Skullgirls is one of the biggest small games at this year’s E3 that I cannot stop thinking about. It is an ambitious 2D fighter with great visual charm and serious fighting game credentials. The game is 2D but built on a 3D engine, that horsepower goes towards advanced lighting, and shaders that make this game glisten beautifully in HD. As of now, the game features an all-female cast that should reach eight upon release. Three of the femme fatales were playable on the show floor.
First, there is Fillia, a schoolgirl suffering from amnesia. She is a well-rounded character with thorns growing out of the locks of her hair because of a parasite that she uses to decimate her opponent. Then there is Cerebella, who wears a hat with horns and Hulk Hogan sized arms sprouting from her head. Her massive biceps make her perfect for up close grappling attacks. Finally, there is visually arresting Peacock who harnesses the feel of black and white animation circa 1940. She pays homage to the often-violent slapstick comedy that was commonplace back when cartoons featured guns, knives, and a host of other taboos.
The game feels a lot like a cross between Darkstalkers and Marvel vs. Capcom 2. The gameplay is old school 2D fighting executed with tremendous style. You have three choices of how to assemble your team of fighters. You can go with three underpowered fighters, two somewhat powerful fighters, or one very powerful character. The game remains balanced no matter how many fighters are on either team. You can swap characters in and out or chain together attacks on the fly with tight controls.
The Visual style of the world is Dark Deco, an art style popularized by Batman the Animated Series. The characters are all hand drawn by creator and art director Alex Ahad who worked on the Scott Pilgrim series of comics. The demo I played allowed two players to square off in the game’s VS or become more acclimated with the fighting mechanics in Training sessions. We played on a special Skullgirls branded fightstick with the usual six button plus joystick layout which made the controls easy to pick up.
Peacock is definitely my favorite character so far. With her her Mickey Mouse like white gloves and her top hat of terror she produces all sorts of range attacks. She throws pies, produces chainsaws, and directs anthropomorphic bombs flying small airplanes towards her opponent. One move in particular left a huge impression when she made a giant bomb fall from the sky then used a Tommy gun to shoot it to the corner where it exploded next to a trapped and helpless Fillia. The other girls have their fair share of crazy moves as well. Cerebella will spin her extra pair of arms like the blades of a helicopter or grab her foe and jam their body onto her horns. Fillia uses her hair to smother the other girls or turn it into a drill that emerges from the ground.
Although the cast will be female only at launch, there are plans to introduce male characters as DLC. The game will feature a complete story mode that explains why all the female warriors of the Canopy Kingdom seek a mysterious artifact know as the Skull Heart. While Skullgirls is clearly aimed at fighting game fans it will also feature a comprehensive tutorial that teaches newcomers how to play fighting games as well as explain the game’s unique mechanics. The game will also have online multiplayer with tools to record and share your most impressive victories through Facebook or Youtube.
Developer Reverge Labs has an amazing looking game on their hands. Every frame is beautifully hand drawn and animated. It is great to see an original fighting game that is this competitive and addicting. Skullgirls was one of the nicest surprises of this year’s E3 and that I hope is just as charming upon its release. Skullgirls will be available for download for XBLA and PSN later this year.