MEGATech Reviews – Skullgirls for PC (Steam) Michael Kwan October 18, 2013 MEGATech Reviews Skullgirls originally launched on the PlayStation Network (PS3) and Xbox Live Arcade (Xbox 360) back in April. While not a blockbuster AAA title by any means, it was generally well received, but the lack of a PC version seemed like a glaring omission. Developer Revenge Labs changed that recently, partnering up with Marvelous AQL to release the anime-inspired fighting game on PC via the Steam Store. And that’s where we are today. It’s About to Be a Girl Fight I dabbled in Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Tekken and other fighting game franchises growing up, but my bread and butter had always been (and continues to be) the traditional 2D Capcom fighter. Not surprisingly, I’m mostly partial to the canonical Street Fighter series and it is with that kind of mindset that I approach most fighting games. To this end, Skullgirls is simultaneously familiar and completely novel. It is still a 2D fighting game played with a standard six-button layout. You have your three levels of punches and your three kicks. This lent itself perfectly to being played on the Eightarc Synthesis or any number of other arcade-style fightsticks. Most of the special moves performed by the all-female cast take on the quarter-circle “hadouken” motion that should be familiar to most fighting game fans. The play style, however, is probably a little closer to the Marvel vs. Capcom series, especially when it comes to character assists, tag-style combat, and delayed hyper combos. Only Eight Characters? If you were to go back to the early 1990s, it was the expectation that a fighting game would have a roster of roughly this size. Street Fighter II gave you 8 selectable characters. The first Mortal Kombat had 7. However, with games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and others like it, we’ve come to expect to have dozens of options and that’s not what you get here. Skullgirls starts out with just eight selectable characters, all of whom are female and they have–let’s say–exaggerated female features. The art style is cartoony in feel, but players sensitive to the objectification of women may find this game mildly offensive. I’ll leave that up to you. The characters themselves are reasonably varied as far as move sets and fight styles, so there is some variety. An additional 5 DLC characters are being planned as well, the first of whom (Squigly) is available now. Of those five, two of the characters will actually be male. One, Two or Three Girl Teams One of the more interesting dynamics offered by Skullgirls is that you can vary the size of your team, not unlike the “ratio” system that we saw in Capcom vs. SNK 2. I personally found going with a two-girl team was the best approach; having just one girl meant you had no assists and going with three girls made each of them too weak individually. This does lend to some interesting matchups, online and off. Gameplay Impressions Let me preface this by saying the game itself is gorgeous. Each character sprite is said to have some 1,400 hand-drawn animation frames, which is the most per character in any fighting game to date. The art style is bright and vibrant, reminiscent of other similar fighting games like the Guilty Gear franchise. As far as the gameplay, we find an interesting mashup of familiar styles. As mentioned, there is the team dynamic of the Marvel vs. Capcom series. You can call in your partners for quick assists and you can tag out as needed to regenerate red health. The super meters and hyper combos — which are called Dramatic Tension and Blockbuster attacks, respectively — have the same kind of feel too, including the more powerful 3-meter Blockbuster attacks. The gameplay is nowhere near as fast and frantic as Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but you can engage in some elaborate air combos and delayed hyper combos too. And just like Street Fighter X Tekken, the “dial-a-combo” mechanic is in place where you can effectively mash your way from LP to MP to HP (or kicks) to deliver some decent damage. I tend to be a masher, so I found myself relying on this a little too often. Taking My Game Online Having made my way through arcade mode a couple of times, I hopped into the online lobby to see how my decidedly novice skills would fare against more seasoned online warriors. Unsurprisingly, I got whooped. Badly. I didn’t see the 50, 60 or even 100 hit combos that I sometimes see in MvC3, but it was not out of the ordinary to get destroyed in combos of upwards to 20 hits. But those losses fall on my shoulders. The net code, based on my experience, appears to be very solid. It uses the GGPO system to create near lag-free gameplay, though the online community is understandably not as large as some more popular titles. That said, I never had to wait long to get matched up for a game. MEGATechie Femme Fatale or MEGATechie Cartoon Crap? Visually, Skullgirls is stunning. The 2D animation is wonderfully bright and detailed. You can tell that they put in a lot of care and attention into each hand-drawn frame. The gameplay is similarly robust, offering enough depth for veterans, but being easy enough to approach for those of us who play fighting games a little more casually. If you are completely new to fighting games, though, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The tutorial helps, but experience is the best teacher. At $14.99, the PC version of Skullgirls on Steam is a title that fighting game fans will enjoy, but the relatively small roster is a sore sticking point. Even so, I like the choice of team sizes, as well as the creativity put into the characters. Where else will you find a femme fatale with a detachable head or one with giant slugging arms for a hat? Street Fighter IV will still be my main game, but the occasional session with Skullgirls (or Divekick) adds some good variety to the mix. Share This With The World!