Skullgirls 2nd Encore (PlayStation 4) Review

By Nikola Suprak 23.09.2015

Review for Skullgirls 2nd Encore on PlayStation 4

Skullgirls even being around for a second encore is a bit of a miracle, honestly. The original development company was blown up as a result of an unrelated lawsuit, only for the various members of the company to reunite and finish up the project under a new label. They then managed to get Skullgirls up on PSN and XBLA, only to have Konami pull it after the two parted ways. Each step of the way, they fought back and returned with something even better than before. Skullgirls was rereleased as Skullgirls Encore, and now a couple of years later, the game has received an upgraded version called Skullgirls 2nd Encore for PS4 and Vita. All of this adversity apparently made the company stronger, somehow, because this final product is one of the true gems of the fighting world. It may not add in a tremendous amount of new content, but what is here is polished to a mirror shine.

Skullgirls 2nd Encore takes place in the Canopy Kingdom, a sort of pseudo-post-war America if post-war America was filled with scantily clad women punching each other in the face. Outside of New Jersey, that is. The various fighters are all on a quest to obtain the Skull Heart, a mysterious artefact said to grant the wishes of the one who comes to possess it. It seems to be a bit picky on the people wishing upon it, though, as if a woman with an impure heart tries to wish upon it, she is transformed into a Skullgirl, which is sort of like a normal girl, except she wants to destroy everything. The newest woman afflicted with this malady has descended upon the Canopy Kingdom, and it is up to a group of women and men to stop her, claim the Skull Heart for themselves, and maybe, just maybe, not get turned into a walking monstrosity because of it.

The story is told in brief scenes between the numerous fights, and each playable character has their own unique story mode. The plot is actually interesting, which is a bit surprising, especially coming from a fighting game. There is a lot of fairly interesting lore and backstory with plenty of supporting characters, and all of the stories are pretty fun to follow to their conclusion. The writing is halfway decent, and it is worth actually paying attention to all of the story sequences, instead of just mashing "X" to get to the next fight. It is probably not the best story ever told, all things considered, but compared to most fighting games, this is downright Shakespearean.

Screenshot for Skullgirls 2nd Encore on PlayStation 4

It benefits from a really interesting cast of characters, with each member of the playable cast having a wildly different backstory. What is impressive is just how diverse the whole group is, with a lot of memorable characters that are original both in terms of design and their fighting style. There are characters like Peacock, which looks like an homage to a cartoon from the 1930s, and then there are those like Painwheel, a fifteen-year-old former schoolgirl that has been transformed via the blood of a Skullgirl. The roster here is wildly imaginative. Each character has a nice backstory that is expanded upon during the cut-scenes, and, more importantly, a unique selection of moves that makes everyone feel distinct. The combos and moves that can be pulled off are really impressive, and is that solid level of challenge that isn't too difficult to get newbies interested, but will provide satisfaction for anyone that takes the time to learn the various characters' ins-and-outs.

The fighting itself is superb, with each character well thought out and balanced perfectly. There really are no weak links here, and it is likely that usage will be fairly evenly spread out throughout the cast. The inspiration is pretty clear, as Skullgirls borrows heavily from the Marvel vs. Capcom series, with Marvel vs. Capcom 2 being the game it was influenced by the most. This is certainly a good influence to draw from, and Skullgirls 2nd Encore takes all the best elements of that title and refines it down to its own unique thing. In a clever twist, players can select between one and three characters to fight with, with fewer characters being significantly stronger, but lacking benefits of teammates, like combo attacks and health regeneration when tagged out. It is a great concept and adds a layer of depth and strategy to the title. The core system is incredibly solid and an absolute blast to play through, with perfect controls and a lot of clever ideas mixed in with the gameplay.

Screenshot for Skullgirls 2nd Encore on PlayStation 4

All of this, however, was equally as true in the original version of the game that was released three years ago. In terms of what is actually different or new, the answer is either very little or a decent amount, depending on whether or not money has been shelled out for the DLC that has come out since then. The most obvious difference is the visual presentation and run speed, both of which are massively improved on the PS4. This is by far the prettiest version of the game to hit consoles yet, and it isn't just the bright, vibrant visuals and backdrops that make it appealing. There is a wonderfully quirky aesthetic, with some wildly varying art style even between some of the characters. The bonus art gallery that is unlocked along the way, containing a whole slew of art from fans and artists, is an excellent bonus, and another feature added in over the original. The high level of detail and polish that went into this is obvious, and Skullgirls 2nd Encore takes full advantage of the upgrade in hardware to the PS4.

Other obvious additions come in the form of new characters, bringing the total playable roster to fourteen, with one of those fourteen being a palette swap. That should probably have been written as "new," as these additions were already available as DLC for the original title. This is undoubtedly the greatest addition to the game, as five new characters really expands the roster and adds a substantial amount of playtime figuring out how to fight with (or against) these newcomers. Unfortunately, those that already own all of the previous released DLC might not have quite as strong of a reason to give Skullgirls 2nd Encore another look. There is some other stuff here, and things that aren't found even in the DLC for the first title, but these characters are truly the biggest draw. If they are already owned, an upgrade might be on the cards, but not completely necessary.

Screenshot for Skullgirls 2nd Encore on PlayStation 4

For those that enjoyed the original, but haven't been following along with the DLC, Skullgirls 2nd Encore almost becomes a must-buy. The new characters are great, and have the same level of creativity that everyone loved about the original cast. A personal favourite, Big Band, absolutely dwarfs much of the competition, and is a man that has been fused with a variety of musical instruments after an incident left him nearly dead. His style contrasts so sharply with many of the existing characters that mastering his move list is a tremendously rewarding experience. Almost all of the new characters are like this, with the possible exception of Squigly, who is a bit boring both in terms of design and in-game usage. Still, the new characters are a fantastic addition to an already deep fighting game. A full roster of thirteen might sound a bit meagre by most of today's standards, but they are all absolutely worth the price of admission. Their styles add new layers to the game without disturbing the previous balance, and their integration into the title feels natural and seamless.

The other additions are, admittedly, a bit smaller in scope, but still combine to add to one incredibly well designed package. The story cut-scenes are now all fully voice acted, and, with a couple of exceptions, it is remarkable how well voiced the various characters are. The scenes aren't long, but the little bit of voice acting does give more impact to what is there. There are a couple of new modes added to round things out a bit, as well, although most players will probably only sporadically check these out, if at all. Survivor throws out endless waves of enemies to fight, while challenges and trials open things up further by tasking the player with completing fights under special conditions or performing combos. These aren't huge additions or things that will redefine the game, but they are nice additions that add just a bit more depth to the package. Their inclusion probably isn't much of an incentive to purchase the game by themselves, but taking into account the new characters, the improved visuals, and the added voice acting, this really is an excellent deal with a fair amount of new content thrown on top.

Screenshot for Skullgirls 2nd Encore on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Skullgirls was one of the best new fighting IPs to come out in years, and Skullgirls 2nd Encore is everything that made the original game great and so much more. New characters, new modes, and improved visuals and sound make this the (hopefully) complete version of a fantastic title before the developers finally move on to new projects. This is a fighting game for fighting fans made by fighting fans, and the balance and creativity here is absolutely off the charts. It is a wonderfully enjoyable title to play, both for newcomers and the genre savvy, representing one of the most enjoyable, complete fighters in recent memory. The roster might be a bit on the small side and this package doesn't offer that much more for those that already purchased the DLC, but those that haven't absolutely need to pick this up. A game like this deserves a second encore, and Skullgirls has certainly earned it.

Developer

Autumn Games

Publisher

Autumn Games

Genre

Fighting

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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