Gamescom 2011: Skullgirls Hands-On Preview – Foxy Boxing
Written Thursday, August 25, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
It seems that Skullgirls wants to be everything to all fight fans, especially the Capcom faithful who've sunk their time and energies into Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom over the years. Thus Skullgirls liberally cherry-picks from the best examples in the 2D fighting genre, from the tag-team mechanics of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 to the intuitive d-pad rolls and move inputs of Street Fighter. But while it cribs from these games, Skullgirls' beautifully hand drawn sprites lend the game a stunning visual style that evokes the very games that it pays homage to, while being something refreshingly different at the same time.
Going hands-on with the four pugilists in this current build, we're presented with the option to choose one powerful character, two normal-strength fighters or a full set of three weaker fighters, the idea being that a skilful player with a single brawler should be able to take down a trio of tag team scrappers. We're assured that it's all perfectly well-balanced, and playing the game, it certainly seems to work well enough.
Choosing Filia as our first character, alongside Parasoul and Cerebella, we delve into a fight against an opposing team made up of the same fighters with different colour sets. Filia is somewhat like Morrigan - one of Marvel vs. Capcom's resident Darkstalkers characters - but she handles more like Ryu or Ken, with quarter d-pad rolls unleashing dash attacks and dragon punch-style uppercuts. But where the only variation in Ryu's moves is evident in their power – light, medium and heavy – Skullgirls' light, medium and heavy attacks unleash completely different variations on the same kind of move with their own lovingly drawn animations.
There's between 1400 and 1600 animations per fighter, and they're all impeccably rendered meaning that there's never a loss in resolution, even when the game pauses and zooms-in as you activate Skullgirls' equivalent of an ultra combo move. The characters look fantastic, and Filia's hair monster Samson is indicative of the level of detail you'll find in the game. Squirming and changing forms, Filia's hair is insane, transforming into an octopus for throw moves or a huge snapping beast with a massive set of toothy jaws. Each character has been drawn at twice the size they appear in-game too, so the quality inherent in the resolution is truly eye-popping and the fidelity of the animation is quite remarkable to behold.
The same goes for Parasoul, Cerebella and Peacock, who each have their own set of exciting moves, which includes Parasoul's umbrella projectiles, her gas-masked soldier protectors and rushing wave of motorbikes or Peacock's unbridled cartoon madness. In fact playing as Peacock is a highlight during our hands-on demo, as her animations and moves are simply some of the most weird and wonderful we've seen in a fighter. Launching eight ball-shaped bombs, dropping vaults, pianos and elephants on her opponents or shooting baseballs from a revolver, Peacock is unlike anything else in the game, yet she still fits in brilliantly with the rest of the busty cast of brawlers, despite being completely mad.
Cerebella meanwhile is a larger character type, more akin to Hulk in MvC or Zangief, except her gigantic arms are mounted to her headwear. She's more of a grappler, able to restrain opponents in her bulky grasp and slam them into the ground. Her moves are some of the most spectacular, but lack the crazed pizzaz of Peacock's cartoon moves, Parasoul's military and motorcycle assists or Filia's monstrous barnet. She's a little on the slow side too, but like all large characters, she more than makes up for it in strength. Like MvC, you can also launch opponents into the air with a tap of the heavy button while crouched for some lengthy aerial combos, which is where someone like Cerebella comes into her own, able to string together devastating air combos with ease.
Skullgirls has got almost everything you could want from a 2D fighter, with the tag and assist mechanics of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and 3, as well as the accessibility and depth of Street Fighter's controls and move sets. The characters and backdrops are fantastic to behold, and in motion they all look simply incredible. How the game currently plays could do with some streamlining though, as pulling certain moves can be a little difficult, as it seems that only a perfect input will register, whereas Street Fighter will usually know what you're trying to do and compensate. Button configuration is also a little cack-handed at present, with assists and tags requiring you adopt a claw-like grip on the controller to push two buttons. However, these will soon be mapped to the shoulder buttons where they belong, we're assured.
With a little added refinement to the control scheme and the inputs, Skullgirls could be something pretty special as far as the fighting genre on the Xbox Live Arcade is concerned. With its eye-catching visuals, quirky style and crazy moves, Skullgirls could earn a place alongside the best the 2D fighting genre has to offer, and with more characters yet to be revealed, including male fighters, there should hopefully be something for everyone when it releases later this year.