Review: Skullgirls 2nd Encore (PS4)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita*

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy Yes**
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play Yes
  • Cross-Chat No

* Vita version coming soon
** Cross-Buy for PS4/PSV Versions only

Title: Skullgirls 2nd Encore
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.9 GB)
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Autumn Games
Developer: Lab Zero Games
Original MSRP: $24.99
ESRB Rating: T
Skullgirls 2nd Encore is also available on PlayStation 3 and is scheduled to be available on PlayStation Vita in the Fall.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

When it comes to fighting games I am not an expert. I am actually as casual as it comes, but every once in a while a fighting game comes around that grabs my attention. This is one that does just that.

Skullgirls 2nd Encore is the latest iteration on the original Skullgirls game that released on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. This newer version now features a fully voiced story mode which is pretty much what you’d expect from a fighting game. The main premise is the pursuit of the Skullheart which is a powerful object capable of granting wishes. Unfortunately the Skullheart is in the hands of Marie the Skullgirl and it is up to your fighter to track down and defeat the powerful Marie.

The stories for each fighter are unique and very entertaining for what they are which is beautiful 2D art with some solid voice work telling the story. I cannot imagine playing the story without the voice work so it is a much appreciated addition to the game and an exclusive feature for the PlayStation 4. Fighting games have never been known as the best storytelling devices because it always comes down to the fighting. It’s always nice to have a story, but we are all here to fight.

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Gameplay:
Okay let’s get down to the features of the game. Due to my lack of fighting game expertise I will focus on just the basic modes and features that stood out to me while working on this review. The overall fighting in the game is a pretty complex six button fighter that can be intimidating at first, but over time you begin to pick up more and more and see why this is a great fighting game. It does feature a pretty in-depth tutorial or learning mode that I highly recommend. It dishes things out in a slow process which really did help me learn the finer details in the mechanics of the gameplay.

Standard matches in Skullgirls are 3v3 matches with you having the ability to swap between the three characters on the fly for combos and assists like Marvel vs. Capcom. This means that if a player is getting heavily damaged you can pull that character out and tag in another character. This will allow the damaged character to regain some of the lost health while they are on the sidelines. In addition, if you are feeling confident, the game allows you to diverge from the standard 3v3 and go for a handicap match, meaning you can play 1v3 or 2v3 if you so please. When you do this your health does not appear to get any bigger, but you do more damage. This method is for high level players but I did find it to be a nice way of really learning a specific character’s abilities outside of the story mode. It forces you to play a smarter match and choose your attacks more wisely while playing a heck of a lot more defense especially in a 1 versus 3 scenario.

Survival Mode is what it sounds like, you pick your three characters and you face an endless gauntlet of A.I. opponents. This was surprisingly entertaining as it forced me to really get to know my team against the whole roster at various stages of health. In this mode your health will not regenerate from match to match except for some small bits of health to a character that was previously downed from the wave before. I found this mode really addicting as I tried to find the best combination of fighters for my team and tested my skills as I tried to top my previous record. Not enough fighters put enough effort into other modes outside of story, quick match, and standard online play so things like this are a nice bonus.

… one of the best looking 2D Fighters I have ever seen …
Skullgirls really does feel like a game made by fighting game fans for fighting game fans. It may be cliche to say, but it is true not only in the depth of the fighting, but in all the small details. For example, in Skullgirls you have to hold the Options button to pause the game which prevents the always frustrating accidental pause during action. This is a small, but great idea though now someone needs to make that a thing for the PlayStation button as well. Another much appreciated feature happens when you and a friend pick a random stage. If you and your friend hit rematch the game will automatically pick another random stage to keep the backgrounds fresh. Most games will just repeat the same stage over and over again until you quit out, but not Skullgirls.

Speaking of fighting with a friend, there is a neat little feature for those that get into learning and breakdown mechanics. During a match players can go into a Sparring Mode which takes you away from the action and into a practice mode where you can mess around with full meters and experiment with the characters. And when you are done you can turn off the mode and enter your previous fight from where you left off.

And finally we can talk about fight sticks. While I did not use one for this review because I am one of those controller folks, the game does support PS3 fight sticks. There is a FAQ on the official Skullgirls site for information on compatibility.

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Visuals:
2nd Encore is one of the best looking 2D Fighters I have ever seen. Everything about the characters is stunning, from the way they are designed to how they are animated. Just looking at the amount of work it must have taken to create a character like Eliza is crazy. That character in particular probably has the most happening in terms of transformation and attack animations.

Every character has a huge variety in animation that features so many little details and nuances that it is truly a thing of beauty. Any time I tried out a new character I was amazed with what they did and the specials they performed. Even getting your ass kicked by a fighter will bring a smile to your face as you watch the beautiful art in motion. The screenshots will not do enough justice for how the game looks so I recommend seeing the game in motion.

… features a fully voiced story mode …
Everything from the backgrounds to the still images used for cutscenes in the story can be a poster or wallpaper. Even if you cannot get into fighting games or this particular fighting game you have to respect the visual design in Skullgirls 2nd Encore.

Audio:
As mentioned earlier, Skullgirls 2nd Encore now features a fully voiced story mode. The addition of voice work to the story mode is a great one. The voice acting is great and I cannot imagine the story without any. Solid work all around in that feature for the PlayStation 4 version of the game.

To go along with the voice acting comes a solid musical soundtrack and score that tries to capture an old Hollywood style. The music was composed by Michiru Yamane who was also the composer for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and it is something that I can easily find myself listening to outside of the game.

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One thing I have to mention is the multiple announcers that are in the game. There are four: male, female, dazed, and a Soviet announcer. You hear their voice when picking a character and they each add a little flavor when a match starts. I must point out how I much I loved the Soviet announcer. Some of his lines are hilarious and he quickly became the only announcer I used. It’s a small aspect in the big picture of the game and another bit of that can add some freshness.

… a pretty solid learning mode …
Online/Multiplayer:
Most of my time with Skullgirls multiplayer was spent playing offline against people locally which was/is a great experience with the variables of play that were mentioned above. I did spend a good amount of time playing random people online and with friends and had a great experience doing so. The online matches worked and I did not notice any lag or disconnects in my experience. The network is powered by GGPO which is the gold standard for online play when it comes to fighters and this is no exception.

I did find myself on the losing end of a lot of the matches, but that is likely due to my skill level. The online community takes this game serious so you need to come to an online match ready to see some top level play. Regardless of my scrub play I never waited too long for a match, and with Lobby support, hooking up with a couple friends was easily done.

Also worth mentioning is that the game features Cross-Platform play between the PS4, PS3 and the future Vita version.

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Conclusion:
Despite being somewhat difficult to get the hang of at first Skullgirls 2nd Encore was a very rewarding experience. It is rare for a fighting game to gain my attention and drive me to continue despite some early beatings. Almost immediately I knew that I wanted to learn as much as I could about how each character worked and I did not want to give up. Luckily, the game features a pretty solid learning mode that slowly guided me through the ropes to help prepare me for human opponents.

The inclusion of voice acting with the story helped add more to the experience and while the story did not break new ground the character’s design and personality kept me interested. The game is Cross-Buy enabled so when the PlayStation Vita version releases later this year you will have that to look forward to. The breadth of content in this package is on par with the biggest fighters on the market.

The details this game pays attention to come together to make one of the best fighting games on the market. It might kick your ass at first, but if you take the time to learn the game it becomes very rewarding. The online works and the community for appears to be strong so give Skullgirls 2nd Encore a chance. Beep Boop Meow.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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