Skullgirls, The Smarter 2D Fighting Game

A new 2D fighting game will throw its hat into the ring this (northern) summer, the ambitious and impressive Skullgirls. It’s a downloadable girl-on-girl brawler borne of a love of Street Fighter, Marvel Vs Capcom and Guilty Gear. It’s a fighting game that creatively solves fighting game problems.

Skullgirls, coming to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network around mid-year, is a fast-paced 2D fighter. Not quite as speedy as Marvel Vs Capcom 2 or 3, though it features stylish air-juggling combo attacks. The roster, for now, features eight female fighters who duke it out in a colourful “Dark Deco” world, brawling in one-on-one and tag-team matches.

To date, they’ve officially revealed three fighter. Filia is a schoolgirl – a “rushdown” character with aggressive attacks – with a shape-shifting parasite attached to her head. Cerebella, the grappler, is a circus performer with a “mega-strong set of arms she wears as a hat” named Vice-Versa. And Peacock? We’ll we’re not quite sure what she does yet.

Skullgirls is the work of Reverge Labs and the spawn of artist Alex Ahad and programmer Mike Zaimont. Zaimont, or Mike Z as he’s known in fighting game circles, is a tournament competitor, well versed in the 2D fighting styles of BlazBlue, Guilty Gear and Marvel Vs Capcom 2. That’s evident in many of Skullgirls clever design choices.

This is a six-button 2D fighting game stuffed with fighting game tradition: the ability to cancel special moves, then parlay them into other, sometimes flashier, deadlier moves; the option to call in a tag-team partner for an assist attack, air-dashing, push-blocking, and a deep combo system that can lead to stunning beatdowns.

Skullgirls does a few of those things differently, though. It eliminates unblockable attacks found in other games that feature tag-team assists, for example. Say your opponent calls in an assist attack, one that is only blockable low. But he also performs an attack that can only be blocked high. In other games, that would be all-but-unblockable. In Skullgirls, you’ll be able to block both at once in this circumstance.

The game also allows for combos that can be started in-air, then continue on the ground. Normally, an air combo means a knockdown, but Skullgirls offers the opportunity to continue that chain.

One of its most interesting design choices is how this 2D fighting game deals with something that can kill competitive fighting games: infinite combos. In many fighting games, some simple to execute combos can lead to chains that can never be broken. Rather than try to squash these completely, Skullgirls offers a different solution. Should you find yourself trapped in an infinite combo – you’ll see the “hitspark” change – simply tap a button and you’ll be able to break out of it.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to chain together impressively lengthy combos that number in the dozens of hits, however. As long as you vary up your attacks, you’ll be able to keep the combo stacking – but eventually you’ll run out of variations.

Skullgirls takes a creative approach to its graphics, as well. This is a hand-animated, 2D sprite-based game with high-resolution characters free of pixelation. But those 2D characters are lighted with 3D tech. You’ll see the girls light up from hitsparks or street lights on stages or chandeliers casting down soft light from the ceiling. It is impressive to look at, richly animated and dynamically lit from all sides. There’s character and charm to these designs, so we look forward to seeing what the rest of the cast is like.

From what we’ve seen and played of Skullgirls, this is a serious fighting game contender designed by people who are passionate and expertly knowledgeable about what can make a fighting game succeed or fail. It feels friendly to the occasional Street Fighter IV player, but deep and technical for the aspiring pro fighting game player.

Keep an eye out for Skullgirls when it comes to consoles in coming smonths, courtesy of Autumn Games.

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