"Don't Ask Questions, Just Fight!": Skullgirls: 2nd Encore Review
Skullgirls: 2nd Encore is the second release of Skullgirls, with the main difference being the inclusion of all the previously released DLC characters. And what characters Skullgirls offers: a girl with a violent parasite for hair. A human/cat hybrid thief with a detachable head. A hulking, cyborg noir detective made almost entirely out of spare parts and musical instruments. And let us not forget the acrobat that uses a hat that sprouts giant arms to defeat her enemies. As you’ve probably surmised, Skullgirls sports a bizarre aesthetic, but fortunately, the core of the game is still relatively straightforward.
Skullgirls is a 2D fighting game that should be instantly familiar to anybody who has dabbled in the genre in recent years. While it is possible for anybody to pick up the game and play it with a degree of competence, however, the game is aimed more at fighting game veterans than newbies. Skullgirls sports some moderately complicated systems and learning the ins and out of each character will require patience. Luckily, Skullgirls is a fully-featured game that has an extensive training mode, so if you want to put in the effort, you have the tools to achieve mastery. The single-player experience has a “very easy” difficulty setting that will allow gamers to just button mash their way through should they choose to do so, but if you don’t put in the time to practice, prepare to get your clock cleaned online.
The single player portion of Skullgirls is fairly short (there are 14 characters, and each of their stories can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on skill and how fast you scroll through dialogue), but it’s a colorful experience while it lasts. A few of the characters have generic personalities, but most of them are interesting, and the writing can be surprisingly funny at times. While the world is interesting, however, it is very poorly explained, and characters will often throw around terminology and proper nouns that will mean nothing to someone jumping in for the first time. Characters’ mini-campaigns can be selected in any order, but since some characters and events only receive context during a particular section of the story, perhaps funneling players through the characters in a particular order would have been helpful. Also, every almost every character has the same final boss, an enemy with easily predictable attacks, but very high damage output should you get hit. It’s not the worst boss fight ever, but it’s unfortunate that a game as creative as Skullgirls has such a rote final challenge, especially since the boss has to be beaten over and over again.
Skullgirls is a beautiful game to look at, with inventive character design and gorgeous backdrops (both of which are shown off in the extensive art gallery, a nice touch and a step above similar offerings in other games). The music and voice work are also stellar, and help bring the strange world of Skullgirls to life. The game also runs like a dream, which should be expected from modern fighting games, but is commendable nonetheless. As a side note, most of the characters in Skullgirls have pin-up inspired designs, and the game has a heavy dose of cheesecake. If you like that approach to character design or are simply indifferent, then this is of no consequence, but those who are firmly against that kind of thing may find the constant barrage of panty shots and unrealistic breast physics to be excessive. This isn’t a point for or against the game, just something to keep in mind if you have any strong feelings on the matter.
Skullgirls probably isn’t the best fighting game for beginners, but if you have a moderate amount of experience with the genre, it’s certainly worth your time. Solid mechanics and impressive depth are improved by the game’s vivid personality, even if the lore can be confusing and the final boss is a letdown. If you’re a fighting game fan and you somehow missed Skullgirls the first time around, Skullgirls: 2nd Encore is a weird, wonderful experience.