Reverge Labs' Skullgirls is a downloadable fighting game with an all-female cast developed by and for fighting game enthusiasts. The title offers gameplay mechanics and depth on-par with most retail titles in the genre. While the multiplayer aspect of the game feels complete, the single-player mode doesn't fare as well.
Skullgirls has a combat system in which players can choose up to three fighters on their team with their strength adjusted on how many characters the player has (with the exception of story mode, which only allows one). Players can switch between their teammates at will or use them as assists in a style similar to Marvel vs Capcom. Judging from the matches played, the online community seems to prefer using one or two characters whereas teams of three tend to be less common.
The single-player modes are satisfactory. The tutorial mode does its best to bring newcomers up to speed with the game's controls and combat mechanics while making it clear that it's impossible to mash buttons and expect a victory. Its lessons focus on general strategies that can be applied to multiple characters such as blocking and air-dashing rather than teach players to memorize individual combos. Unfortunately, there is no way to look up character movesets within the game and players who want to learn about how to use their fighter of choice must resort to using online guides.
Aside from the tutorial and practice modes, the story and arcade modes provide the bulk of the single-player experience in Skullgirls. Unfortunately, both modes feel similar; Arcade mode features players fighting against randomly generated AI opponents while story mode has players going through most of the the roster with little variation in between each playable character. The biggest difference between the two is story mode's attempt to flesh out the Skullgirls universe via “what if” scenarios specific to each individual character. They alternate between using two types of cutscenes: ones with images with little animation and scenes with floating heads and text boxes reminiscent of Fire Emblem. Given the time and effort spent into animating hand-drawn characters and fleshing out the combat system, this feels like the developers took the “quick and easy path” in order to finish their project.
The online multiplayer is a mixed bag. The netcode helps match players with other combatants on their same skill level and there is little lag. Living in the middle of the USA and having to choose between either “east coast” and “west coast” to fight anyone in the same country as I did felt a little bit annoying at first, but nearly every match found went smoothly and the only issues came from a sudden network problem on my end and a glitch where characters were replaced with their hitboxes. Skullgirls also has its ranked matches setting players against anonymous opponents. While this does reduce any embarrassment from losing online, it also makes it harder to mute users who abuse their microphone before a match begins. It should also be noted that there is no option for blind picks and opponents will usually wait for someone to go first in order to pick a counter-pick.
Skullgirls is a well-crafted piece of work and an absolute steal for $15. While its single player modes leave something to be desired, it provides an entertaining experience for fighting game fans and provides casual fighting game fans the chance to hold their own against tournament players.