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Skullgirls 2nd Encore Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . By mixing Japanese anime with American animation circa 1940, Skullgirls 2nd Encore is one of the best looking fighting games on the market. This brand new PS Vita release is bursting with memorable characters, over-the-top action and online play against console opponents. Unfortunately, this port is marred by occasionally blurry graphics. Imperfections aside, Lab Zero has developed a stylish fighting game that is good both at home and on the go. Rating: 71%
Skullgirls 2nd Encore
Skullgirls 2nd Encore Skullgirls 2nd Encore Skullgirls 2nd Encore Skullgirls 2nd Encore
  • Review Score:

  • B
Back in the 1990s, magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly and Die Hard Game Fan would regularly feature lists and awards for the hottest video game babes. They pined over Cammy, cat-called Felicia and spent more than a few issues marveling at Mai's bouncy bust. I couldn't help but be reminded of these magazine's obsession with the female physique while playing Skullgirls 2nd Encore, a game that would have made Sushi-X's head explode.

Set in the fictional Canopy Kingdom, Skullgirls sees a group of mostly women attempting to track down a magical artifact known as the Skull Heart. This rare object has the power to grant a single wish, but only to a woman of pure soul. Those unworthy will see their wish backfire, turning them into a grotesque creature everybody calls the Skullgirl.

This sets up an exciting 2D fighting game featuring a wild cast full of supernatural characters, each with their own reasons for tracking down the Skull Heart. We get Filia, who fights with her demonic hair. Eliza is a diva singer who looks like Cleopatra, but will literally rip away her skin to win the fight. And then there's Parasoul, the princess of the Renoir family, who fights with what appears to be a living parasol named Krieg. Beowulf, on the other hand, is one of the game's only male characters, and wins fights using his pro-wrestling moves in conjunction with a large, severed demon arm.

The gameplay will be familiar to anybody who has played one of Capcom's wildly popular Street Fighter games. There are six buttons, with three allocated for light, medium and hard punches and the rest for kicks. Special moves are pulled off with the typical quarter circle motions and you can trigger power combos by pressing more than one punch or kick button at once. You've seen it all before, even if it wasn't with these particular characters.

With every fighter sporting a living weapon or some sort of supernatural power, Skullgirls reminded me more of DarkStalkers than Street Fighter. The action is fast and stylish, throwing large amounts of over-the-top moves and combos at the player and hoping they'll keep up. And while you can see the bits and pieces they pilfered from other fighting games, there's enough originality here to keep your attention.

Skullgirls 2nd Encore (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

It certainly doesn't hurt that every frame of the game is astonishingly gorgeous. The characters and the world they inhabit seem to be inspired by equal parts Japanese anime and 1940s American animation, a combination made even better once you get a look at the silky smooth animation and attention to detail. In fact, the game looked so good that I had a hard time paying attention to the fight and just wanted to watch the playful moves and background details.

It's not just the 2D fights that look spectacular, but also the story mode. Here you'll learn more about all 14 fighters, with each story beat told through comic book-style images and cheeky conversations. While only 15 - 20 minutes long, these story bits help shed light on the weird happenings at Canopy Kingdom and what the Skull Heart means to each character. What's more, it gives us a chance to see what the different women would wish for if given the chance, offering endings you probably won't see coming. Best of all, the story mode now includes voice acting for every character and cut scene, though some characters sound better than others.

Beyond the story mode, Skullgirls 2nd Encore also offers a typical (but ultimately unsatisfying) arcade mode, a CPU quick match, a tense survival mode and a few extras buried away in the menus. There's nothing especially original about the single-player modes, but the stories helped soften the blow.

Skullgirls 2nd Encore (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Like most fighting games, Skullgirls is at its best when played with other people. Be it one-on-one, three-on-three or anything in between, this fighter has all of the bases covered. In a move I would like to see more of, this PS Vita fighter can go online and challenge players on both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. This opens up the pool of players, making it quick and painless getting into an online match.

As a PS Vita game, Skullgirls 2nd Encore loses very little in the transition from console to handheld. All the same characters, levels, modes and extras have been faithfully brought to the portable, and it plays well on the go. Unfortunately, there are some visuals that look washed out when compared to their PlayStation 4 counterparts. The graphics in the character select screen are especially muddy, thanks to the tiny portraits and characters on screen. Thankfully, once you get into a match, the graphics look great and the gameplay holds up.

While the over-the-top antics and skimpy costumes may not be for everybody, I was impressed with the PS Vita port of Skullgirls 2nd Encore. I liked that I could go up against console players online and the presentation is a thing of beauty, even if the menus are a little blurry. Imperfections aside, Lab Zero has developed a stylish fighting game that is good both at home and on the go.
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