7 May 2012

Skullgirls: First Impression

Skullgirls was finally released for the PS3 in Europe last week. I had to buy it, of course (15€ was a reasonably fair price, even), 'cause what I'd seen of it looked pretty cool, and I've been playing a little over the last few days.

In case you don't know, Skullgirls is a traditional 2D fighting game title, looking back to the golden age of the genre in the 90's, but utilising modern technology with quality HD graphics. The franchises it can probably be best likened to are Guilty Gear and Darkstalkers, featuring a cast of crazy, if not silly, anime-inspired characters, and a fairly original setting with sci-fi and fantasy elements.

Now, when I first heard about this game, I was a little concerned about the fact that it was being made by Americans. This is a genre that, in my mind, is very much associated with the Japanese game industry. But its creators are passionate about the genre, and have been very faithful to all its trappings.

So, what have we got? Eight cool, weird female characters. (While eight doesn't necessarily sound like a lot by modern standards, for newcomers it's probably better to have fewer characters, makes them easier to learn. They intend to release more characters over time, though.) Some pretty good looking graphics (they boast about having the "most frames of animation per character of any fighting game"). Fairly fast gameplay, with a system that should be easy to learn for fighting game veterans (it uses the Capcom-style three punches and three kicks controls, and fairly standard motions for special attacks).

One of the most interesting features of the game is that it's basically a tag team game, but gives you the option of choosing one to three characters, balancing different sized teams against each other. I've mostly disliked team based games before, they tend to be less approachable since you need to learn to play several characters right from the start, but the option to play with one character and gradually expand (if you wish) makes the game much easier to get into.

The modes are fairly basic. You've got your single player arcade and story modes, local and online versus modes (you won't see me playing online, though, I suck too bad to even consider it), training mode, and some decent tutorials too (although there probably could be more of those for complete newbies, or scrubs like me). No fancy gimmick modes here, but that's probably expected from a relatively low price downloadable game (then again, there have been full priced fighting games out there with not much more content). The story mode for each character is pretty short, but the story and setting are fairly interesting by fighting game standards (not a genre generally associated with a lot of story depth).

There's a decent variety of difficulty settings. On easiest setting the single player modes should probably be beatable for anyone with any knowledge of fighting game basics. I played through the story modes on easiest difficulty without practising the game much at all, and the challenge level was pretty good for me (i.e. I could beat them all, but not without dying a few times). Of course I can't say how the game will be for real fighting game veterans (though of course they'll be more interested in playing against human opponents, anyway).

Music's the one thing I haven't talked about yet, mostly because... well, I can't say I've really paid that much attention to it (which of course isn't a great compliment to it). It's by no means bad, it's just not as memorable as, say, the kick-arse rock tunes of the Guilty Gear series...

Well, this 'first impression' seems to have turned into an almost full length review. But I really don't have enough experience with the game yet to call it that. Anyway, my current feeling is that Skullgirls is probably the most fun of its genre that I've played for the current console generation. Its cool characters and setting, and appealing hand drawn graphics, make it much more interesting to me than the likes of Street Fighter IV.

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