2012 2D anime fighter Skullgirls is under siege by some fans after a recent update made micro-adjustments to scantily clad women and got rid of Nazi symbols among a host of other tweaks to the decade old game. The tweaks led to review bombing on Steam and claims by fans that the small changes have somehow fundamentally altered the game’s DNA.
Modelled after Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and set in a post-WWII era with plenty of allusions to European fascists, Skullgirls and its communityhave been no stranger to controversy and scandal. Most notably, the game switched studios in 2020 after the head developer of the team that originally created it was accused of misconduct for making inappropriate sexual remarks.
Of course, Skullgirls itself has also had plenty of questionable content, ranging from standard anime horny to creepy or potentially offensive art, which the new team has now decided to update in some infinitesimally small ways as it continues working on balance patches and ports of the Skullgirls 2nd Encore version of the game.
As part of a global Skullgirls content update, we have adjusted several art assets in Skullgirls Mobile, Skullgirls 2nd Encore, and the Digital Art Compendium on all platforms.
— Skullgirls (@Skullgirls) June 26, 2023
Published on June 26, Skullgirls’ newest patch notes list balance change as well as “alterations” to a bunch of in-game art and scenes, including getting rid of Nazi-like armband symbols, making some female fighters slightly less overtly objectified, and jettisoning certain racial references. The devs then made a long post explaining their reasoning behind the creative shift.
With the Nazi allusions, for example, Skullgirls current devs write, “We felt that the way that manifested (most notably via red armbands, flags, and symbolism) was too close for comfort – especially given the unfortunate reality that some of these hate groups are still active in various respects to this day.”
Regarding certain sexualized depictions, the devs write, “While Skullgirls is no stranger to characters that confidently express their sexuality, there are instances in the game where characters are fetishised and/or have sexualization imposed upon them.” They also specifically call out certain examples of “unwanted predatory behaviour, particularly towards younger characters.”
A YouTube video by LalitoTV (via PC Gamer) runs through most of the changes in about two minutes, and trying to spot most of them is like looking through a Where’s Waldo puzzle book. In one story mode scene the BDSM vibes are just barely toned down by not blindfolding a character, where another character’s Cronenburgian transformation now no longer includes a spot that looks like a woman’s butt covered by white underwear. In a tentacle scene, a character’s butt is covered with more tentacles to hide her underwear.
These are the differences that have now led to at least 600 new negative reviews of the game on Steam, some from people who have barely played the game, and a flurry of comments on the Discussion page like “can a 10-year old game be refunded” and “are you confident in the future of gaming?” Meanwhile, a post announcing the update on Twitter has become a battleground between players complaining that the game is being censored and those dunking on the absurd outrage. Some players even think Skullgirls devs haven’t gone far enough in making changes to the game, like for example finally making every sexualized character in it clearly over the age of 18. But for now, the studios have apparently said all they’re going to say on the subject.
“We of course realise that some members of the Skullgirls community may disagree with these changes, either in terms of how we chose to address them or whether they were in fact issues that warranted addressing in the first place,” they wrote in their update. “Please know that all of these choices have been made following careful consideration and lengthy discussion amongst all members of the current development team. Beyond this post, we do not intend to discuss the particulars of these changes further.”
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