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PAX East 2011: Skullgirls Preview

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As a huge fan of fighting games, especially 2D ones, I was eager to get a chance with Skullgirls at PAX East. This is a game from a small developer, Reverge Labs, but I was reminded quite a bit of BlazBlue when I was looking at stills. Now having played the game I can say that the comparison is deserved, but also it should be noted that Skullgirls has many interesting features that set it apart.

click to view larger imageI was able to meet and play the game with Mike Zaimont of Reverge Labs. He is the project lead and main programmer of the engine powering the game. Alex Ahad is the designer of the world, and its look and the game has a niche in the fact that all the fighters are female, hence the name Skullgirls. The look of the game is quite distinctive and while there were only two fighters, Filia and Cerebella, they had a very unique look from one another. There will be eight fighters initially available when the game launches and I was told that they would each be very unique designs with many of them having hooks and powers that are very distinct.

Skullgirls promises to be a game that is both familiar and unique. Mike Zaimont, or ‘Mike Z’ as he is known in the competitive fighting game circuit (he contributed to some of the official tutorials for BlazBlue Continuum Shift) is a monster fighting game fan, but recognizes there are some issues with the genre. With that in mind he designed the game engine that is being used for Skullgirls, which, while it is a 2D game, is built with a 3D engine which gives him some great features. Shadows are generated in real-time, dynamic lighting can be used to shade or brighten characters when hit flashes or lights are in play, and the environments can be dynamic.

He also recognized that gameplay needs to be accessible, and consequently the games uses typical Street Fighter controls. There are three punch and three kick buttons to control the game and fireball/uppercut moves are par for the course. There are also plenty of 360 control actions, but unlike most games if you spin the controller you will not jump. His goal was to make the game accessible to everyone but add complexities for the experienced players. The developer has also tweaked the way infinite loop combos are dealt with by adding a tracking system and a way to interrupt if a combo goes too long. It takes some skill to do so and can be a way to ease the frustrations of gamers who just can’t battle against players who string together these loops.

Reverge Labs is trying to distinguish their game with its familiar control scheme by adding some tweaks that are all their own. For example, when you choose your characters you have the option of playing one stronger character (harder hits, more health, etc) or two normal characters and your opponent can do the same. When playing with two characters you can choose a pre-canned assist mode or design your own. This assist move can be any of the moves on that character’s list and will be executed when you call in them for the assist. They also make any downed character stay on the ground after they are defeated.

click to view larger imageThe look of the game is very nice as well; the designer went with an anime look and feel with all the bounciness and hyperdeformed sexiness you would expect. The two characters we saw were quite interesting with one have a huge set of controllable arms coming from her headgear and the other with hair that can be used as a weapon. The animation is very nice and the attacks all look appropriate to the characters with Filia being nimble and quick and Cerebella a little slower but devastating with her various grapples and big moves.

Based on the fully playable demo, it seems like Reverge Labs will be able to deliver on their promises, Skullgirls looks like a terrific fighting game with a lot of potential. It will feature online and local co-op play using the same code as the Street Fighter series and will be available on XBLA and PSN later this year. This is one to look forward too for both the anime lover in you and those who enjoy a great fighting game.

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About Michael Prince

Looking at all things Geek - news, rants and updates from the worlds of gaming, tech, blu-ray, novels, and music.