Skullgirls is finally complete – new content comes to PC

We are at the end of a very long journey my friends, a journey that started almost 15 years ago. Skullgirls, the indie fighting game made for fighting game purists, has gone through many phases. There was the original concept art by Alex Ahad, the switch over to the Z engine when professional gamer Mike Z signed on as the key developer, and the selling of the IP to Reverge and the long development cycle that followed. We saw the lukewarm release caused by rushed deadlines and limited funds, the eventual closing of Reverge and the opening of Lab Zero as its own independent company, the Indiegogo campaign which expanded the game tremendously in scope, the next-gen console release, and now this.

Skullgirls has always been a game pushed forward by fervent fan support, especially in the PC community, and now the game is finally complete… if you are willing to pay ten dollars.

Yes, Lab Zero is breaking their formula of providing every single update to the PC version of Skullgirls free and first with the new 2Nd Encore + DLC that just hit Steam. The update contains quite a bit of content, including all previously released DLC characters, color palettes, a new survival mode, trials for combo training, challenge modes that alter the game’s rules, a fully voiced story mode, and more. It’s an incredible value if you are just getting started with the game, but if you already own the game, it has some problems.

The Good, The Bad, and The Stale

The DLC retails at 15 dollars, but is having a release day sale of 33% off, which leaves it at a ten-dollar price tag. If you previously purchased ANY Skullgirls DLC, then the 2ND Encore DLC will also be permanently discounted to 10 dollars base price, which should reduce its price to $7.50 during this sale. But the sale doesn’t work if you got your DLC by donating to the Skullgirls Indiegogo, which feels like a bit of a slap in the face. Basically, the only people who get screwed out of a discount are the people who supported the game the most. Lab Zero has said they are working on this problem but whether or not this will be fixed before the sale ends is up in the air, and at that point you are stuck paying 10 dollars anyway.

I have been a supporter of Skullgirls since day one, and I don’t hesitate to call it my favorite fighting game, but I have to say I was a little disappointed when I downloaded this latest update. The challenges have very little to do with the core fighting game concepts that it was built on, instead facing you up against opponents with regenerating health or who can only be damaged by supers while your jump is disabled for some reason.

The trials are fantastic combo practice, but they have no sense of scale. You are started out on difficult loop combos and they only get more difficult from there. It’s less of a training tool and more of a way to show people who already know how to play the game how awesome they are. What’s particularly annoying is that the game forces you to use specific crouching or standing punches or kicks when either would do to continue the combo. Skullgirls was built on an open combo system that asks you to improvise rather than memorize rote combo lists, but the trials teach you to do the exact opposite of what the system was built for.

Survival mode is fine. It’s not buggy and it works exactly as you would expect a survival mode to work. It’s a nice diversion but there’s not much more to it.

The absolute best addition is by far the voiced story mode. It’s worth noting that nothing other than the voices have changed, so you won’t be getting extra content, but the voice actors really knock it right out of the park. For a story mode whose main conveyance of narrative is still images and text, the added voices really increase the quality by leaps and bounds. If there’s anything worth purchasing the new DLC for, it’s this.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I dropped 10 dollars for the 2nd Encore update. Though Skullgirls is my favorite fighting game, I haven’t played it in quite some time. 4 straight years of play will make any game start to feel stale. Time and again, Lab Zero revitalized Skullgirls with the release of new characters and updates for old character movesets. I was expecting the same revitalization here, but unfortunately was left wanting. The same people are playing online as were before. The mechanics haven’t changed at all. The challenge modes get very frustrating very fast, especially if you are halfway decent at the game. There’s a lot of content here, but not much more that will rope you back into the game.

Fading From The (Dim) Spotlight

Skullgirls has always been a somewhat controversial fighting game. While it was designed with pro concepts in mind, its art style and cast of mostly female fighters turned off a good portion of the fighting game community when it first released. This combined with the fact that its initial release did not even include move-sets for characters, got it off to a rocky start. But as time went on, Lab Zero has been immensely supportive of the Skullgirls community, updating the game time and again with new features. It now has one of the most comprehensive training modes of any fighting game ever, an incredible infinite protection system, great team mechanics, and a very interesting roster.

Despite this strong support, Skullgirls has never really seen its day in the spotlight. It has never had an EVO slot, despite being the second place finisher in a charity drive for a slot one year. It lost to Smash Bros. Melee and Melee has had a slot ever since while Skullgirls has been stuck in the background. It’s being played at fewer and fewer major tournaments, and when it is played, we only see entrants in the low double digits, as opposed to the hundreds to thousands of entrants that play Street Fighter.

If this is the last update for Skullgirls, then it is likely its time is coming to an end, because I would call this the weakest update the team has pushed out since the game’s release. It’s a shame, because it was a truly fantastic fighting game that understood mechanics possibly better than any other fighter on the market. For now, we will have to wait for Lab Zero’s newest game, the 2D Valkyrie Profile-style RPG, Indivisible, and hope that somewhere down the line they will make a Skullgirls 2.