Fight for Your Heart’s Desire: Skullgirls Review

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 console.

Ladies and gentlemen, hang on to your seats, as Konami presents to you…Skullgirls!  Sit tight and bear witness, while girls from around the world battle for an ancient artifact: the Skull Heart.  Whoever wins will have her heart’s utmost wish come true – but wait! As with all good things, there’s a caveat.  If the winner has an impure heart, even the most benevolent of wishes will become twisted, and she will become the evil tempest known as the Skullgirl.

Skullgirls is a tournament-based fighting game, done in a style reminiscent of the old-school Japanese titles of the genre.  To win, you have to concentrate on defense as much as offense – button-mashers need not apply here.  Players can choose between the Single Player, Versus, or Training modes.  For those of you who are unfamiliar fighting games that rely on finesse and a bit more thinking (rather than spamming über-combos to death), it’s highly recommended that you mosey on over to the Training mode to soak in some lessons.  There, you’ll learn everything from basic movements, attacks, and blocks, to the various Special/Blockbuster Attacks, advanced techniques, chaining attacks, and punishments.

Each tutorial has a certain number of goals for you to achieve before you can move onto the next lesson. Unfortunately, the instructions can be a bit confusing, and if you find it hard to complete a target and feel the need to re-read the initial blurb, you’ll have to end the match and restart that specific session.  Once you’re confident in your skills, you can either head on over to the Training Room or jump right into battle.

In Single Player Mode, you are presented with the typical choices of Story and Arcade modes.  Here, the developers were kind enough to give you a range of difficulties, ranging from Sleepwalk to Ridiculous.  Casual gamers might want to start on Sleepwalk just to get acclimated with the game’s controls, whereas fighting veterans can start at Normal (which is hard enough – trust me!) and increase the difficulty as they see fit.

Story mode gives you a palette of eight characters to select from, though two must be unlocked as the game progresses.  Each character has her own narrative shown to you in a series dialogue cutscenes.   You’ll soon learn that every girl has her own reasons for wanting to win the Skull Heart, either to gain her one wish or to destroy the powerful artifact so it can never tempt and taint girls again.  Follow your chosen combatant as she fights against the other girls, until finally reaching the current iteration of the Skullgirl (the game’s boss).

Alternatively, if you don’t care for stories and character development, you can jump right into full-out battle in the Arcade mode.  Players can either fight one-on-one or in a team with up to three characters.  The former option gives you one extremely powerful character to play, whereas the latter allows you to battle tag-team style.  If you have friends over, you can enter Versus mode to play against each other.  On the other hand, you can play Online Versus.

Whichever mode you choose to play in, one thing you’ll notice are the gorgeous and colourful graphics.  Everything in Skullgirls is hand-drawn, with the characters done in a Westernized anime style.  There’s a bit of a mash-up though, as the 30s theme is prevalent in both the settings and some characters.  For example, Peacock resembles the cartoons from the 1920s and 1930s, with the big hands and weaving movements.  It also becomes apparent that this game caters to a male audience, with the typical busty girls and short (almost non-existent) skirts.  One character even resembles Jessica Rabbit, the red-headed, curvaceous beauty from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

The settings perfectly complement these beautiful girls.  The menus are framed with the golden pillars of the classic theatres, adorned with the iconic strobe lights.  Even the fights fit the theme, complete with the announcer exclaiming, “Ladies and Gentlemen! It’s showtime!”, and the same words outlined in glowing lights on the screen.  The arenas are just as glamorous, whether they’re set in a golden countryside, back alley, or in a gothic graveyard.  Some of these locations have so many layers within them that it’s easy to visualize what lies beyond the initial foreground.

Music is ever present in this game, in the menus, load screens, fights, and especially cutscenes.  As mentioned, voice-acting is absent from the cutscenes, allowing music and minimal sound effects to emphasize the dialogue that you’re reading.   Written by Michiru Yamane (of Castlevania fame), the jazzy blues tunes set the mood, whether it’s relaxing in the menu or building to a climax during a fight.  The in-game voice-acting is done in such a superb manner it’s a shame that there isn’t more than the characters’ handful of one-liners.  Again, the voices match the character models, ranging from sexy to malicious and eerie.

Not everything in Skullgirls is glitz and perfection, however.  The load times can be atrocious, and the little eight-ball bomb in the corner gets tedious when you’ve had to stare at it and its “Loading…” message for a long period of time.  Also, while the game’s combat scheme isn’t any more complex than other titles in the fighting genre, the controls are frustratingly unforgiving, especially when it comes to blocking (which is an integral part of battle).  If you don’t block at the exact moment, your character just gives up and stands there to take a beating.

Overall, Skullgirls is a work of art that any fans of the fighting genre will appreciate.  The visuals and music alone create a genuine masterpiece, making it easy to overlook the few issues present in the game.  Even at 1200 Microsoft Points ($14.99 PSN), this game is a worthwhile investment that will provide hours of entertaining violence. rates Skullgirls 4.25 out of 5.

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

April 16, 2012 - 8:00 am