Skullgirls is a 2D fighting game developed by Reverge Labs and co-published by Autumn and Konami on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network on April 10, 2012. It was later ported to the PC by Lab Zero and released via Steam by Marvelous AQL on August 22, 2013. Linux and Mac versions are being ported by outside sources with assistance from Lab Zero. The Japanese release of the PlayStation 3 version was published by CyberFront on February 14, 2013, with a Japanese arcade release on the NESiCAxLive board system.
Following Lab Zero's cut-off with Konami, the game was set to be removed from PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. It was re-released in 2014 on these platforms, rebranded "Skullgirls Encore".
Set in a 1940's dark Art Deco world (the Canopy Kingdom), the story revolves around a mysterious artifact called the Skull Heart, which grants a single wish to a young woman every seven years. However, women who attempt to use it with an impure heart become corrupted into a monstrous being of immense power (known as the "Skullgirl") and unleash chaos upon the world. Female fighters from all over the Kingdom seek to claim the artifact for themselves (for various different purposes), having to stop the current wielder, the Skullgirl Bloody Marie, in the process.
Skullgirls began its life as two separate “doujin” projects. Tournament fighter Mike “Mike Z” Zaimont had begun working on a fighting game engine, while Alex “o_8” Ahad had begun working on a world, story and characters for a fighting game. Some years later, mutual friends introduced them to one another, and their two personal projects were merged into the game we see today. Richard Wyckoff and Emil Dotchevski began Reverge Labs in 2010 after Pandemic Studios was shut down. Mike Z teamed up with Wyckoff, also a former Pandemic employee, and Reverge Labs to bring Skullgirls to home consoles.
In May of 2012 Autumn Games, the publisher for Skullgirls, became embroiled in a lawsuit alongside Konami filed against them by City National Bank over allegations of fraud. With their assets frozen by the courts, Autumn Games was unable to give Reverge Labs their share of the profits from sales of their game. Suddenly without income, the developer went through a series of layoffs before eventually dissolving, with the core team reforming under the newly branded Lab Zero Games in November of 2012.
While the future of Skullgirls was uncertain, Mike Z and co. were bolstered by the continued support of their fans who helped them raise $78,000 in donations for breast cancer research in their bid for a spot at the EVO 2013 fighting game tournament.
On February 25th, 2013, an Indiegogo campaign for $150,000 was launched to fund development of their first DLC character, Squigly. Funding surpassed the initial goal almost immediately. Through stretch goals, four additional DLC characters were funded, as was the donation of the Z Engine powering the game to fellow independent fighting game developer Mane 6. In total the campaign raised $829,829.
Skullgirls is designed as a competitive fighting game, taking inspiration from other games in the genre while implementing several unique systems of its own.
Central to Skullgirls’ design is a unique infinite detection system, designed to make the game somewhat “self-balancing.” If the game detects that a player is looping a combo, the hit-sparks will change color and the opponent can break out of it with a single button press. However, as long as the player is changing up their combo and improvising, the combo can continue.
“Ratio System” Tag Battles
At the start of battle, each player can pick one super-powerful character, two stronger characters or three normal characters - team sizes don't need to match. Single characters do more damage and have more HP, but lose the strategic advantages of character assists and the ability to regenerate health while off-screen.
While each character comes with a few preset assists, Skullgirls also offers support for custom assists, allowing you to choose an assist move by inputting its motion during character selection. Aside from super moves, any ground action can be chosen - this includes throws, normal attacks, dashes, and any special move.
Building Super Meter
Players can build their super meter by whiffing normal attacks (attacking without hitting the opponent), but only if they stay in place or are moving forward - moving backwards and attacking will not build meter. Additionally, only one level can be built this way - if the player already has a super stocked, normal attacks must make contact with an opponent to build any more meter.
High/low unblockables exist in many fighting games, and are an extremely strong tactic when discovered. In Skullgirls, however, after a character blocks a high or low hit, they are protected for a period of time from being hit by the other type. The protection is short enough to not affect regular gameplay, but long enough that a player can successfully defend against the first attack and still be protected from what might otherwise be an unblockable second attack.
The eight launch characters are: Filia, Cerebella, Peacock, Parasoul, Ms. Fortune, Painwheel, Valentine and Double. Following the release the following characters were added: Squigly, Big Band, Fukua, Eliza, Beowulf and Robo-Fortune as DLC funded by a record-breaking Indiegogo campaign.
Filia was an average schoolgirl, but one day awoke without any memories. In their place was a powerful parasite named Samson, grafted to her head in the form of unruly hair - with eyes and teeth, no less. Unable to remember how her partnership with Samson began, Filia must trust the ancient being and wield his strength if she ever hopes to piece together her past... and survive the inevitable confrontation with the Skullgirl.
Filia is a "rushdown" character. As such, she has only three special moves and makes up with it with lots of maneuverability and easily-comboed normal attacks.
Cerebella is the biggest sensation in the Cirque des Cartes - a tumbling, soaring dynamo of star power! Throughout the kingdom, Cerebella is admired for her daring, and lusted after for her curvaceous form. Sadly, the kind of approval she craves is the one kind she isn't getting: what Cerebella really longs for is praise from her patron and de facto father, mobster Vitale Medici, who rescued her from the street for a life of fame.
Faced with Cerebella's inherent goodness, the only way Vitale can keep her doing such dirty work is withhold affection. Cerebella is the only person capable of controlling the living weapon Vice-Versa, so the cold and calculating Vitale must keep her wrapped around his little finger.
Cerebella is a grappler with command throws for virtually any situation. Unlike typical grappler characters, she doesn't have difficulty getting in close, either, thanks to an armored charge and aerial glide.
The magnum opus of the Anti-Skullgirl Labs, Peacock is a mechanical monstrosity built from a broken little girl.
When she was rescued by the Labs’ Dr. Avian, she was just the orphan Patricia, her mind and body broken by the slave traders that captured her in the aftermath of the Grand War. Taking pity on her, Dr. Avian rebuilt the child with an arsenal of reality-defying weaponry, which was promptly twisted by the memories of the cartoons Patricia used to escape the pain of her slave life. Perhaps irretrievably damaged, she behaves like a rotten, spoiled and extremely unstable child. Terrifying as she may be, Peacock may very well be the best chance the Labs have to destroy the Skullgirl.
Peacock is a "zoning" character, and plays a mean game of keep-away with a variety of projectile attacks and escape moves. While she's best at a distance, she can still hold her own up close.
The princess of the Canopy Kingdom and leader of its elite military, Parasoul's own mother became a Skullgirl when she was a child. She is fiercely protective of her little sister, Umbrella, and is frequently torn between defense of her country and defense of her family. Wielding the living umbrella, Kreig, Parasoul fights with grace, poise and cunning.
Parasoul is primarily a "poking" character, and uses a variety of "charge" moves. In addition to her long attack range, she can place napalm "tears" created by her umbrella around the screen as traps, as well as call on her troops for a variety of support functions.
A pun-loving cat burglar, Ms. Fortune is a feline humanoid of the undead persuasion. With her friends in the Fishbone Gang, she was hired to steal the Life Gem from the head of the Medici Mafia, which she swallowed it for safe-keeping. When the Mafia caught her and the rest of her gang, they murdered them, chopped them to pieces and threw them to the bottom of the ocean. The power of the Life Gem suffused Ms. Fortunes body, and she alone survived the ordeal, but her body still bears the scars of her murder - as a result, she can detach her head and stretch her body along those scars.
Ms. Fortune is a hybrid "rushdown" and "puppet" character. She can detach her head and control it independently from her body, and many of her attacks function differently depending on whether or not her head is currently attached.
A normal schoolgirl named Carol, until she was kidnapped by Valentine and transformed into Painwheel. Host to two synthetic parasites called Buer Drive and Gae Bolga, Painwheel draws her power from pain and fury.
An "aerial dominance" character, Painwheel can fly using her Buer Drive blade and charge her attacks, as well as confronting foes with spikes that eject painfully from her body. She can also contort her body into inhuman shapes and unleash her rage with brutal moves.
The only survivor of the Last Hope, a group of special Anti-Skullgirl Lab operatives, Valentine now dutifully serves the Skullgirl. She keeps to herself, so much of her true nature and personality are unknown.
Valentine is a "rushdown" character with the ability to inflict status effects on her opponent: damage over time, increased hit stun and button lag, although only one may be active at a time. Her level five super allows her to revive a fallen team mate to one third of their health - made possible thanks to the fact that in Skullgirls a team mate's corpse remains on the screen after they are eliminated.
An amorphous creature capable of assuming the form of any person, most frequently a smiling nun.
A 'mimic' character, each of her normals looks like that of another character but will have vastly different frame data and properties. Though she transforms into other characters during her specials, they are completely unique, such as a projectile using Parasoul's gun, a Cerebella rush based on R-Mika's Flying Peach or a Sub-Zero ground slide as Filia. Her level five special transforms her into a Moai head in an homage to Gradius.
Squigly is the last “surviving” member of the Contiello family, a long lineage of opera singers and among the Medicis’ most valued clients. Fourteen years ago, Squigly’s mother Selene obtained the Skull Heart, resulting in Lorenzo Medici ordering an attack on the Contiello family. Fraught with despair, Selene became the Skullgirl and revived her family as an undead army. What spared Squigly from becoming a mindless minion was the intervention of the Parasite Leviathan, the Contiello family’s friend and guardian
Ben Birdland has seen a lot in his time, including the worst of the Grand War. But nothing was worse than what he saw as a beat cop in New Meridian. When he ran afoul of his crooked unit he was given a violent early retirement, and his broken body was left to spend the rest of its days in an iron lung.
That would have been the end of Ben’s story if it hadn’t drawn the ears of the Anti-Skullgirl Labs. With little left to lose, he agreed to be rebuilt with their experimental procedures. Melded with the machinery that allows him to breathe and a powerful an array of pneumatic weaponry, he was reborn as “Big Band.”
A famous nightclub singer in New Meridian, Eliza got caught up in a scheme by the Medici family when they discovered that her many charitable "blood drives" were actually what's keeping her young and beautiful. Faced with blackmail, Eliza reacts just about exactly how one might expect a vain and vengeful woman to.
She wields the Staff of Ra and uses her own blood to fight, along with a second form that's simply the skeleton parasite beneath her skin, Sehkmet. In battle, she's assisted by her bodyguards Horus and Albus.
Known world-wide for felling the Gigan warrior Grendel and for his illustrious career in the ring, Beowulf had secured himself a spot in the history books as a champion. But a mediocre acting career after leaving the ring tarnished his legacy.
Beowulf usually just relies on his holds, throws, open-handed strikes. He also wields his trusty folding chair, "The Hurting," and Grendel's arm.
Robo Fortune is the creation of Brain Drain, the psychic director of ASG Lab Zero, and stands as a testament to her maniacal creator’s unmatched pride and petulance. Built to demonstrate loyalty and cunning, Robo Fortune fails to deliver either to any measurable degree. Employing cutting-edge technology, she sets out to hunt down the Skullgirl, and to engage in easily avoidable conflicts.
One of Brain Drain's less-socially-acceptable hobbies is cloning, and often he forces the souls of dead warriors to inhabit these clones. Fukua is the result of a Lab Zero accident: a union of two souls. One, a once-proud warrior known for her brute strength in close combat; the other a silent assassin who specialized in ranged weapons for her kills.
Skullgirls features a powerful 3D engine to power its predominantly 2D presentation.
Characters are assembled from three layers (line, shading and color) and colored via a custom shader. They are illuminated by dynamic rim lights and per-pixel lighting generated by light sources in the environment and hit sparks.
The backgrounds are 3D, although use minimal geometry and high-resolution textures to retain a painterly look.
Averaging around 1400 frames of animation per character, Skullgirls features the most frames of animation per character of any 2D fighting game. Additionally, the sprites are of very high resolution - they're twice the size they are on the screen for filtering and zoom-in purposes.
Skullgirls' online experience is built upon the Good Game, Peace Out (GGPO) networking library, a favorite of the hardcore fighting game community.
In order to shift the game’s focus from executing difficult moves to fighting strategically, the game features simplified inputs.
For example, if a character has any 360 moves, the game will be able to tell if the player completes a 360 even if the player didn’t execute it at speeds that would be required in another fighting game. Not only does this make execution of these moves and make grappler characters easier, it also prevents the character from hopping (which occurs whenever the 'up' direction is pressed) at the apex of the 360 movement.
PC System Requirements
- OS: Windows XP, Window Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
- Processor: Dual-core CPU
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: Intel HD3000
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Network: Broadband Internet connection
- Hard Drive: 2 GB available space