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The Show Goes On - Skullgirls 2nd Encore Review

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Skullgirls 2nd Encore Logo Switch

Skullgirls may not be familiar to Nintendo fans, as this is the first time the game has made it to one of their platforms. To give a brief rundown, the game originally came out in 2012 by Reverge Labs, comprising of professional BlazBlue player Mike Zaimont, artist Alex Ahad and animated by Mariel Cartwright. Initially published by Konami, which allowed composer Michiru Yamane to contribute to the music, it eventually had publishing conflicts led to the team having to disband and reform as Lab Zero Games in 2013, alongside Indiegogo crowdfunding to fund new characters and a complete re-release as Skullgirls Encore. Finally, in 2015, the game was expanded upon again with more content on Playstation 4 and PC, which is the version we now have today on Nintendo Switch.


Platforms: PC, Switch [Reviewed]
Developer: Reverge Labs
Release: October 22, 2019
MSRP: $24.99
Press Copy provided by Skybound Games


With the history lesson out of the way, how well does this fighter play? It doesn’t take long to realise how technically demanding the game is. Skullgirls is a highly technical yet rewarding experience that will have fighting game enthusiasts eager to delve into.

It boasts a wide range of techniques which can all be practised in an exceptionally extensive and robust training mode that allows you to go bit by bit through each mechanic until you feel confident to take on the world. It’s probably a bit overwhelming for absolute newcomers to the fighting genre though, you’re likely better off cutting your teeth on something else, but at least it’s accommodating to any skill level.

Skullgirls 2nd Encore Screenshot Switch

The game’s presentation is without a doubt the star of the show. The whole 1940’s aesthetic bleeds into the very soul of the game, from art deco menus, filmstrip transitions and “That’s a wrap!” upon each match ending. The art style as a whole invokes cartoons from the era, as well as a touch of Batman: The Animated Series, which also drew inspiration from the same sources. Even the music has an exceptionally jazzy mood to further sell the feelings of this fantasy 40’s world. Plenty of time and effort has gone into making the world feel alive and not one second of it has been wasted.

Talking about the presentation without bringing up the actual art and animations of the characters would be a crime though. Each character has been meticulously hand-drawn and animated with big, detailed sprites that put a lot of 2D game art to shame even today. The eclectic and colourful nature of each character is brought to life in their bold, exaggerated animations which are both a treat to look at and also convey a lot of visual information to the player, it’s truly not difficult to tell animations apart in the heat of battle.

The voice work is also top notch, with every character fulfilling their voice roles exceptionally well. Cristina Vee handled the voice direction, as well as primarily voicing Cerebella amongst others, which should be a familiar name to any Shantae fans among us.

Skullgirls 2nd Encore Screenshot Switch

Skullgirls has plenty of modes to keep you occupied, even in singleplayer scenarios. While you have your usual local and online play, the latter of which uses the excellent GGPO netcode to ensure as smooth an online experience as possible, there are various challenges to take on too.

As for the story, each character has their own unique story mode to take on as you fight your way to the Skull Heart. The CPU in singleplayer is exceptionally skilled, being able to pull off complex combos and other mechanics routinely and feels more like a human player than a machine, but is probably a little too complex for newcomers who haven’t got a grasp of all the mechanics yet.

Even so, it’s not entirely perfect, but that comes in part to the Switch rather than the game itself. Out of the box, the Switch isn’t best suited for fighting games. The Joy-cons don’t provide ideal conditions to play a fighting game, you really do need to get a Pro Controller at the least, or get one of various fightpads or even an arcade stick if you’re truly serious.

It should also be noted that in its launch state, Skullgirls is riddled with several audio bugs. Some are fairly minor, like repeating voice lines, but the single largest bug at the time of writing is the lack of voices in the story mode. It’s an advertised feature, and one that is present in the Playstation 4 and PC releases of 2nd Encore, so it comes off as a major slip-up on Switch. Fortunately the devs are aware and are working on it, so this section of the review will likely become redundant and we would hope so!

Skullgirls 2nd Encore Screenshot Switch

All in all, Skullgirls: 2nd Encore is an exceptionally passionate fighter that is sure to resonate with hardcore fans of the genre. It’s a little rocky for absolute newcomers, faring better for players who already have some experience already, but at least offers all the facilities to get better right out of the box. For people who are wanting to double dip for portability, you can’t go wrong with this version, though do be wary of using the Joy-cons.


Pros:

  • Some of the best 2D animation in any fighter out there
  • Superb presentation
  • Incredibly technical with plenty of depth
  • Tough and challenging CPU for experts
  • Plenty to keep you occupied

Cons:

  • Despite its best efforts, not that beginner friendly
  • Audio bugs at launch are distracting

Verdict:

Great

Great

Great games are generally good buying decisions and are recommended for those with an interest in the genre. There might be a few flaws that detract from the gameplay, stories, controls, presentations, or value, but the game is still an enjoyable experience that justifies a full playthrough.



Want to know what this score means? Check out our Scoring Guidelines page.

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