of your attention. Skullgirls accomplishes this wonderfully.
Right from the offset, Skullgirls trickles with personality, dripping out with every new element it throws. Visually, the game is stunning. The backgrounds are busy and bustling with life and energy not to the point of distraction but serve as a nice backdrop for fights to take place and gives each area a diverse vibe and look. But more importantly, the hand drawn, 2D animated characters themselves are wonderfully created. Like a mesh of both anime visuals with a western cartoon aesthetic, each fighter has their own charm and distinct personality both in design and mechanics, and are wonderfully voice acted. Despite the very voluptuous models presented, you’ll likely find yourself enjoying the spirit of characters, especially new inclusions like Beowulf, whose story is and voice is something beyond entertaining, taking on the role of the loud boisterous cocky showman, always eager to be the crowd-pleaser.
Speaking of story, Skullgirls takes cues from many other fighters and constructs a simple story to give justification of why everyone is fighting. A mysterious item know as the Skull heart has appeared and has the ability to grant one woman’s wish. However, if she has an impure soul her wish will be corrupted and she will become the next skullgirl. Like many of the genre, it’s not the strongest of plots, but it does a relatively good job of giving the player motivation to press on and discover each of the backstories, especially for coming to grips with character introductions. My personal favourite was Beowulf, whose story takes on a different identity entirely as he goes about trying to reconstruct his career without paying much heed to his surroundings or the oddities going on. It’s yet another instance of the game injecting more charisma into a title already bursting with it.
Along with gorgeous visuals, it also bare a rather infectious soundtrack and sound design. Full of jazzy tunes that are unbelievably catchy, which exude a sort of classy, fancy vibe, while adding a nice mood to each battle you take part in. From the smooth bass lines of menu screens, to sexy saxophones, to piano driven energetic encounters, they almost always capture the essence of a dynamic brawl, save for one or two tracks that are a little too laid back in their execution to suit the mood. Interjected with sounds that really help boost the overall impact of all the explosive moves happening onscreen, it all comes together to help empower experience as a whole.
Ofcourse, this would all be for nothing if there wasn’t a capable and competent fighter at the helm of Skullgirls presentation. Heavily inspired by fast paced Capcom fighters, it takes the Street Fighter/Marvel vs. Style of gameplay and practically perfects it to a T. It is a hugely robust and mechanically strong game, offering up plenty of variety in movesets, combos chains and specials for this to compete with tournament ready titles. Allowing you to pick from a team of 3 to just single fighters, the game also allows for a huge amount of customisation and crafting of your skill and finding the right team layout. And for those new to this type of play, it also includes a more than proficient tutorial to help catch you up to speed on many more advanced techniques and moves incorporated into the competitive scene.
Overall, Skullgirls was a hugely fun and enthralling adventure. It was a series I had an interest in solely on it’s superbly stunning graphical style, and frantic pace. It more than lived up to my expectations and completely roped me into making it a main stay in my fighting game collection. It does a fantastic job of emulating the series that inspired it, and adding it’s own two cents in the form of their pleasing cast of quirky characters and unconditionally satisfying aesthetic appeal. At the price of €20 on the PSN store, I can very easily recommend purchasing this game if you’ve a love of the genre or have a passing interest in the game itself. It’s a worthwhile invest into a game brimming with life and technical brilliance.