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Skullgirls Encore

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Autumn Games
Developer: Lab Zero Games
Release Date: April 5, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PS Vita Review - 'Skullgirls: 2nd Encore'

by Brian Dumlao on April 25, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Skullgirls Encore is a fast-paced 2D fighting game that puts players in control of fierce female warriors in an extraordinary Dark Deco world.

Buy Skullgirls: 2nd Encore

Though the name would suggest otherwise, Skullgirls: 2nd Encore isn't a direct sequel of the hand-drawn fighting game that hit around four years ago on the PC and previous console generation. Instead, it's an enhanced version of Skullgirls Encore, which was a re-release of the original Skullgirls that came out after Autumn Games and Konami parted ways. It came out last year to the PS4 with quite a bit of fanfare from the community because it included some new modes, some tweaks to existing modes, and five extra DLC characters. While a Vita version was set to release alongside the PS4 version, technical delays pushed that back. It's here now, four years after the original release, and it's rather good if you can accept a few limitations.

Every few years, the Skull heart appears to grant a wish to any woman who seeks it out. If that woman isn't pure of heart, however, she'll become possessed by the heart and transform into a monstrous force known as the Skullgirl. With news that the heart has once again made an appearance in New Meridian, a slew of fighters, from an amnesiac to an army officer, comes together to fight and ultimately take down the current Skullgirl to get her wish fulfilled.

At its core, 2nd Encore is a high-tempo fighting game with lots of special moves for the 14-fighter roster and loads of high-combo opportunities. With a six-button layout and a secondary meter to unleash special moves, it doesn't do anything drastically different from the standard template brought about by the Street Fighter series. To make up for the two extra buttons not present on the Vita, the right section of the touch-screen is used as two different macro buttons for an easier way to perform moves that require multiple buttons to be hit simultaneously.

The game takes a few pages from two other Capcom fighting titles. While you can fight one-on-one battles, you can also modify things so you're fighting in a team. Like the first Capcom vs. SNK, you can choose up to three fighters on your team. To balance things out, lowering that number means your fighters become stronger and take on the damage that would've been meant for extra fighters on the team. The tag system mimics Marvel vs. Capcom 2, as you can tag in partners at any time and call them for extra attacks. If you knock an opponent away, it forces a new member to come in and fight in their stead. The combined systems work as well as expected and add some variety to a good combat engine.

2nd Encore comes with a nice variety of modes for solo play, and one of the more interesting ones is Tutorial. That might sound like faint praise, but the tutorials are actually quite deep, as they cover special moves as well as some of the more advanced techniques, like punishing risky moves and juggling. There's even a separate training mode, so you can learn a good amount of the combos for each fighter. It works well as a teaching tool but is hampered by the text resolution. Small and blurry, the text is difficult to read and makes learning those tutorial pieces hard to initially grasp. If you own both a Vita and a PS4, learn the game on the home console first to save yourself some trouble.

Survival mode is new to this version, and it plays out exactly as you'd expect, with your individual fighter or team of fighters having to go multiple bouts to see how far they can get. Challenges are also here, which are 25 different trials to fight through, such as opponents who have regenerative health or fighting without the ability to jump. Unlike most other fighting games, these two modes start at a rather difficult level and get tougher, so it isn't great for getting easy Trophies. Speaking of which, Trophy hunters will love the fact that this now is a full set, complete with a Platinum, which makes the increased difficulty feel more worthwhile.

Every other mode — arcade, Marie 300%, practice, and vs. CPU — are all here and intact, with no changes whatsoever. Story mode, however, has received an enhancement in the form of fully voiced cut scenes. The tales remain the same, though, and they're rather short when compared to Arcade mode, but they're still worth going through for those interested in the game's overall lore.

Of all of the fighting games that support online play, 2nd Encore does a stellar job. To start, every match lets you see exactly what ping you're facing but lets you adjust your network delay to create a smoother experience. Online matches aren't just restricted to Vita owners, as both PS3 and PS4 owners can join in as well, expanding the player base and making it much easier to find opponents among the game's small but dedicated community. Coming into the online scene cold is an easy way to get decimated, given the age of the game and the high level of players online at the moment.

The graphics remain lovely in the transition to the Vita's screen. The cartoon nature of the character designs remains unique to the game, and the different expressions and animation frames remain good despite the game being four years old. The bright colors sported by the characters and smooth animations are a sight to behold on the portable, and it's certainly one of the more striking games on the system. Frame rate doesn't seem as high on the Vita compared to the home consoles, but it is fluid, so moves don't feel like they lag behind. As mentioned before, the blurry text is a shame to see, and that level of blur is also present on the HUD. Additionally, while the backgrounds are nice, they lack the moving elements of other games.

The sound is excellent all around. The voice cast is made up of a bunch of industry veterans, and their performances are expanded thanks to the fully voiced campaign mode. The lines they spout are great, and the variety of lines by the four different fight announcers keeps things lively. What stands out the most is the big band jazz soundtrack, which is perfect for the 1940s-style setting. Lively and full of energy, it makes for a perfect complement with the fast, high-combo fighting.

Though it is by no means the definitive version of the title, Skullgirls: 2nd Encore is a great fighting game for the Vita. The fighting and presentation are excellent, and there are plenty of modes to sink your teeth into if you're tired of getting pummeled by the online community. Though it has some excellent teaching tools for those who want to understand the nuances of the system and characters, the blurred text makes that a more daunting task when compared to the home consoles and PC. Sitting at the upper echelon of fighting games on the portable, this title belongs on your Vita's memory card.

Score: 8.0/10

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