Title: Skullgirls 2nd Encore
Developer: Lab Zero Games
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Skybound Games
Skullgirls is one of those rare gems that everyone should play. Developer Lab Zero Games has created something special with the franchise. It originally launched in 2012 on the PS3 and Xbox 360, and still, it’s considered a classic in fighting game circles. Even with the updated release of Skullgirls 2nd Encore in 2015, the series’ indie status held it back from reaching the heights of some of its more famous peers (of the Mortal and Street variety). The Switch release is another step to rectify that: wonderful hand-drawn graphics and well-paced battling are a strong fit for Nintendo’s accessible platform. This, unfortunately, is still far from the sequel that we deserve.
If you’re jumping into the series now, there is a storyline that centers around the Skull Heart. This artifact can grant the user a wish. However, if this person’s heart is corrupted, they’ll be transformed into a monster: the titular Skullgirl. The game follows a cast of fighters in search of the latest victim of the Skull Heart, Marie, to either destroy this cursed trinket or take advantage of its momentous power.
Each character has a unique story to play through. They differ in terms of length and presentation but are entertaining, and it’s fun to see how they intertwine with other cast members’ goals. That said, you will need to defeat Marie several times to get a real sense of the world of Skullgirls 2nd Encore, even if it is a warped version of 1940s nostalgia.
The cast of characters is mainly female and is incredibly diverse. Finding the perfect balance for your party in the arcade 3-on-3 battles is a big draw of the game. Will you rack up crazy air combos with a ninja nurse or become a literal cartoon and zone your opponent out? Since the game has been out so long, the balancing process has been quite extensive. It was refreshing to see the changes that had been made to my favorite characters (go team Filia!).
Skullgirls 2nd Encore is a game that was created by fans of the genre for fans of the genre. But the community feedback has been a significant driving force in making this series last, and the indie status has allowed fans to communicate directly with Lab Zero’s devs. While the ‘final patch’ came out in March of 2017, it should be interesting to see what happens in the lifecycle of this latest version. Whether there will be future updates applied to the other PC and console releases, well, time will tell.
On that note, no new content is included for the Switch port. All the DLC that was collected into the 2nd Encore package is there, however, and you can now play it on the go.
Being available for some time now across other platforms, I was eager to see how Nintendo’s version handled some of the more intense animations in the game. Luckily for players, it doesn’t miss a frame. Everything felt smooth, and the control input was responsive enough for me to pull off the series’ complicated combos. I suggest using a pro-controller for this title as the Joy-Con aren’t the best suited for longer play sessions.
Skullgirls 2nd Encore is as beautiful as ever, even on a smaller (undocked) screen. The game’s hand-drawn animations have aged so well that it manages to look like a title released this year. The characters have so much personality, even for the short amount of time you spend with them during the story. Sex and mystery ooze from every inch of this game, whether you are looking at the cutscenes, backgrounds, or fighter designs. At times I would get distracted from my battle because everything just looked so vibrant.
When you get right down to it, Skullgirls 2nd Encore on Switch is simply another port on a newer platform. It is, however, an underrated gem, and if you haven’t played it, then there’s no better time to. The game has been kept alive by a fantastic group of dedicated developers and an ever-growing community. While I hope for more updates, what I really want to see is a sequel or new entry. Here’s hoping this release puts us one step closer to that reality.
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