Don’t Lose Your Head!
Before I even start this article, let me make one thing clear. I absolutely love Skullgirls. Either it’s an awesome game with next to no flaws or I have to throw my journalistic integrity to the side of the road for a minute, because there is absolutely nothing about this game I don’t like. It’s the wave of the future for fighting games, and whether or not you like the unique art style, you can’t deny the solid gameplay mechanics and carefully thought out design process. I had yet another chance to go hands-on with the game at NYCC, and the Skullgirls team has told me even more about the infinite prevention system, the two new characters, and a little about post-release DLC plans.
First, let’s talk about the infinite prevention system, or IPS. Back at E3, I was told that the game has a system built right in to prevent infinite combos from breaking the game. Should the game detect an infinite, the opponent will be able to burst out for free. This time around, however, I managed to get some insight on how the system works. First of all, combos are broken up into chunks. A chunk involves all the moves in a combo between points in which the character returns to a “neutral” stance in the air or on the ground. Essentially, it involves all the moves that are canceled into each other until a link occurs. The IPS always triggers at the beginning of a chunk and players get three free chunks before it even kicks in. After that, the system gets progressively stricter the longer a combo goes on. Eventually, a character will simply be out of options, and, as of now, no infinite combos have been discovered.
The two new characters that were available to play in this build were Parasoul, a character first revealed at Evo, and the brand new Ms. Fortune. Parasoul is a peculiar character in that she is primarily normal-based. She has the most command normals of any character in the game, and nearly all of her normals have massive range. She doesn’t have a whole lot of mobility though, lacking a double jump, air dash, or even a ground run. Instead, she has a short fencing hop that can be done multiple times to move around the screen quickly, and a disjointed walk that is faster on step one than it is on step two. Successfully using your range to keep your opponent at bay is the name of the game with Parasoul. It’s a bit harder to score a good hit-confirm with her, but her powerful normals make her a zoning and poking monster.
Her specials allow her to set traps in two ways (one a projectile with a hitbox, the other an arcing throw without one) and these traps detonate when she attacks them with a move that has “fire” on it, or by using her “flash kick” series of special moves. Her only other special move is the Soldier Call, and all three versions do different things. The heavy Soldier Call brings in a soldier on a motorcycle to drag your opponent to the other side of the stage. The medium Soldier Call brings out a soldier to take projectile hits for you. The light Soldier Call is essentially a blank special move with no downtime that effectively allows her to cancel any normal she is in the middle of. Her supers involve a sniper shot that homes in as soon as it activates and has a long cool down time, a soldier bike rush that hits multiple times, and her level three which brings in a whole platoon to shower the enemy with bullets, doing an incredibly high amount of 1-damage hits (thus making it nearly unaffected by damage scaling.)
Ms. Fortune is an even more peculiar character as she is dead. Sort of. She ate a gem that made her body immortal, but was later found by the Mafia (the people she stole the gem from) and cut up into little bits. As a result, her body separates in many different ways as she fights, spurting blood everywhere. For example, her air and ground dashes work by spurting jets of blood out of her legs, and her throw has her tangling opponents up in a yarn ball of her own muscle tissue. It’s pretty gross.
Because Ms. Fortune’s body can separate, her limbs can stretch on their own muscle fibers. As a result, her normals have more range than those of most other characters, but she is still rather fast and plays more like a rushdown character. Her specials include clawing Rekkas (special moves than can be repeated for extra hits) that can chain into an overhead axe kick (another one of her specials) or a sliding low blow. She also has a “Fiber Uppercut” which makes her do a handspring off the ground, kicking her disgusting stretchy legs high into the air, and snapping back into the air if you press the button twice, setting up for air combos. Her final series of specials allows her to remove her head and control it independently of her body with the hard punch button. Pressing hard punch alone causes a headbutt, left or right and hard punch causes a stream of blood to squirt out of her neck that makes the head change position rapidly, quarter circle back hard punch causes a biting attack that hits multiple times in a cinematic “hit throw” animation, and dragon punch hard punch causes her head to do an invincible sneeze.
Ms. Fortune’s supers change depending on whether or not she has her head on. Her basic super is a Berserker Barrage-like claw rush that ends with an untechable knockdown with her head on, and a drilling uppercut with her head off. Her level 3 super causes her body to blast off into little pieces, dragging any opponent along with it before coming back together again in a grand explosion. The explosion will always occur where the head is located, so doing this super with your head off allows you to reposition your opponent as you see fit. The only super Ms. Fortune has that isn’t affected by her head is her air super, which causes her to dive at the opponent before using her tail as a sword to slice them in two. It’s best used in combos or as a way to punish from the air, and it does a lot of damage.
Those two characters were available to be played, but a third character has since been announced. The character’s name is Painwheel, and she is able to fly and absorb hits by charging her attacks. We will bring you more info on Painwheel as it is officially revealed.
But this isn’t all we know about the game. Over the past few months, a lot of new announcements about Skullgirls have been made. We know that the game will come with a single-player, multiplayer, online, and tutorial mode when it comes out. We also know that players will be able to use their own custom soundtracks and that the team is looking into a Steam release after the initial release on the PS3 and Xbox 360. However, at NYCC it was revealed that the game is fully modular. What does this mean? Well this means that the team can update anything and everything they like after the game is released.
And when I say anything, I mean anything . Updates to story mode in order to give the game replay value? Totally possible. New tutorials as the game’s emergent gameplay gets refined? Definitely doable. Brand new game modes or options? Why not? In fact, the team has said that it is likely one of the first updates to come after the game comes out will be the inclusion of a “taunt” for each character. In short, the sky is the limit for Skullgirls, and the game will continue evolving with DLC after DLC. For example, it will only launch with eight characters, but the developers have well over 30 character ideas, all of which might become DLC in the future.
Now, here are some updates that only the hardest of the hardcore care about: First of all, the UI has received a total facelift. The super bar fills inward instead of outward so you can more easily tell when you are close to getting another level. Red life doesn’t show up on single-character teams, as they have no way to recover it. The character select screen has been changed, opening up more space and finally allowing people to choose their character graphically. Several pre-set assists have been changed, though custom assist functionality is still in as always. Several NPCs have been added to the backgrounds of various stages, and these will change depending on whether or not they become playable characters. Overall, the game just looks better than it did before.
Skullgirls is set to come out in early 2012. Like, really early. Seriously. That’s basically what the team said, even though they wouldn’t narrow that down to an exact date. There’s still lots more Skullgirls news out there, and hopefully the team will show it at a few more events before the proposed release date. Keep it here and we will bring you more Skullgirls updates as they become available.