By: Jeff Cater
Skullgirls: 2nd Encore is the third game in its series, stepping into the ring with a pocket full of style and a pack of rabid fans from which they drew crowd-sourced help to bring this game to the PS4 and Vita. In a market so saturated with great fighting games, does Skullgirls: 2nd Encore have enough to make it stand out from the pack?
Thankfully, Skullgirls handles pretty much like most fighters out there. Attacks of different strengths are set to the face buttons, and they leave it to you to figure out whether the d-pad or thumb stick is the right choice. Unfortunately for Skullgirls, the menu in which you figure out all your combos and special moves feels like you’re trying to decipher hieroglyphics.
This will lead serious players to YouTube to get a better idea on how their chosen character can be utilized. It’ll also push people away who have troubles with abbreviations and higher resolution sets; sometimes seeing which input is needed for movement during any given move is a cruel, squinting experiment.
Skullgirls: 2nd Encore is packed with visual variety. The game looks like a good mix between American Saturday morning cartoons crossed with that of more traditional Japanese anime titles. With all of the freaks abound, it also feels a bit reminiscent (visually) to that old PlayStation fighting game, Darkstalkers.
Each of the fighters is packed in with fluid animation fitting of their character, and it’s just plain old fun even watching a fight. The character “Big Band” is one of the most interesting (IMHO), as he dawns a figure-hiding trench coat that is protruding with several brass instruments. Hell, the man can even break into a trumpet solo mid-fight (like a boss).
Voice work fits surprisingly well for each character as well and doesn’t feel forced in the least. Most notably the soundtrack is fun to listen to, as it feels ripped straight out of the 1940’s, but with an edge and attitude tweaked by the devs. Few things are cooler than playing as a shape-shifting “Double” or the vile “Peacock,” whose design pays homage to cartoons of the 1920’s. Altogether, it’s a damn neat visual and aural package.
FAIR WARNING! DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME BY YOURSELF! The AI will absolutely discourage you from really giving the game a chance, so get a friend over to your place or link up with some people online (Custom Tournament Style!) and go from there. Otherwise, the AI will brutalize you and make you question aspects of your life.
As mentioned above, trying to figure out your character’s moves is a very difficult thing to do given the bleak design of the moves list. If you can get past that and maybe even become proficient in pulling off some of the combos or specials, you’ll have dug deep enough to find a truly technical and rewarding fighter.
The character roster is 90 percent female, so take that as you will. Most have heaving, swaying breasts, (Editor’s note: Jeff, why are your cheeks red? And why are you sweating profusely?) but they aren’t defined by that as much as they are by their voices and move lists. That said, literally every character is cool and great fun to play as and be beaten by.
Interestingly, there’s also a mode akin to Marvel vs. Capcom, which lets you pick from 1-3 fighters for your bout. If you pick three of them, expect each to hit a little bit softer than usual. If you limit yourself to just one character, they’ll be hitting pretty hard and have an impressive amount of health to chunk down, too.
Skullgirls: 2nd Encore is a pure result of combining people that love designing a fighting game and those that just want to play a unique fighter. In the ocean of fighters, Skullgirls: 2nd Encore is the Good Ship Lollipop, singing and dancing amongst the usual seas of blood and combo breakers.