Clay Fighter Series

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Grenouille (683 days ago)
Look like the Skullgirls Arenas pics are broken.


 Windows Version
(10 / 10) This is Tuna and Bacon!
by The S on 8/31/2013 12:00:00 AM

I'd been monitoring Skullgirls' progress for years. Even back then, when it looked like something that would run on a PlayStation 1, I knew it had potential. Something about the art style and design really interested me, and I'm always up for a new fighting game - even amongst the really terrible ones, there's only a few I actually hate.

I kept tabs on it for a while, but for a couple of years, there wasn't really a lot of progress. Then, about late 2010/early 2011, I came across the revamped SG, which was the beginning of its shaping up to the current model. I was marveled at how much the graphics had improved. Having a composer and voice actors whose work I enjoyed, also continued to pique my curiosity, and having Mike Z, whose name I recognized from fighting game websites, working on the game's mechanics only served to tell me that this was going to be a major labor of love.

As news continued to come out for the game, I only kept getting more and more excited. I worried that I was getting hyped for nothing, and that it wouldn't live up to my expectations. And sadly, I wasn't even able to play it when it first released - I ended up moving only days before it dropped, and couldn't afford it. Thankfully, though, I had come into some Microsoft Points about a month later, and was able to get it on Xbox Live.

I was pretty much floored. It was everything I had hoped for and more. The graphics, the humor, the story, the voice acting, the mechanics, the music... it's all just this perfect little package of awesomeness. I played it for longer in one sitting than I've probably played any other game except maybe Brawl. Many months later, after I'd been more or less forced to move my 360 into the other room and my PS3 became more prominent, I went ahead and bought it on that system, too. There have been very few times when I've purchased a game on more than one platform without them being radically different, but Skullgirls was worth every penny.

Then the PC version was announced. I'm not a huge PC gamer guy anymore (never really was, but I had at least played as much as I did my consoles once upon a time), but once the Indiegogo rolled around, I knew I had to help these guys out. I also saw a chance to cross-promote one of my own characters, but there was no way I could afford $1000, even if I had just gotten my income tax check. But I made a few deals and I was able to get Patron Saint status, mostly to give back to these guys who had given me so much enjoyment.

Since I wasn't a big PC gamer, I never even got Steam until the release of Bad Bots (which I just had to buy, for various reasons). So I had Steam for only a short while before Skullgirls released. I figured there was no way that I could run something this powerful on my old laptop, but lo and behold, after just one patch of the beta it ran smoothly. If more fighters come to Steam and are this fluid, I'm gonna eventually go broke.

So while Skullgirls isn't for everyone, it certainly is for me. And that's why I've given it a perfect rating, the likes of which I almost never give out.

(9 / 10) Why I oughta
by Fenix on 5/28/2014 3:36:42 PM

Skullgirls and I have a had a rocky roller coaster ride of a relationship, but never once has my love for Peacock faltered. The tragic tale of her. . uh, construction is almost entirely justified by the fact that now she's a psychotic tribute to the cartoons that defined my formative years. From the arsenal of hammerspace bombs and weaponry to the cigar smoke and sarcastic quips, I can't find a single thing to hate about Peacock except that she's a zoner. A zoner with a level three command grab involving an anvil shark wearing boxing gloves, that is!

God, I love this character.

 Windows Version
(7 / 10) Under the Flesh is the Skull
by ExMortis on 12/9/2013 7:09:47 PM

Skullgirls is, on one hand, an absolutely incredible achievement in terms of fighting game development. On the other hand, it kind of sucks to play.

To start with the positive, the world and character design is second to none. The setting is a wholly original and refreshing alternate 1920s, no steampunk, no other trite garbage. Story mode is well done, all the characters have great voices and are nicely fleshed out. The soundtrack, composed by Michiru Yamane (Symphony of the Night) sounds good but with few exceptions (mainly the Part Time Lover-biting main theme) is just kind of there in the background.

Skullgirls represents the first real visual milestone in 2D fighting games since Guilty Gear X moved to hi-res at the turn of the millenium. The level of detail, resolution, and animation are unmatched, not to mention cool tricks like realtime lighting on sprites and numerous ways that alternate palettes are differentiated (adding glasses, transparencies, subtly changing clothes, etc). That it came down to a small independent team to improve on Capcom/Sammy/et al's standards is just really impressive.

It's evident that there's a great deal of passion for fighting games on said independent team. It shows not just in cute references to existing games, but myriad tiny quality of life features that the big companies ignore. As someone who came up on the tail end of arcade-only tournaments, button checks are fucking painful to endure. So, Skullgirls has button setup on character select screen, a feature since ganked by Injustice. An ubiquitous moment in console tournaments is the accidental pause DQ, so Skullgirls doesn't pause unless you hold down start for a few frames. I don't believe you can just slap the label GGPO on a game's netcode and immediately have a golden standard, but it's fully integrated here and online plays great. You can run training mode online with a friend. There's a lesson mode that attempts to teach fundamentals to absolute beginners. It's not as thorough as Virtua Fighter 4's phenomenal and one-of-a-kind training mode, but a damn sight better than half-assed combo trials.

"But Mortis, if literally everything surrounding the game is so good, what's the problem?" Well, I simply can not get down with the gameplay. The combo system and physics seem to occupy this unpleasant middle ground between the rigidity of a Marvel and the fluidity of a Guilty Gear. It can be very difficult to recognize why sometimes a combo works and other times the same combo breaks. Obviously there are consistent rules, but there are a couple reasons that kill any motivation to really get down to work in the lab.

First of all, the game is focused on very, very, very long combos that lead into resets that lead back into combos. Long combos objectively suck, the end. They're uninteresting memorization/execution trials for the offense and completely uninteractive for the defense. There aren't true "infinites" because of the game's Infinite Protection System which is in itself a terrible arcane thing with several "phases" that artificially limit how you can build a given combo.

While the cast is "cool," their design is the second issue. We can imagine fighting game characters are built with some concept of how they're meant to be played, but since the developers are usually not hardcore fanatics, they end up with moves of varying value that can be used by different players in different situations. For Skullgirls though, development seems to have focused on giving characters very specific tools to define their playstyle. Between that and the IPS defining everyone's exact best combos, learning a character feels more like growing into Mike Z's ideal than building your own style. Every Valentine looks the same as every other Valentine, every Fillia looks the same, etc. etc.

When you're talking about 40+ hit bread n' butter combos, there's not that much time in a given match for meaningful player decision making anyway. There's also a sort of ratio system in place so you can play one, two, or three characters, but extra health and damage wasn't enough to make one character viable even back in CVS2. Throw assists into the mix and playing fewer characters becomes even more of a trap.

For an almost completely unrelated rant, the game has a training stage. Training stages need to die. They are by definition ugly as sin to look at, and when the trend in fighting games (not necessarily this one, mind) is to wow with camera angles and zooms and visual fluff, why the fuck are people fighting in a square with lines on it? Perceived framerate issues? Fix your goddamn framerate. It's a gross disconnect and I hate it.

In conclusions, for the asking price of $15, Skullgirls is an unmatched value for the casual fight fan. There's a ton of things about it that nobody does better, and Mike Z and co. definitely deserve praise and support for that. However, it's not surprising to me at all that the game has not been embraced more at a tournament level. It appeals to certain types of players with one feature while actively repelling the same people with another, and it does this on multiple levels. As a textbook example of mechanics conflicting with theme, its legacy is more likely to lie the audiovisual and common-sense-design innovations.

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