Look past Skullgirls' big-breasted anime babes -- as seen in the announcement trailer -- and you'll find one of the most technical fighters out there. For fighting game fans, Skullgirls offers an interesting prospect: a predictive game engine designed to be a strong foundation to fix and avoid some of the biggest problems plaguing the genre.
Mike Z, the project lead at Reverge Labs, told me that building the best fighting game engine he could was top priority -- he was actually building it long before it was married to the Skullgirls world developed by Alex Ahad. "Originally, he was doing the world and the characters and I was working on a fighting game engine before we ever met each other," Z revealed. "The concept for a lot of the characters and stuff has been around since 1999 -- when I first met him, I asked if he wanted to do an RPG instead, because there's a whole plot and everything and usually fighting games don't do that. And he said, 'No, I want to make a fighting game' and that was even better because that's what I wanted to make."
Mike Z's a hardcore fighting game fan, who freely talked about all of the great fighting games out there and his problems with them throughout our gameplay session. He wore his passion on his sleeve and was proud of some of the innovations Skullgirls is bringing to the genre -- innovations I think will make Skullgirls one of the most exciting fighting games out there.
Take the infinite loop breaker, for example. When a character initiates a combo, the game is looking at every button pressed and if there's a repeating pattern emerging, a small icon will pop up on the defending character. If that player presses any button, a special attack puts a stop to the assault. In a combo-heavy fighting game, such a feature is literally a lifesaver.
Another interesting addition is custom assists. Not every match will feature tagging (players can choose to use a stronger version of one character or two average strength characters), but when utilizing a team, players can create a custom assist move of any kind: down and kick; a special move; a grab; and any other button combination you would need. If the default assist attacks don't do it for you, make up your own.
"We have two aims with this game: one is to make it as accessible as possible without going the route of adding direction shortcuts with dragon punches or a mode where you have one-button special moves because those screw you up when you get better. The second aim is to make it as tournament-worthy as we can." In its pre-alpha state, with only two playable characters, what I experienced already played like it was ready for the tournament circuit.
And in addition to its solid gameplay, the game offers a visual feast. Hand-drawn sprites animate extremely well and have real-time lighting -- on a night stage, passing by a lamp post would cast dynamic lighting on my fighter. The visual style may be catering to a certain crowd, but the game still looks great.
Skullgirls is a downloadable title headed to XBLA and PSN this year, but the amount of polish in its pre-alpha state really surprised me. The website seems to suggest there will be a total of eight fighters, which seems like a great value for fight fans and, with its solid foundation, Skullgirls is a game you want to keep an eye on -- even if these girls look like a pervert's dream manifested.