I was curious about Skullgirls when I first read about it a year ago. All the hype surrounding it was that the project lead was a hardcore fighting game fan, but for me, that doesn’t mean that it’s automatically a “great” fighting game. I mean, how many pro footballers can make a high quality football? So yesterday I downloaded the demo to finally make my mind up on it.
From all the media released up to now, I already decided that I disliked the artwork. It reminded me of Western cartoons – like Walt Disney! The kind that were used in my childhood cartoons and it just didn’t feel right. I think I would’ve liked it if it was done in a Marvel comics style drawing (darker, realistic theme – but Marvel has been bought by Disney! hahaha). But I thought I’d give it a shot because it is a new fighting game.
So once the download had finished I went through the tutorial, practice and arcade modes. The demo version of the game was limited to 2 playable characters and only the top row of tutorials were playable.
The tutorial mode initially confused me. The way it is laid out seemed like the simplest tutorials are accessible, which it is, but for that category! The first tutorial was based on moving your character – something very simple. Then to the right of that was (I think) combos – slightly more advanced than moving. Then to the right of that was blocking mixups! I thought “wow, what a jump in concept?!”. After paying more attention it turns out that each category is grouped by column and not by row. So it gave a good sample of the types of things you’ll learn in this game mode. I didn’t like the notation used in the tutorials. It had s.HP for standing hard punch for example, this is not a huge problem, but for someone who knows very little about fighting games might be confused about this.
There were some interesting features in practice mode, like the hitbox display. It’s the first time I’ve seen a hitbox display in a fighting game however the practicality of it is virtually zero. You’ll know if something hits or not by seeing if it… well… connects… you know when your training dummy flinches? So… it was a bit pointless (unless you can review this information frame by frame for custom scenarios). Basics were missing like I couldn’t find a way to make the training dummy to do certain things, like jump or block after the first hit – something that is quite basic in fighting games these days.
The trial version of the game forced you to have a team of two whilst the computer will have a different combination. I don’t know why they did this yet failed to tell me how to actually tag a character in or have the character do a supporting attack. So I had no choice but to treat it as a King of Fighters type team battle. As of now, I still don’t know how to do it.
At first, it seemed the computer was happy to run away and ask Mary Poppins to shoot some projectiles at you. I wasn’t impressed with this at all. It didn’t matter which character I started with, the same tactics were deployed. Until I realised I didn’t have to actually be that close to hit them. The forward hard punch attack with the girl with giant arms on her head was enough to beat all the opponents I had. The computer didn’t block when I was at distance and when they were at the corner, I didn’t even have to move. Just wait till they stand up, press forward hard punch and they fall over again. The other character (the clone of Millia Rage) also has a similar spam-able move – crouch medium kick into crouch hard kick. The hard kick will knock the computer down and they will stand up on the spot or roll to the other side of you. Which is still in range of your crouching medium kick. This made arcade mode almost pointless once you found which move you can just spam for that character.
Something I really hated was the gigantic window you have to hit your opponent whilst they are staggering. In one tutorial, you had to do a jump hard kick into standing medium punch into a command throw. The instructions was to quickly do the command throw after the medium punch – hinting you should cancel into it so that’s what I was doing, until I realised that wasn’t the case. Your opponent staggers for so many frames that after the medium punch connects you could wait. Watch the opponent exaggerate their stagger. Then input the command throw. So in effect… you have a huge hit confirm window after the medium punch. I don’t think there was a need to link the two moves together as well!
I’m sorry, the purpose of hit confirm is to visually confirm whether your attacks are connecting before committing to a high damage string or move. Why? Because if your attacks are blocked, you’re likely to eat your opponents combo. Usually, hit confirming will also scale down your damage too so it balances the damage to risk ratio. Whereas in this particular scenario, you have very little risk involved and the potential to output very high damage. Imagine being able to do something like that in Street Fighter 4? Oh wait, that’s called a focus attack! But the difference is, with a focus attack, you need at least a level 2 charge to get the crumple effect – giving you a generous amount of time to hit your opponent again, otherwise, it’s just a normal attack. So in SF4, you can get more than enough time to land at least another attack, by putting yourself at risk first! Yes, you absorb an attack when you start a focus attack, but a second hit, a throw or a move with armour breaking properties will knock you out of your focus state. Of course the opponent could also jump over you too.
The biggest problem I had with the demo is the gameplay. The pace of the combat felt slow and it was very forgiving to player inputs. What happened to “to be good, you have to put in the hours” motto? I’m rather confused whether this game is promoted to hardcore gamers or to the mass market. After boasting that this game is made by a fighting game fan for fighting game fans it sure doesn’t feel special… nothing sets it apart from the other fighters I’ve played. Sure it contains information for what fighting game enthusiasts would like to see (hitboxes, etc…) but it doesn’t really do anything in the actual gameplay front.