The fighting game genre has seen a lot of titles released over the last ten years, but only a handful of them weren’t sequels to already established franchises. One of these titles was Skullgirls from Lab Zero Games, which has had a troubled past that almost saw the title canceled. Thanks to crowdfunding however, Lab Zero Games were able to release one of the best and refreshing fighting games in the last ten years. Skullgirls 2nd Encore is the updated version of the original Skullgirls released back in 2012, and it brings with it a plethora of updates. This review will mostly talk about additions added to 2nd Encore. For a more in-depth review of Skullgirls, check out the original review.
Set in a fictional country reminiscent of 1940’s America, organizations battle over the Skull Heart, an artifact that appears once every seven years that grants any women any wish they desire. There is a catch though. If a women with an impure soul attempts to make a wish, she becomes corrupted and transforms into the Skullgirl. Like most fighting games you get to select your character and play through their story and see the ending. The story sequences are presented with some great hand-drawn motion comics scenes and move the story forward well. One of the additions to 2nd Encore is the inclusion of fully-voiced cutscenes for every character and every scene.
One of the most distinctive things about Skullgirls is its impressive art design. Its hard to describe it, but it’s as if an anime artist was drawing My Little Pony but without the ponies. It definitely stands out. Because the characters are so unique and so different it’s easy to find your favorite in its unique cast. Beowolf is a pro wrestler who uses grabs that can be chained together, while Big Band fights with musical instruments like saxophones and trumpets — you don’t get more unique than that. Suffice to say, you play with some weird characters. Unfortunately, not every character is as fun to play. Big Band takes up half the screen because of his size, while other characters rely on mostly long-range attacks which leads to people constantly spamming the same attacks online, making it very difficult to reach them.
The characters are animated with the utmost precision. Each strike looks great and follow up attacks look natural and smooth. 2nd Encore includes the five additional characters added as a free update to the original re-release "Skullgirls Encore" such as Beowolf, Big Band, and Squigly. Adding to the original eight brings the total roster of characters to fourteen, but even with the new additions, fourteen doesn’t seem like enough compared to other fighting games
The fighting/combat is what you’d expect from a 2D fighting game. Stringing attacks together and linking special attacks is just as fun as it is in Street Fighter. Each character also comes with their own super moves which is designated by a level. While fighting, a bar fills up next to the health meter up to five times, indicating what level of super you can pull off — the higher the level the stronger the super. Each character comes with a whopping twenty five color variations to choose from too.
Another interesting feature that the game adds is allowing you to choose whether you want to take one, two, or three characters into the a fight. For those who choose to take two characters you will find them slightly weaker, and those who take three characters will be even weaker. At first I thought this would create an imbalance in the game but it seems to work out really well as I never felt weaker or stronger when I was able to switch characters on the fly. 2nd Encore is without doubt one of the best fighting games to play online with smooth gameplay and no sign of lag.
2nd Encore adds some new modes such as Challenge, Trial, and Survival. Challenge allows you to take on opponents using unique conditions like not being able to jump or use special moves. Trials put your skills to the test by pulling off intricate combos or completing certain tasks in a fight. Survival mode simply puts you against an endless wave of enemies, the faster you defeat them the more health you will regain, and the longer you take the less health you receive for the next opponent.
Another great inclusion to 2nd Encore is cross-buy and cross-play between the entire PlayStation family of consoles. If you bought the PS4 version of the title you will get the Vita version free, and vice-verse. Don’t have a PS4? Take your PS3 version of the game and fight against anyone who is on their PS4 or PS Vita. Oh, and it also supports your PS3 fighting sticks on PS4. For those trophy hunters out there the game now features a full Platinum trophy list. Be warned: its one difficult Platinum to get.
Some of the complaints from the original title have been addressed as well. You now have access to an entire move set from the pause screen. The final boss in the game was incredibly difficult in the original release, and – although it has been modified for 2nd Encore – it’s still pretty damn difficult. I died dozens of times fighting it. Lobbies have also been added to the online multiplayer, which was missing from the original title and is welcome addition.
Skullgirls 2nd Encore may not have the marketing behind it like Street Fighter or Guilty Gear but what it does have is a developer who understands how to make a fighting game. Consequently, 2nd Encore is one of the smoothest, enjoyable and best looking 2D fighters available.