I think the famous line from the Ricky Martin song “She Bang”, “She looks like a flower but she stings like a bee”, creates an accurate picture of what I’ve found from my time with Skullgirls. As long as you take the idea of stinging it hitting its mark. This attempt at the perfect fighting game is one of the most beautiful looking games to grace consoles this year. The game truly shines, however, with its fluid, highly technical gameplay that will attract fighting fanatics from all around, but also create a high barrier for new players. The issues that Skullgirls has (and it does have issues) don’t do much to overshadow the fact that this is one of the most appealingly unique fighters I’ve ever played.
Skullgirls falls snugly into the arms of the subgenre of fighting with the likes of recent hits Blazblue and the classic Guilty Gear series. Comparatively speaking, though, Skullgirls sets the bar miles above them in turns of visual appeal. Skullgirls is eyecandy. Its small roster of 9 characters are each represented with delicately crafted character models that actually look like animated pieces of art, rather than a collection of pixels. The heavy, anime style colors and super detailed stage backgrounds make fighting battles just as fun on the visual cortex as the motor cortex.
Even online, the framerate never slows. The cutscenes during the often short story mode brings together the emotion of the game’s unique cast. From a ninja nurse, to a 20′s cartoon character who smokes cigars and summons walking bombs, to a nun who transforms into an abomination, Skullgirls has the most unique cast of any fighting game. In fact, each of the characters are noticeably unique fighters as well.
Fighting is the name of the game, and this is where Skullgirls shines its brightest. Designed by a team of highly experience fighting game maniacs, Skullgirls is one of the most comprehensive, balanced and tactical fighting games around. It’s collection of characters are highly balanced, and take a lot of practice to master. Skilled fighting fans will have a field day with this, but that barrier will be a turn off for fighting game “noobs”. For those willing to learn, however, Skullgirls has what I believe to be the most helpful tutorial system ever. Rather than just tell you to complete certain tasks, it teaches you everything from basic mix-ups to intense strategies along with all of the essential fighting game lingo. One massive roadblock stands in the way of perspective players though, and that is the lack of a movelist. I was caught off guard when I had the movelists for each character emailed to me in PDF form. They should be available on the Skullgirls website, but it seems like a really unorthodox thing to leave out, especially in a fighting game that puts so much effort into being technically intense.
The sound, composed by legendary Castlevania composer Michiru Yamane, is really quite a show. A mix of jazz and intense collaborations fill your ears with happiness during cutscenes and in the heat of battle. Voice acting is also well done. Each character makes appropriate one liners that are usually witty, however some are corny, along with some of the dialogue during cutscenes. This is mostly negligible though.
While filled with little annoyances, Skullgirls is an extremely well-crafted beast. Delightful artwork, great music, and fantastic gameplay all create a well-rounded fighting game experience. However, the small roster and lack of movesets, along with the game’s sheer unforgiving nature, gives it an unfairly hard time when it comes to attracting a wide array of fighting fans, or those looking to become fighting fans. With DLC characters likely on their way, though, as well as patches, Skullgirls could be something to look out for. For now, it’s a great game that is just short of amazing.