Skullgirls – Preview
Skullgirls is a fighting game, or at least that’s what it appears to be at first glance. That may sound dumb, I know, but there is actually a lot more to it than what you see on the screen; it’s effectively the evolution of every fighting game that has come before it. Everything good about any fighting game you’ve played has made its way here, and everything cheap and frustrating about them has been changed. Skullgirls has managed to do this because the team of guys working on it love fighting games and everything about them; they are incredibly passionate about the game they are building and the fighting genre in general.
You really need to be able to see the game in motion to appreciate just how good it looks and how smooth it plays. Skullgirls has a brilliant and colourful 2D art style, but there’s a little bit more to it that that. Skullgirls uses as very clever 3D game engine to power it, which lets the developers do some very cool things with the lighting effects, making the whole game feel more grounded and realistic (well, as realistic as a game can be that features a girl whose hair turns into a giant pair of bulging arms). The sunny, almost tropical, stage I saw was – as you would expect – very colourful, but the night stage I played one was the one that really showed it off. The whole stage and everything in it, including the characters, has dark blue/purple tint, but this was dynamic, and as you’re fighting, flashes of light from your moves would light the characters as you would expect. It’s a very cool effect but it’s a bit of a tricky thing to try and explain so it really needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
The gameplay is solid and tight and fighting game fans shouldn’t have any problem just picking up the pad and going for it, and everything about the game’s control system feels very natural (even for somebody who is a complete novice, such as myself). The combat system manages to be incredibly deep, allowing players to pull off multiple combos all in succession, but if the player can’t keep the variety of the moves in the combo fresh, the game’s engine detects that they are being cheap and will eventually allow the other player to hit any button on the pad and end the combo. A few of you may “pffft” at that at first but, if you think about it, for a skilled player there’s nothing worse than getting your arse handed to you by somebody just mashing punch and kick, so it’s good to have an easy way out and the feature can be a lifesaver. On the other side of that combat coin, the game rewards players for not being cheap and encourages you to constantly evolve your technique which, in turn, will make you a better player.
During my hands-on, at the player select screen I plumped for the blonde with big boobs (what?). Now, I didn’t want to bring this preview down to a level where it becomes me talking about boobs, but as I’ve brought it up (that’s what she said) the boobs deserve a mention; you can’t help but notice them. The devs haven’t gone down the easy route of having them practically falling out of the girls’ tops and have instead kept the character design more adult (not ‘dirty adult’) and well grounded, without being over sexualised. Given the anime art style of the game ‘boobs out’ is something that (let’s be honest) most of you were expecting to see.
Anyway, that’s enough about boobs. I chose the blonde and my opponent picked two characters. Before I shouted “Cheat!”, it was explained to me that you have the choice to play as a single character, or to opt for a tag team, but either way will give us both the same health overall and nobody will have an advantage. Opting for a tag team will also give the player some extra flexibility to customise their play style and allow them to choose a special team move. Most importantly, however, the overall game will still remain balanced for both players.
The stage loaded up and was switched to numpty mode (practice mode) so that I could get to grips with the basic button layout and a few moves. After learning the fireball attack, I tackled some of the more advanced skills and watched my opponent show off some of the crazy special moves that can be pulled off. After a slightly nervous and button-mashy first round, I started to get into the flow and picked up a few things other than my fireball move. During the second round I might have actually been winning at one point; I was feeling good about myself, I appeared to be pulling off some cool special moves and I felt like I looked cool playing it but, more importantly, I was enjoying it. Then I was suddenly thrown into the air and slammed back down to the ground where my opponent’s tag partner was waiting. They then proceeded gave me a big, rather painful looking, hug before slamming me back and forth into the floor and finally tossing me back into the air, only for me to fall back down and be greeted by the original character, ready to impale me on a giant sword. Maybe I wasn’t winning.
Over all I was surprised that Skullgirls can be so accessible to somebody of my n00bness and obviously remain a deep enough fighter for the very hardcore fighting game fans. Regardless of your skill level Skullgirls is a very fun, fast, action packed game and well worth keeping an eye out for when it finally launches in early 2012. Plus you look fucking cool playing it.
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