Fighting games are easily one of my favorite genres, and even though the Switch boasts a pretty large swath of both popular and niche fighters already, there’s always room for more to join the ranks. Recently Skybound Games brought over Lab Zero’s top tier, 2D fighter to the hybrid console– Skullgirls: 2nd Encore. With a cast of zany, memorable characters, beautiful hand drawn animations, and the ethos of the fighting game community embedded within, Skullgirls is a lovingly crafted experience for veterans and newcomers alike.
In Skullgirls you follow the story of the various cast of characters and their relationship with the Skull Heart, an illusive artifact that has the ability to grant the wishes of those who possess it– though, if their heart isn’t pure, the consequences may be catastrophic. Across each character’s story mode you’ll uncover fully voiced cutscenes that shed more backstory and lore on each of the character’s and their motivations which culminate in the construction of a fully fleshed out world. Something that can be devoid in many fighting games
Skullgirls: 2nd Encore follows the traditional six button input that game’s like Street Fighter utilize, which gives the player a low, medium, and high attack for kicks and punches. Not only is this one of the more popular button configurations for fighters, but it allows for more varied combos in most situations since the basic controls offer up these six inputs.
One aspect that separates Skullgirls: 2nd Encore from many of its contemporaries is its robust training and tutorials. Fighting games can very easily overwhelm those who aren’t seasoned, and franchises that draw from a lineage of games have the added value that someone may have thrown a “hadouken” before, so picking up the controller for a game in a long-running franchise may not seem as farfetched. But, for something like Skullgirls that has its own set of rules, physics, and nuances, it can seem like a foreign language to newcomers. Thankfully, this extensive optional tutorial was crafted with new players in mind and offers up an almost exhaustive way to get invested in the game as opposed to constantly getting wrecked online or in arcade mode. Though, this tutorial isn’t just built with novices in mind, fighting game aficionados will find it is the perfect place to understand mechanics and the character’s nuances more intimately.
A fight is usually a team effort with both players picking three characters to use in battle, tagging in and out freely as well as calling out to assist within rounds similar to games like Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. The flow of matches plays out like most fighting games, though Skullgirls borrows a ratio mechanic made popular by Capcom Vs. SNK 2— the ability to choose if you want three average fighters, two higher powered fighters, or one super powered fighters– that can add more depth to knowing your opponent and trying to plan ahead with your fighter choices. But at its core, this also just adds more variety when fishing for bouts with your friends.
The gameplay is snappy and feels responsive to your inputs which is an essential aspect to be nailed when building a fighting game– and this port to the Switch doesn’t disappoint. Dashing around with Valentine and slinging syringes at my opponents feels just as good as it did on my Xbox 360.
Skullgirls: 2nd Encore has a rock solid fighting game bone structure, but the cosmetic aspects of the game are just as impressive as it’s mechanically sound foundation. With unique characters like Valentine a nurse with more than a few tricks up her sleeve and Big Band who brings the pain with a variety of musical instruments– the style and flair that each character on the roster possess is only a portion of how Skullgirls leaves a mark on your cerebral. From the menu design to the battle intro, every aspect of Skullgirls: 2nd Encore helps push a specific type of atmosphere to compliment the stellar hand drawn visuals that are unrivaled in today’s fighting game landscape. To top it all off, legendary composer Michiru Yamane– most notably recognized for her work on Castlevania— lends her magical touch to the soundtrack resulting in one of the best fighting game soundtracks to date. Trust me, Joe never shuts up about how good it is!
It’s difficult to point out anything bad with Skullgirls: 2nd Encore that hasn’t been stated when the game initially released on PlayStation 4 and PS Vita in 2015, but what I can surmise to say is that the Switch port of Skullgirls: 2nd Encore seems like the definitive edition of the game. Or at the very least, on par with the versions available on Sony platforms. Skullgirls: 2nd Encore is a masterful fighting game, stands toe-to-toe with the best in the business, and absolutely deserves a spot on anyone’s Switch who loves fighting games. The music, the art, the unique fighters all make a strong case for anyone who needs more than just solid fighting game foundation. It’s worth noting that from what I can tell there isn’t anything new added to this version that would make it different from the PlayStation version but I also haven’t dug into every crevice that this game has to offer nor have I compared gameplay across the two side by side. That being said, I would still recommend this to anyone itching for a new 2D fighter for their hybrid console. Now back to the lab for me, because I can’t hang online.
Skullgirls: 2nd Encore is available now on the Nintendo Switch for $24.99. We reviewed the game for Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.
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