EVO Online Featured Game Primer: Skullgirls

By on May 18, 2020

To help you get up to speed with the latest news about this summer’s online Evolution Championship Series, we’re doing a series of posts on each of the four open-bracket games. In this post: Skullgirls.

Even if you’ve never played Skullgirls, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of it. Its lead designer, Mike “Mike Z” Zaimont, is a longtime member of the Fighting Game Community who ran a popular combo video website during the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 era. Sheila “dapurplesharpie” Moore is constantly spreading the gospel of #PlaySkullgirls on FGC Twitter. And some of the community’s brightest stars are top competitors in the game. But what’s Skullgirls all about, and why is this eight-year-old title suddenly on the main stage of Evo?

First off, as with the other three open-bracket games, Skullgirls has superb netcode. This is obviously a key factor for any online event, but it also speaks to the love that the development team put into the game. Zaimont and his crew knew from the start that FGCers need top-notch netcode in order to enjoy online competition, so they’ve worked tirelessly to optimize the game’s netplay. Unlike other studios, which may leave games with poor netcode to languish for years, Lab Zero Games is still releasing new patches and improvements, the latest of which arrived three weeks ago. When developers show this kind of devotion to their craft and respect for the community, it’s easy to appreciate their efforts.

But Skullgirls wouldn’t have lasted eight years if the netcode was the only good part of the game. To stay popular for that long, its characters, mechanics, and aesthetics all have to be appealing – and they are. Like many anime titles, the characters in the Skullgirls roster have distinctive, immediately understandable character designs: Valentine’s nurse outfit matches her medical moveset; Big Band is literally a large conglomeration of instruments; and so on. They also have intricate, often unorthodox gameplans that revolve around various statuses or conditions. Mixups and setplay abound, and it often takes a happy birthday to swing momentum from one player to the other. Meanwhile, its gameplay is highly customizable. As in Capcom vs. SNK 2, players can opt to use one, two, or three characters; the smaller the team, the more powerful the individual characters are. You can also call characters in as assists, Marvel-style. The result is a type of controlled chaos that will be immediately recognizable to anyone who played fighting games in arcades in the early 2000s. Basically, if one Skullgirls player gets the chance to breathe, the other player is doing something wrong.

Between its delightfully warped designs and its frenetic gameplay, Skullgirls has drawn a fiercely devoted fanbase. The Skullgirls Tour (@SkullgirlsTour) ran for two years on the strength of its community support, and the game has had official side tournaments at Combo Breaker, CEOtaku, Frosty Faustings, Defend the North, Viennality, and a host of other FGC majors. Its Discord still has over eighteen thousand members, and fans still keep the official forums active with tech updates, fan art, and more.

Top Skullgirls players include the multiple Evo winner Dominique “SonicFox” McLean and Jon “dekillsage” Coello, a Dragon Ball FighterZ monster who recently finished third at the DBFZ World Tour Finals. The two clashed at CEOtaku 2019, and you can see that match as well as the rest of the Skullgirls top eight in the video below. If those matches whet your appetite for more Skullgirls action, check out the rest of the event on FunkP’s YouTube channel and pick up a copy of the game for Steam, PlayStation 3 or 4, the Switch, or the Xbox 360.

Check out our other EVO Online primers below:

EVO Online Primer – Them’s Fightin’ Herds

EVO Online Primer – Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath (coming soon)

EVO Online Primer – Killer Instinct (coming soon)

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