Known primarily for a number of successful IPs in the adventure and side-scrolling action genres, Konami has struggled to make a mark on the fighting genre. They might have attempted with others, but the efforts I can remember that drew any sort of attention were Deadly Arts and Castlevania Judgment, both of which had lukewarm reception. Castlevania Judgment sold somewhat well just based off the Castlevania brand, but Deadly Arts, on the other hand, had nothing really to help it. Developed on N64 hardware, Deadly Arts especially was met with disdain from nearly everyone, Nintendo fans and genre fans alike. I was probably the only person who like it for its characters, stage design, and fighting engine. Its only issue was control; it controlled even stiffer than SNK fighters! I could be leaving somehting out, but other than the HD re-mastered version of Yie Ar Kung-Fu, I can't recall anything else from them in the genre since then. The good thing is that Konami goes through different developing avenues and has no problem trying something new. Fast forward to the present with their newest foray into the fighting genre, Skullgirls.
I've heard Skullgirls described by many as being like to Marvel VS Capcom 3, and I'd say that's only somewhat right. Assist attacks, various cancels, air combos, "OTG combos," and long, rapid-fire combos may remind some of Capcom's premier crossover series. Filia's Samson, Cerebella's Vice Versa, and Parasoul's Krieg, however, reminded me of the unique "Stands" from late 90's Capcom brawler JoJo's Bizarre Venture. It'd be interesting to know if the development team was at all inspired by the JoJo games, but there's no denying the Guilty Gear inspiration in Skullgirls. From the Special Moves and "wall-bounces," to airborne interaction and the way characters dash, fans of Guilty Gear and/or BlazBlue should feel instantly at-home with this game. The learning curve seems higher, but it features a surprisingly helpful, in-depth tutorial that teaches everything from simple controls to advanced techniques. Guilty Gear vividly shows through in Skullgirls, but its overall slower pace and feel is more like BlazBlue than anything. I can't shake the impression that it seems like there's much less an emphasis on ranged attacking, and more on close battling than other 2-D fighters.
Different from the orthodox design approach seen in past Konami fighters like Yie Ar Kung-Fu, Martial Masters, and Deadly Arts, Skullgirls shares more of a resemblance with the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series than anything. Though unique in its gothic approach, Castlevania Judgment is a different animal compared to the spectacle of Skullgirls. Even ADD kids hopped-up on a energy drink/PCP/cocaine redneck trifecta would sit down quiet as a mouse and watch this game. There's a lot to see, and when I say a lot, you have no idea. The lively backdrops, special effects, and pyrotechnics are all cool to watch, but the "features" of the all-female cast are the first, most noticeable thing about the game. Child-birthing hips, milk-titties, funbags, camel toes, thick thighs, big titties, big booties; it's all there, and the game doesn't try to deny or hide its nature. Some say looks aren't everything, and for them the cast of Skullgirls have well-animated, fully fleshed-out personalities.
From the outset, the game will undoubtedly come under criticism by elitists who refuse to accept Japanese-inspired non-Japanese animation and/or design as legitimate. Their loss, though, because the design in Skullgirls easily matches (or surpasses) most of what's been coming out of Japan. Its cast was obviously inspired by Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, but Skullgirls makes an effort to put its own spin on eclectic fighting game casting. Ninja nurse Valentine is, by far, the coolest of all the character designs in Skullgirls. Why? Because who would ever think of putting the two together? Ninja? Nurse? That alone justifies character of the year. Cerebela comes in at second because her "buff hat" at first comes off as a distraction, but once you ignore it you see her surprisingly well-drawn voluptuous figure (which looks even better in her ending). A close third would be Filia, who I won't comment on because I'm not sure of her (theoretical) age. The absolutely stacked Ms. Victoria is also amazing, but at this time I'm not sure if she was included as a playable character (which would be sad if she wasn't). Ms. Fortune and Pinwheel look like they were picked up off the Arc System Works cutting room floor and dusted-off for this game. Together with Peacock, they really do look like fitting Guilty Gear or BlazBlue candidates. Out of all the characters in Skullgirls, I have to say that Peacock is the weakest link; it (she?) looks contrived, goofy, and completely out-of-place (even among a cast of crazies). There really isn't a weak link in the battlegrounds, though, which also reminded me of the Guilty Gear series in their design and presentation. They really deserve praise for showing so much personality and class (unlike the the drab, lifeless locales of Street Fighter III - 3rd Strike Online).
The second most noticeable thing about Skullgirls would be its audio. Its classy soundtrack is really well-done, and drives the theme of the game well. There are a few different genres packed into the game's soundtrack, but the crystal clear brass and percussion really stand out. It's so well-done, in fact, that I forget the game even has sound effects! I'd say it easily rivals the dubstep-influenced soundtrack of Street Fighter X Tekken for tunes of the year. On a side-note, the load times in this game are questionable. Are they too long for it as a game running straight from the HDD? I ask myself this every time I play it because there are more graphically-intensive games out there that have quicker loading.
Overall, though, Skullgirls does a good job at what it does. Its well-animated, eclectic cast may not appeal to everyone, but what it lacks there it makes up for in personality. In personality alone the game could appeal to fans of Japanese cartoons, fighting game fans, fans of boobs, "ass men," or just fans of females in general. For a debut game that will likely become a series, the development team did really good for a first effort. It's easy to see in every aspect of the game, and you can see fun was had in the process. Skullgirls sits in good company with a library of 2-D titles like BlazBlue and Super Street Fighter II - Turbo HD Remix. Plainly put, Skullgirls will please anyone "looking for a good time," no matter what that idea of a good time is...
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