Review: ‘Skullgirls’ and the Artistry of Fighting

Autumn Games’ Skullgirls comes to us in an period where fighting games are starting to get wider audiences again thanks to new gamer friendly titles like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Mortal Kombat. For all of the technical nuance both of those games provide, in each case there’s a basic level of pick up and play that will allow you to simply jump in, mash some buttons, and roll the joystick quarter circle right to make something fun and interesting happen on the screen. Skullgirls is a conscious attempt to buck this trend, trading accessibility for a much more technical game.

Is the barrier of entry too high? Or is this destined to join Guilty Gear and its ilk as a pro-level fighting game?


Skullgirls features a roster of busty, big-bootied, anime-influenced female fighters beating each other up in a series of one on one, two on two tag, three on three tag, and some variations of each (part of the Variable Tag system which allows mismatched teams to fight one another). More than anything else, you’ll notice in Skullgirls’s Multiplayer and Arcade modes how robust this fighter is in terms of letting you play the game different ways. The fighters themselves are odd patchwork mixes of fan service and science gone wrong (in a good way), with characters removing their heads, or using prehensile tail/buzzsaw combos for attacks.

Your usual roster of moves is aided by metered special moves, and you have a host of dash and double jump attacks. The difference between Skullgirls and other fighting games is a minor one that makes all the difference: attacks are divided between high, medium, and low (as you will), with medium and low moves blocked during your crouch and high moves blocked while standing. It requires a certain amount of recalibrating your fighting muscles to respond to Skullgirls, so spending some time in the Training Room taking a few hits from the CPU opponent might be a good move.


Hey, good lookin’

With its “Dark Deco” style, Skullgirls looks like nothing else on the market right now. Mixing anime, cheesecake, Art Deco, and Hot Topic in a way that doesn’t make you want to scoop out your eyes, artist Alex Ahad’s work is simply gorgeous in motion.

A technical fighter’s dream

I hope you’ve got a fight stick, because Skullgirls is going to require more than just jumping in with good intentions and a controller. Every match is a struggle to gain the upper hand and keep out of corners as the roster of characters can quickly, easily bully you into submission. A helpful tutorial walks you through some of the particulars of the game but for the most part, you’ll probably be using it to supplement your years of fighting game experience.


Double joins Galactus in that long list of cheap, terrible boss characters

Multiple levels of attack, three separate forms, constant chip damage with flying skulls, and attacks that fill a good third of the screen. I hate you, Double. I’ll confess to not finishing the Story Mode despite trying it with multiple characters and reaching Double because she was simply too much of a challenge for this humble gamer.

Hefty load times

Jason asked in his SFxT review why we were still suffering through ridiculous load times between matches and Skullgirls continues that trend. Hovering somewhere around ten seconds on average, while it might not seem like a ton, it adds up to a bit of extra waiting between matches.

No moves in the menu?

You won’t find any of Skullgirls’s special moves in the menus. Nope, owing again to the game’s seeming focus on separating fighting game neophytes from the hardcore, you’re just going to have to figure them out (or look them up on the game’s site).


Optimization and menu issues aside, Skullgirls is the type of game for those fighting fans who see each match as a highly technical battle of wits. Make no mistake, this is not a game for newbies or even mid-level players, and more often than not gamers in this range will likely want to throw their controller away in anger. For that select few though, Skullgirls is the real deal.

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