Hands On: Skullgirls

“I wish Delriach was here”. It’s not often I think that, mainly because he’s a bit mad, but in all honesty he would have come in very handy for the hands on of the latest 2D fighter on the block, Skullgirls. First of all, let’s set the scene. Legend tells of a mysterious artefact known as ‘The Skull Heart’ that has the power to make a young woman’s wishes come true.

As with most things, there’s a catch. If her soul is pure, the woman who claims The Skull Heart will be granted her wish without consequence. However in the hands of the unworthy, even a selfless wish becomes a twisted punishment for all mankind. The woman will become a Skullgirl, a “monstrous entity of immense power”. A group of contenders line up to fight for control of The Skull Heart, and that’s where you come in.

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[drop2]The first thing you will notice about the game is the beautiful art style. With Alex Ahad (of UDON’s Tribute books, and Scott Pilgrim fame) on board, the characters look fantastic, and a little bit crazy. As this isn’t an established franchise, such as Street Fighter, the team have had the freedom to let their imaginations run wild. It’s packed with little details, even though you’re more than likely to miss them. Case in point: one of the characters, Peacock, fires a canon as one of her attacks. If you concentrate really hard you see she actually lights the fuse from a cigar in her mouth. It all happens in the blink of an eye, but adds a real charm.

The dynamic lighting effects are also really well done. Move into the shadows and the light around your character will fade, however if you then jump up towards a light source you’ll light up accordingly, with shadows being cast in all the correct places. To summerise; it’s looking damn fine.

Now on to the actual fighting mechanics. There were four characters unlocked for this session (with four more to be unveiled) and they each handled differently. Parasoul, for example, is a charged fighter and relies on distance to unleash her attacks, whereas Cerebella (who has a giant pair of arms attached to her head) is a grapple-based fighter who will try and get in close for a devestating throw. Then there’s Peacock. I don’t even know how to describe Peacock, except that she’s perhaps my favourite fighter in any game, ever. When she was younger Peacock was kidnapped by slave traders, and it broke her mentally. She was later taken in by a lab who turned her into a killing machine, albeit one that fashions her attacks on old cartoons such as Charlie Brown. Expect falling bank vaults. In fact, here’s a trailer of the lady in action.

When you start the game you’ll be given the choice of picking up to three characters. If you choose just the one character they willl be very powerful, but lacking in variety. On the flip side if you pick three characters, they will all be individually weaker than the one powerful character, but you can use assist moves and even switch out. Speaking of assist moves, you can choose what your partner will do from a limited list or, and this is rather cool, go to the custom editor and assign any move you want – even if it’s just a simple dash across the screen to take a hit that was meant for you.

The last fighting game I played was Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which pinged about the screen at about 300mph. Things are a bit slower with Skullgirls, and far more manageable. That’s not to say things are simple, and combos of 100 are apparently possible (I hit…seven). By timing things correctly you can recover from certain knockdowns, and there’s a system in place that let’s you push back an opponent slightly if they are crowding you.

One of the more interesting features is the way the game deals with infinite combo loops. Normally if you get caught up in one of these you might as well pack up and go home, but Skullgirls senses if your opponent is using the same button presses to keep a combo going, and gives you a chance to break free. Last but not least are the special moves. By building up a gauge under your name, you can store a special move for whenever you see an opening. These deal a lot more damage than normal, and if you’re quick (and have enough stocked) you can launch a special, switch out and have your replacement character unleash their special too.

Despite having my backside kicked several times I really enjoyed my time with Skullgirls. Even with using a PS3 pad, I was starting to get the hang of things after half an hour and pulling off various moves with a decent success rate. If you’re a fighting fan you’ll want to keep an eye out when this hits PSN/LIVE towards the end of this year.

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5 Comments

  1. Seconded. Played this at Gamescom and really enjoyed my time with it.

  2. “…if you wanna test me, I’m sure you’ll find”

    Very much enjoying the punch line :)

    • “The things i teach ya, are sure to beat ya, nevertheless, you get a lesson from teacher”

      Now KICK, PUNCH!!”

      Is it sad i remember that? =P

  3. Nice preview, this game is now on my radar!

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