Review: Skullgirls 2nd Encore (PSV/PSTV)

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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

* Cross-Buy for PS4/PSV Versions only

Title: Skullgirls 2nd Encore
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.69 GB)
Release Date: April 5, 2015
Publisher: Autumn Games
Developer: Lab Zero Games
Original MSRP: $24.99
ESRB Rating: T
Skullgirls 2nd Encore is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation Vita download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Editor’s Note:
Portions of this review also appear in our PS4 coverage of Skullgirls 2nd Encore.
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When it comes to fighting games I am not an expert. I am actually as casual as it comes, but every once in awhile a fighting game comes around that grabs my attention. This fighting game 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. 2nd Encore features a fully voiced story mode and a host of modes and new characters.

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 on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.

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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.

Overall the fighting is fairly complex. Since it’s a six button fighter, it can be intimidating at first. 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.

… a nice way to really learn …
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 one.

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.

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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 and I found it to be a nice way to really learn 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 1v3 scenario.

Survival Mode is what it sounds like, you pick your three characters and you face an endless gauntlet of AI 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.

… button combos and touch screen macros …
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 to be 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.

The transition from a controller to a portable device can be a tricky one for a lot of games due to the lack of available buttons. The controls here are transferred pretty well with button combos and touch screen macros making up for those missing buttons to allow tagging team members in and out of combat.

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These options are needed to make the game work and for the most part are fine. It just felt a little clunky or clumsy at first.

Switching between the PS4 and Vita took some getting used to, but it was only a couple of matches before I started to get into the swing of things. People that regularly play fighting games on portable devices will likely have an easier time learning or relearning the controls rather than someone unfamiliar with fighters on the go.

… fantastic art style …
Visuals:
Skullgirls 2nd Encore on the PS4 stands as one of the better looking fighting games on the console and when it comes to the Vita version the visuals transfer well despite some small sacrifices.

The graphics take some hits on the smaller screen as the game does not have the same “pop” it had on the PS4. The backgrounds and characters have lost some detail with colors appearing slightly muted.

With that said, this is still a good looking game on the Vita and the visual shortcomings would not be necessary to bring up if it was not for my experience with the PS4 version, which happens to be Cross-Buy with the Vita.

This version still features the fantastic art style a Skullgirls game brings, and it runs smoothly on the handheld. What matters is the flow of a fight and when it comes to the fluidity, the Vita handles excellently.

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Audio:
As mentioned earlier, Skullgirls 2nd Encore features a fully voiced story mode. The addition of voice work to the story mode is a nice one. The voice acting is well done and I cannot imagine the story without any. It’s solid work all around with the voices which were first added to the PlayStation 4 version and have been brought over to the Vita.

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.

… come to a match ready to see some top level play …
Online/Multiplayer:
What makes Skullgirls 2nd Encore a great game is how it plays and how it translates online. The title features Cross-Play with the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game which meant I rarely had to wait long finding an opponent. Despite being out on both consoles for awhile now the community is still going strong with a dedicated pool of players online.

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 was likely due to my skill level. The online community takes this game very serious so you need to come to a match ready to see some top level play.

Regardless of my scrubbery I never waited too long for a match. And with Lobby support, hooking up with a couple friends is easily done. I may never be good at this game, but I can still have a good time online whether it is on the PS4 or Vita.

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Conclusion:
Skullgirls 2nd Encore continues to be a great game even though it might not be the best version out there. Fighting games on handheld devices can be difficult to get into because of the limitations of the controls. And while the game is still limited by control issues, the developers have done a good job crafting a playable controller set-up.

Despite being somewhat difficult to get the hang of at first this is a very rewarding experience. It’s rare for a fighting game to gain my attention and drive me to continue despite some early beatings.

I knew almost immediately 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 helps add more to the experience and while the story doesn’t break new ground, the character design and personality kept me interested. 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 around. It might kick your ass at first but if you take the time to learn it becomes very rewarding.

The online works and the community appears to be strong so give Skullgirls 2nd Encore a chance. For fans of fighting games on the Vita, this game is one of the best on the platform and for newcomers this might not be the best version of the game, but it’s still quite good.

Beep Boop Meow.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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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