Lab Zero Games
Marvelous AQL (PC, XBLA)
Mariel Kinuko Cartwright
|Arcade system||Taito Type X2|
Skullgirls is a 2D fighting game independently developed by Reverge Labs and co-published by Autumn Games and Konami. The game was released through the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade in North America, Europe, and Australia from April–May 2012, and later received a Japanese release by CyberFront for the PlayStation Network in February 2013. A Microsoft Windows version, developed by Lab Zero Games and co-published by Autumn Games and Marvelous AQL, was released in August 2013. It is also planned to be brought to Japanese arcades.
After Skullgirls was removed from the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade in December 2013 due to a change in publishers, the game will be re-released as Skullgirls Encore on both platforms. Encore launched on the PlayStation Network in North America in February 2014.
The game takes place in the fictional Canopy Kingdom and follows a struggle to seek out the "Skull Heart", a mystical item capable of granting any woman's wish. If the wisher is impure of heart, however, her wish is corrupted and she is turned into a "Skullgirl" – a monstrous entity with immense power bent on the destruction of the world. The game's events revolve around various individuals seeking out the current Skullgirl, Marie, to defeat her and claim the Skull Heart for their own agendas.
The engine and playstyle for Skullgirls were intentionally modeled after Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, incorporating several similar game mechanics such as tag team-based combat, character assists, snapbacks, and delayed hyper combos. The game can be played using different ratios of characters, with each player able to select up to three fighters on their team. The teams are then balanced based on the number of team members. A single character possesses more health and deals more damage, while larger teams gain the ability to perform character assists and recover health when tagged out. Players can also customize their character assist attacks.
The game includes a story mode, arcade mode, versus mode, training room, tutorial mode, and online play using the GGPO networking library. Skullgirls includes various unique features to address system and balance problems, such as infinite combo detection. When the game detects a looping combo through monitoring the players' attacks, the other player can break free of the infinite by hitting any button. In addition, Skullgirls offers protection against high and low "unblockable attacks", which occur when a player, for example, uses a low attack and calls in a high-hitting assist, making it nearly impossible for the opponent to block. The game attempts to remedy the issue by offering a short grace period after blocking that guards against other hit types.
The release of Skullgirls Encore saw numerous gameplay adjustments and additions, including character balance tweaks, faster gameplay, an online training mode, and a stun meter designed to limit lengthy combos without compromising creativity. A new local game mode called "Typing of the Skullgirls", a mode inspired by games like The Typing of the Dead, was also added. When enabled, teams automatically generate meter and all attacks deal negligible damage. Super moves give typing prompts to the player, awarding damage for typing accuracy.
Skullgirls takes place in the fictional Canopy Kingdom, a country "reminiscent of a 1940's post-war America tinged with magic and intrigue." In a world rife with conflict and dirty dealings, several individuals and organizations seek to obtain the mysterious artifact known as the "Skull Heart". Once every seven years, the Skull Heart grants one young woman's wish. However, if a woman with an impure soul attempts to use the Heart, her wish will be corrupted and she will be transformed into the next Skullgirl, a monstrous entity with immense power. Hundreds have sought after the Skull Heart, yet none of its wielders have been deemed worthy and spared of its cruel power.
Seven years following the Grand War, a blood-soaked battle fought between three nations, the newest Skullgirl, Marie, has emerged and begun to terrorize the Canopy Kingdom. The game follows several fighters and their journeys to confront Marie and claim the Skull Heart. Each character has her own motive for seeking the Heart, whether to destroy the artifact or use its power for their own interests.
The Skullgirls roster consists of eight playable female characters. Each character sprite has approximately 1,400 hand-drawn frames of animation, the most amount of frames per character in any fighting game. Every character has ten alternate color palettes, some of which must be unlocked. An additional five downloadable characters are planned, including the game's first playable male characters and two voter-selected characters.
- Filia (Voiced by: Christine Marie Cabanos), an amnesiac schoolgirl who possesses a symbiote on her head named Samson (Voiced by: Del Stetson).
- Cerebella (Voiced by: Cristina Vee), an orphaned circus performer working for the mafia who wears a living hat, Vice-Versa, which possesses large, powerful muscles.
- Peacock (Voiced by: Sarah Williams), a mutilated war orphan who was rebuilt with biomechanical weaponry by the Anti-Skullgirl Labs, which is further augmented by her damaged psyche and love of cartoons.
- Parasoul (Voiced by: Erin Fitzgerald), the princess of the Canopy Kingdom and the leader of its elite military squad, the Black Egrets. Her mother was once a Skullgirl that nearly destroyed the world.
- Ms. Fortune (Voiced by: Kimlinh Tran), the sole survivor of the thieving Fishbone Gang. She swallowed the mystical Life Gem that allows her to keep living even when chopped into pieces.
- Painwheel (Voiced by: Danielle McRae), a normal schoolgirl who was kidnapped by Valentine and infused with parasites and experimental Skullgirl blood, turning her into a monster.
- Valentine (Voiced by: Laura Post), the sole survivor of the Last Hope, a group of special Anti-Skullgirl Lab operatives. After the Last Hope was eliminated, Valentine is forced to work for Marie and Double.
- Double (Voiced by: Charlotte Ann), an amorphous monster that can imitate the moves of other fighters. It often disguises itself as a nun.
- Marie (Voiced by: Kira Buckland), the Skullgirl, current wielder of the Skull Heart. She appears as the final boss for most of the characters' storylines; however, she is not playable.
- Squigly (Voiced by: Lauren Landa), an undead opera singer who was brought back to life by the parasite Leviathan (Voiced by: Liam O'Brien). She is the first DLC character.
- Big Band (Voiced by: Richard Brown), a police officer who, after his corrupt unit left him for dead, received an experimental saxophone-like iron lung from the Anti-Skullgirl Labs. He is the second forthcoming DLC character.
- Eliza, a celebrity diva who was blackmailed into working for the mafia. She is the host of the parasite Sekhmet, which can manifest itself in the pools of blood she leaves in battle. Selected by fan vote, she is the third forthcoming DLC character.
- Beowulf, a retired professional wrestler who wields a folding chair called "The Hurting". Selected by fan vote, he is the fourth forthcoming DLC character.
- Robo-Fortune (Voiced by: Kimlinh Tran), a robotic version of Ms. Fortune. Originally based on an alternate voice pack proposed by Tran, she is the fifth forthcoming DLC character.
Skullgirls was originally conceived as several stray character designs that illustrator Alex "o_8" Ahad had been creating since high school. While attending college, Ahad had the hypothetical idea to use the characters concepts for a fighting game roster. The idea would later become a reality when Ahad was introduced to fighting game enthusiast and tournament-goer Mike "Mike Z" Zaimont, who had been working on a fighting game engine during his own spare time. Their personal projects were merged into Skullgirls in early 2008. Engine development and pre-production began in 2009. Ahad and Zaimont pitched Skullgirls to several companies, eventually teaming up with recently founded independent developer Reverge Labs in 2010. They later went on to sign with publisher Autumn Games. At the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Japanese developer and publisher Konami announced that the company would help distribute the game.
Following the game's release, the Skullgirls team began teasing future content for the game, including new voice packs, color palettes, and downloadable characters. However, shortly thereafter, Autumn Games was hit with a series of lawsuits regarding an unrelated game property, Def Jam Rapstar, which "gummed up everything related to Autumn's funding." The entire Skullgirls development team was laid-off by Reverge Labs in June 2012 after Autumn Games and Reverge Labs allowed their contract to expire without agreeing upon a new one. This prompted the team to reform under a new moniker, Lab Zero Games, to continue work on the PC release and downloadable content. Autumn Games, revealed to be in full possession of the IP, claimed it was "fully behind the new studio" and promised to "continue to work with [Lab Zero Games] in the future on all Skullgirls-related endeavors."
From January–February 2013, fighting game website Shoryuken hosted a charity donation drive to determine the final game to be featured in the 2013 Evolution Championship Series' tournament lineup, with all proceeds sent to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The Skullgirls community raised over $78,000 (USD), placing second to eventual winner Super Smash Bros. Melee, which raised over $94,000. Although the game did not win, Shoryuken announced that EVO 2013 event organizers would support the Skullgirls side tournament by providing prize money and exhibition support due to their effort in the fundraiser.
Crowdfunding and publisher transition
Despite Autumn Games' support and desire to expand Skullgirls, their continued litigation prevented the publisher from providing any financial backing. Attempting to pick up where they left off, Lab Zero Games decided to ask its fanbase for help once more, following the success of the EVO 2013 charity drive. On February 25, 2013, Lab Zero Games set up an Indiegogo page for Skullgirls, in an effort to raise $150,000 for the development of the game's first DLC character, Squigly. Contributors received various rewards, including desktop wallpapers, a digital copy of the official soundtrack, Steam keys for the PC release, Steam keys for Half-Minute Hero, and the chance to add a background character to the game, among others. The campaign reached its initial goal in less than 24 hours, while the stretch goal of a second DLC character, Big Band, secured funding in just over 2 weeks. A third DLC character, determined by fan vote, was funded during the final two days, along with a playable robotic version of Ms. Fortune named Robo-Fortune. With minutes left before the end of the drive, the last stretch goal was met, securing funding for another fan-selected DLC character. The Indiegogo campaign had raised nearly $830,000 of its original $150,000 goal. Several alternate character and announcer voice packs were also funded. All downloadable characters and voice packs will be free to download on all platforms within the first three months of their release.
On November 7, 2013, Lab Zero Games announced that Autumn Games had severed ties with Konami, citing Konami's unresponsiveness as a major hurdle to the release of further console patches. Following the dissolution of the partnership, Konami requested the removal of Skullgirls from the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade by the end of 2013. In response, Lab Zero Games announced on December 17, 2013 that Skullgirls would be re-released on consoles as Skullgirls Encore, a new build including up-to-date changes and additions, in January 2014. Encore will mark the transition of the console versions to its new publishers, Marvelous AQL and CyberFront, and coincide with the console releases of Squigly and the "Character Color Bundle" DLC. While Encore will be released as a title update for the Xbox 360 version, the PlayStation 3 version will require owners to re-download the game at no cost; leaderboards, save data and trophies will not carry over. The PC version was also patched to reflect the new title.
|Skullgirls Original Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Released||April 24, 2012|
|Genre||Video game soundtrack|
The Skullgirls Original Soundtrack consists of 28 original compositions. The album features music by Michiru Yamane, Vincent Diamante, Blaine McGurty, and Brenton Kossak. The soundtrack was released on April 24, 2012 on iTunes. People who donated at least $10 (USD) to the Skullgirls Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign received a digital copy of the soundtrack. An exclusive, physical CD release of the Skullgirls Original Soundtrack was offered, among other rewards, to those who donated $150 or more to the drive.
Reverge Labs officially announced that they had enlisted Yamane, primarily known for her work on Konami's Castlevania series, to create the soundtrack for Skullgirls on April 20, 2011. According to Richard Wyckoff, CEO of Reverge Labs, the developers sought out Yamane because "[they] knew her mixture of haunting gothic themes, jazz and rock would lend itself perfectly to Skullgirls' 'Dark Deco' style." When Reverge Labs requested Yamane to write "jazzy" music, she "played a bit with the rhythm and different sounds to try and heighten the impact and almost primal nature of the unique graphics."
|Skullgirls Original Soundtrack tracklist|
|2.||"The Legend of the Skull Heart"||Michiru Yamane, Vincent Diamante||1:36|
|3.||"Pedestrians Crossing"||Brenton Kossak, Blaine McGurty||3:32|
|4.||"Pick of the Litter"||Brenton Kossak, Blaine McGurty||3:18|
|5.||"In Rapid Succession"||Vincent Diamante||2:24|
|6.||"Moonlit Melee"||Michiru Yamane||6:06|
|7.||"Whiling the Hours Away"||Vincent Diamante||1:40|
|8.||"Them's Fightin' Words"||Brenton Kossak, Blaine McGurty||0:52|
|9.||"The Fish Man's Dance"||Michiru Yamane||6:16|
|10.||"An Uncertain Fate"||Brenton Kossak, Blaine McGurty||1:10|
|11.||"The Seat of Power"||Michiru Yamane||6:16|
|12.||"Shenanigans and Goings-Ons"||Vincent Diamante||1:33|
|13.||"Paved With Good Intentions"||Michiru Yamane||6:15|
|14.||"Forgotten Moments"||Vincent Diamante||3:37|
|15.||"A Roll of the Dice"||Brenton Kossak, Blaine McGurty||0:51|
|16.||"The Lives We Left Behind"||Michiru Yamane||6:14|
|17.||"Fugue in Three Goddesses"||Vincent Diamante||1:22|
|18.||"Dirge of the Divine Trinity"||Michiru Yamane||6:27|
|19.||"The Catacombs Below"||Vincent Diamante||0:17|
|20.||"Dire Machinations"||Vincent Diamante||1:16|
|21.||"Her True Power Revealed"||Vincent Diamante||0:14|
|22.||"Skull Heart Arrhythmia"||Michiru Yamane||6:13|
|24.||"A Return to Normalcy"||Vincent Diamante||2:08|
|25.||"In a Moment's Time"||Michiru Yamane||4:28|
|26.||"Learning One's Craft"||Michiru Yamane||6:12|
|27.||"The Lives We Tried to Reclaim"||Vincent Diamante||1:44|
|28.||"Hitomi No Kioku (Bonus Track)"||Michiru Yamane||4:28|
Skullgirls was released on the PlayStation Network in North America on April 10, 2012, and the Xbox Live Arcade on April 11, 2012. Europe and Australia later received the PlayStation Network version on May 2, 2012. The game was released in Japan by CyberFront on the PlayStation Network in February 14, 2013, and will also be heading to Japanese arcades through the NESiCAxLive digital distribution system. The public beta test for the Microsoft Windows version of Skullgirls began on July 4, 2013. The official Windows version was released by Marvelous AQL on August 22, 2013. A Linux port is also reportedly in the works.
Skullgirls received generally positive reviews. Aggregating review sites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the PlayStation 3 version scores of 83.00% and 82/100, and the Xbox 360 version 78.73% and 78/100. The game sold over 50,000 copies across both platforms within the first ten days of its release date. Skullgirls immediately became the highest selling game on the Xbox Live Arcade upon its release. It was also listed as the third best-selling title on the PlayStation Network for April 2012. The game saw a similar performance in Japan, climbing to the top spot on the PlayStation Network’s list of best-selling downloadable PlayStation 3 titles within a week of its release. According to Peter Bartholow, CEO of Lab Zero Games, Skullgirls met Japanese publisher CyberFront's lifetime sales estimates in the first two weeks of its release.
Several reviewers praised the presentation and animation. Ryan Clements of IGN lauded the graphics, stating that the game creates "some of the best hand-drawn character sprites ever used in gaming." He gave the game an Editor's Choice award, reaffirming that Skullgirls succeeds in creating "the prettiest 2D visuals to date." John Learned of GamesRadar also praised the art style, saying "the art deco design is only on the surface compared to the Tex Avery-meets-Bubblegum Crisis subtlety that gives not only the playable characters, but also the backgrounds a lot of flair." However, some reviewers criticized the art style and overtly sexualized all-female cast, including accusations of sexism. Dan Ryckert of Game Informer claimed that while Skullgirls was beautifully animated, some animations were "juvenile and unnecessary". He expressed that it was "disappointing to see that so much of the art style seems focused on anatomy and fetishistic outfits."
Many critics spoke positively about the gameplay. Maxwell McGee of GameSpot credited the ability to adjust team sizes, adding that the "trade-off between raw strength and versatility helps accommodate a wider skill range." McGee praised the underlying fighting system, stating that it offers "several smart and simple alternatives for typical fighting game annoyances such as high/low unblockables and infinite loops." Neidel Crisan of 1UP said "competitive players will be more than pleased with Skullgirls' gameplay system, and it teaches beginner players things about the genre they wouldn't have learned otherwise without attending tournaments or digging through pages of forum posts." Daniel Maniago of G4 complimented the custom assists, anti-infinite system, and GGPO-enhanced online play, praising Reverge Labs for "listen[ing] closely to fans of the game as well as the fighting game community" during development. Maniago summarized by labeling Skullgirls as "a beautifully crafted game that builds upon good ideas of fighting games before it while addressing issues that fighting games often have."
Skullgirls also received its share of criticism. IGN's Ryan Clements criticized the paltry selection of gameplay modes, missing character move lists, and overly aggressive AI. GameTrailers lamented the limited roster size, stating that because "the number of combatants here is considerably smaller than most modern fighters...the team-building meta-game element that naturally flows from tag-based battling feels somewhat underdeveloped." Simon Parkin of Eurogamer noticed the lack of online features "from spectator modes to replays to endless lobbies - all options that players have come to expect regardless of a game's price point." Jordan Mallory of Joystiq reprimanded the game for its "goofy and immature" premise, "buxom cast and gratuitous amounts of anime-esque fanservice", and "the fact that Skullgirls' characters are, generally, randomly shuffled carbon copies of characters from other fighting games." Mallory concluded that the series "could have been so much more" had the game spent another year in development.
Skullgirls won Best Fighting Game awards at the 2011 E3 conference from VG Chartz, Bitbag, and Ripten, and additionally received Best Fighting Game nominations from IGN, 1UP, and the Official E3 Game Critics Awards. The game was also nominated for 2012 Best Animated Video Game at the 40th Annual Annie Awards.
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