“Hey guys, it’s your boy Dante, (aka Victor Freeze in the Fighting Game community), back to give you latest buzz and hype in all things gaming!” With EVO 2014 quickly approaching, naturally I have decided to devote my next couple of post to highlighting a few of my favorite “Fighters”, starting with the “indie” game that blew me away this year, SKULLGIRLS! Now I know what you’re thinking; this game came out a year ago. But I feel with all of the new character additions and game patches over the past year, Skullgirls is going to be even bigger, not only at EVO, but all fighting tournaments from here on. The fighting game genre has always been the “boys club” of the gaming world. For over 20 years “Street Fighter”, “Mortal Kombat”, and “Capcom Vs.”, have been ruling this community with an iron fist. That is until, Lab Zero Games, lead by tournament champ Mike “Mike Z” Zaimont and artist Alex “o_8” Ahad, decided to mix things up with their “All-Girl” 2D fighter hit! Crazy goth chicks mixing it up? I’m in! [image provided by Lab Zero Games] FIRST, LET’S TACKLE THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM The concept of an all female fighter is nothing new. It has been attempted several times throughout the years, and they always came down to the “3 B’s”: Boobs, Bikinis, and Bad game-game-play! The obvious culprits of these immature shenanigans would be Team Ninja’s “Dead or Alive”series, where not only were the games extremely agonizing to play, but to add insult to injury, they wanted you to spend more of your hard-earned money purchasing extra “underwear” and “lingerie” DLC packs! Team Ninja weren’t the only developers of this kind of nonsense, many others tried to join in the juvenile cash-grab of horny, desperate guys as well. I guess you can fight in that swimsuit? [image provided by Temco](Although, I will be fair and say that in Team Ninjas has learned their lesson and give them credit where it’s due, Dead or Alive 5 is actually a decent fighter!) The truth is, every fighting game has had their share of “sexploitation” since Chun Li (Street fighter 2) did her first upside-down spin kick, but because the majority of the game was focused on Ken, Ryu, and the other “male” characters, the mechanics were very balanced, and the game was a blast to play. This is where Skullgirls excels! Don’t get wrong, there are a few characters in the game that are obviously played for titillation and tease (looking at you, Valentine); but it’s done in a fun and “cheeky” way that’s not so obvious as say, a girl in a leather thong with a spiked collar and a whip! In fact, the real beauty of Skullgirls is how horribly “messed-up” they are, and are images out of a Horror film you wish Hollywood would actually make! Scary stuff going on here! [Image provided by Lab Zero Games] SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT THIS GAME? What makes Skullgirls different from most fighters is the beautifully detailed animation! Many “fighting game junkies”, me included, have played games such as “Guilty Gear” and “BlazBlue”, so good animation is not unfamiliar to us, but Skullgirls feature the most frames of animation per character of any fighting game, hand-drawn at high resolution and enhanced by real-time lighting courtesy of a powerful 3D engine. The cartoon-like visuals, along with the sophisticated fighting game mechanics takes the genre to a whole new level. There are times when you feel like you’re watching a really good animated movie! Secondly, the various game-modes we are offered. Along with a stellar single-player campaign and versus mode, we are also given a tag-team mode, online mode, and a very comprehensive training mode. And those who are like me and do most of their fighting online, I’m happy to say, the netcode (quality of the online connection) is very strong! Valentine and Parasoul have a disagreement! [image provided by Lab Zero Games] And last, but definitely not least, very fluid game-play! The “Special” moves are very easy to pull off and the combo system is very forgiving (for those who get caught it endless combos by other players, you are given a way out). The “Super” moves are bit harder to pull off sometimes, but nothing a challenging as say, “Calamity Trigger” or “King of Fighters”! After a few plays, I found it very easy to maneuver and execute my Supers! You would never see this in Street Fighter! [image provided by Lab Zero Games] SO WHO ARE THESE GIRLS? The story is basically pretty simple; all of these twisted and violent gals have curse they want removed or vendetta they want realized and are all fighting for an item called the “Heart Stone” which is supposed to grant their deepest wish, but the twist is, if the wish is “impure”, it will leave the gals worst off then where they started (sounds cheesy I know, but just go with it). So that explains why you’re fighting each other. Class is in! [image provided by Lab Zero Games]But any true fighting game fan knows the story is secondary to the characters and game-play. Now, since there are a good number of whacky characters and diverse fighting styles to choose from, I’m not going to get into all of them, but I will mention a few of my favorites: Ms. Fortune about to get real catty! [image provided by Lab Zero Games]Starting with, Ms Fortune, a dark, creepy, and tragic character who is very versatile in her movement and can extend her bandaged body for more ranged attacks (think Dalsim, from Street Fighter), and can actually use her “detached head” as a projectile!… You heard that right! Peacock has more weapons under her hat! [Image provided by Lab Zero Games]Another is Peacock! She is the more “cartoony” of the bunch (because she comes from a land of “Toons”) and has a ton of explosive weapons. She also, because of the nature of who she is, has the most animations of all of the characters! Not to mention, her Super moves are pretty damn cool. Saying Parasoul is high maintenance is an understatement! [image provided by Lab Zero Games]And last would be Parasoul, a “Euro-trash” princess who uses an umbrella for many varied attacks, including laying traps! She can also use her own personal army for different attacks on her opponent, which is very handy especially when it comes to defensive play! The rest of cast includes: Valentine, Cerebella, Filia, Painwheel, Double, and Marie. They, along with a few unlockable characters such as Eliza and Fukua, and a number of DLC characters who have been added recently, round out the list. SO WHAT MAKES THIS GAME A WORTHY BUY? At its core, Skullgirls is a tournament-grade fighter that any “casual” player can easily jump into. It has a huge learning curve and is more forgiving than a lot of fighters around right now. I would also say, it is BETTER than a lot of fighting games that the big game publishers are charging full retail for! And considering a gorgeous game like this, with so much thought put into it, was made by an independent developer, and not the likes of Capcom, Namco, or NetherRealm, this is one of the rare times we get to support the “little guy” in the Game biz and help them get more games made! Especially with a price tag of only $15.00 or less! Hope to see you guys online!