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Skullgirls Encore

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Skybound Games
Developer: Lab Zero Games
Release Date: Oct. 22, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Skullgirls 2nd Encore'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 22, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

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

It has been seven years since Skullgirls first came on the scene and four years since the game's final version, Skullgirls 2nd Encore, arrived on the current generation of platforms. A game with a cult following to it and loads of respect from its peers, it arrived with a good amount of depth and an eye-catching, hand-drawn style that resonates to this day. More recently, it has gained some fame as the game that first drew notable fighting game player SonicFox into the fold. As is the trend nowadays, the Nintendo Switch is the home for this classic, and the port is just as strong as expected.

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, she'll become possessed by the heart and transform into a monstrous force known as the Skullgirl. With news that both the Skull Heart and the Skullgirl have once again made an appearance in New Meridian, a wide swath of fighters — including an amnesiac, an army officer, and a woman comprised of separating body parts — come together to fight one another and ultimately take down the current Skullgirl to get their wish fulfilled.

At its core, Skullgirls 2nd Encore is a high-tempo fighting game with lots of special moves for its 14-fighter roster and loads of high-combo opportunities. It doesn't do anything drastically different from the standard template brought about by the Street Fighter series' six-button layout and use of a secondary meter to unleash higher-powered special moves, but that familiar feel makes it easy for veterans to jump in without issue.

The game differs by mixing in some mechanics from other fighting games. As with the first Capcom vs. SNK, you can choose up to three fighters to take on a team of equal or uneven numbers. 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. The tag system mimics the Marvel vs. Capcom series, as you can tag in partners at any time, call them for extra attacks, and knock an opponent away to force a new member to fight in their stead. The combined systems work as well as expected and add some variety to a good combat engine. The twist is that while you can select some specific attacks for your partners to deliver, you also have the option to program custom moves. For example, call on Beowulf to deliver a basic hit, or call in Squigly to do her pull move so you can start a new combo without traveling to the enemy. It's a nice addition that gives veteran fighting game fans more tools than in similar titles.

Like the previous versions, Skullgirls 2nd Encore has quite a few modes in tow. Aside from the standard arcade and versus modes, the story mode is the highlight of the single-player experience. You'll go through each character's story with voiced cut scenes that are done up in a visual novel style. There are far fewer fights per character when compared to the arcade mode, but unlike other fighting games that emphasize the story, the fights in Skullgirls 2nd Encore are engaging rather than a cakewalk. The tutorial mode does a good job of teaching the basics of the fighting system and the more nuanced techniques, while Survival mode is a fun endurance mode if you want to beat up an endless number of fighters. Aside from the art gallery, where you can see all of the game's illustrations from the developers and fans, there's Marie 300%, which sees you going up against the game's final boss — except her attacks inflict much more damage and her life bar has tripled.

Online play performs just as well as it did in the past, with little to no dropped frames and a smooth connection all around. However, with this game's cult status, the population is present but small enough that it can take a while to find a game. Once you do, prepare to be beaten into a pulp rather quickly, as most of the players have had time to learn each fighter's nuances. Unless you're confident in your abilities, you might be better off sticking to offline local play or creating rooms for like-minded friends.

Graphically, Skullgirls 2nd Encore looks as outstanding as the PS4 and PC versions do. The hand-animated nature of the characters holds up particularly well after all these years, and the backdrops are gorgeous due to the overall art style and the abundance of characters and moving objects that breathe life into the world. The frame rate is solid, whether playing docked or in portable mode, and the text is easy to read, something that plagued the PS Vita version years ago.

The audio is also excellent. The voice cast is comprised of a bunch of industry veterans, and their performances are expanded with a fully voiced campaign mode. The lines are great, and the variety of lines spoken by the four different fight announcers keeps things lively. What stands out the most here is the big band jazz soundtrack, which is perfect for the 1940s-style setting and unique among fighting games. Lively and full of energy, it makes for a perfect complement to the game's fast, high-combo fighting.

Skullgirls 2nd Encore is another welcome addition to the Switch's fighting game library — if the tiny online community is acceptable to you. While it would've been nice to get something extra for the game's late arrival, all of the previous modes are intact, and the fighting remains as solid and deep as ever. Unless you've already had your fill of the game on other platforms, Skullgirls 2nd Encore on the Switch is well worth a purchase.

Score: 8.0/10

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