I Suck At Fighting Games: Skullgirls 2nd Encore+

In 2012, I decided to stop being a spectator in the fighting game community. I bought an expensive arcade stick, found my local fighting game meetups, and started playing every fighting game I could get my hands on.

It has been nearly five years since I picked up Skullgirls for the first time, but after playing it for a while I learned that it wasn't the game for me.

However, the game has improved dramatically since 2012. And while I may not keep up with Skullgirls, I will fully recommend it to new fighting game players, veterans, and pretty much anyone looking for a fantastic game.

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Skullgirls 2nd Encore+ is allegedly the final version of the game, as the team at Lab Zero are moving on to new projects. While no fighting game experience can be perfect and include all of the user interface/quality of life elements that you want, Skullgirls gets closer than any fighting game has.

Training Mode

I am astonished by how many options are in this game's training mode. There are things that I never thought I needed until I saw them in this game. Slow motion, hitboxes, a grid overlay so you can tell exactly how far your attacks reach, hitstun bars, even two types of input display.

Basically, the only thing it's missing is straight up frame data in the command list. If you are a new player and want to just sit in the training room until you figure out Skullgirls, they provide more than enough tools to do so.

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Quick Loading Times

Long load times are the norm in modern games. In Skullgirls, I almost never sat through a load time of more than 5 seconds. Even if you're frequently changing stages and characters in Versus, the load times are short. It's very refreshing to play this game after every other fighting game is making load times longer and longer.

This makes settling in for a quick First to 50 set even easier, because once you both hit Rematch it's on in seconds.

Also, both players have a small menu of options post-match. So you don't have to give thumbs up to confirm you're ready to go.

Legacy Controller Support

You can plug in a PlayStation 3 stick into the PlayStation 4 version of Skullgirls and it just works.

Seriously.

You don't have to hook up a PS4 controller to USB and worry about it powering off, killing the connection. You don't have to go through menus. It just works. No other fighting game has gotten this right besides Skullgirls yet.

Tournament Mode

In this local versus mode, the button configuration option automatically pops up every time you select characters. So there's no worry about starting a match without a button check, potentially stalling a tournament bracket. It's another brilliant feature that somehow hasn't been implemented by every other fighting game.

Now, I'd like to look at exactly why this is an excellent fighting game for beginners.

Lots of Single Player Content

Pro players downplay how important single player content is in a fighting game, but it absolutely matters. This content draws in new players to games, who may become interested in what's beneath the surface and become more invested in the competitive side of the game.

You should want more people to buy and play your game. And having lots of single player content helps that along. Skullgirls has plenty.

  • A fully voice-acted story mode for every character, with cutscenes and boss encounters.

  • Arcade mode that pits you against random opponents and teams.

  • A quick match mode against the CPU if you don't feel like doing an entire Arcade ladder.

  • Survival mode.

  • Challenge mode, full of gimmick battles with conditions you won't see in a regular match. My personal favorite locks your attacks, forcing you to win by surviving until time runs out.

  • Trials to teach you combos for every character

I don't compete in Skullgirls, but I keep coming back to it because there's so much to do.

The Tutorial Mode

This is what sold me on Skullgirls the first time. The tutorial is long, comprehensive and excellent for learning how to play fighting games.

It does teach the game's numerous mechanics down to the minutia that you won't truly understand for weeks. The thing that puts it above and beyond is how the game teaches concepts that can be applied to any other 2D fighting game.

There are drills on how to use tick throws, how to use and block mixups, explanations of blockstun & hitstun, and punish combos. That's stuff that applies to nearly every fighting game, and understanding the concepts of these tutorials will help you level up your game in any fighting game.

If you want to get into fighting games, the Skullgirls tutorial is a great place to jump in. It's up there with tutorials like Dead or Alive 5 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

It's not without faults, however. There are times when the characters can overlap the text on the screen, especially as your tasks get more elaborate.

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There's no option on the pause menu to review the larger text boxes, so you'll have to start the lesson again to read them.

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Also, the longer tutorial sections could be broken up better, as there's no easy way to rewind and review a concept you missed. You have to start from the very beginning to see a text passage again.

It's Fun To Mash

Some fighting games have complicated, finger-breaking inputs to do combos and supers. Some fighting games have advanced movement techniques that you must learn in order to compete, making walking around the stage an advanced skill. Some fighting games simply feel clunky until you learn how to work within their systems.

In Skullgirls, you can jump into a match and hit a lot of buttons and it feels great. It's incredibly responsive, even in online matches. The inputs are simple, with most attacks being quarter-circle motions. The majority of the cast shares the same input for Level 3 super combos, so you can do a cool move with any character you pick up.

Most characters have a consistent light-medium-heavy-launch combo that you can rely on.

In the long term, getting good at this game is difficult. But the time from “picking up the game” to “doing cool moves” is considerably shorter than other games. Fighting games are too hard to play if you're not already a fighting game player, and lots of casual players just want to jump in and mash special moves and supers without reading the manual.

By making move inputs simple and very responsive, Skullgirls encourages new players to choose someone who looks cool and start doing basic combos with them immediately. And if they want to move up to that next level, there's plenty of tutorial content there to enable them to do so.

I've bounced off many 2D fighting games as a newbie because they don't feel good to pick up and play immediately. Anime fighters with highly specialized characters and loads of meters on the screen turned me away because I had no idea how to even do special moves or supers.

With the simple inputs, extremely low input lag and accessible basic combos, it feels good to pick up any character in Skullgirls and play, even if you aren't familiar with them. I think it does a better job of being inviting to new players than most other games.

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I tried getting good at Skullgirls years ago, but after entering a few tournaments I realized that I was nowhere near as skilled as I thought. It's a common issue with games that have smaller player numbers. There are few new players at your level, just a scene of dedicated veterans. You'll get crushed before having a chance to react in most matches, which is an unsatisfying loss because you can't learn anything from it. Try jumping into a ranked match and you'll see this in action.

Being a team fighting game also makes it immediately more complex than 1v1 games. You have to consider your assist attacks, and change them based on what your opponent is using. In the match, you should be using your assist often, but using it at the wrong time will get it knocked out quickly.

Despite having a very lengthy tutorial on how it works, the Infinite Protection System and Undizzy meter are very difficult to understand. I didn't actually know how it worked until someone explained it to me in plain terms, and burst baiting is something new players won't know how to utilize but may get frustrated when it's consistently used against them.

The variable team system is nice but picking a solo character is almost never recommended. Lacking an assist makes you much more vulnerable to larger teams, as you can't tag out to regain health or just take a break to plan a strategy with one character. Skullgirls should give the option of a team of 2 or 3, but not solo.

I still recommend this game to new players just because the tutorial is so great and how easy it is to jump in and play because of the intuitive combo system. But even after building my skills over five years, I just can't hang with assist-centered team fighting games.

That's just me though. I think Skullgirls gets everything right in terms of user interface, menus, visuals, online play, and legacy controller support. Just because I don't prefer team games doesn't mean you should drop the game immediately. You should try this game out because it's fantastic, and great for new players to fighting games.

Returning to Skullgirls has been a nostalgic experience. In 2012, I picked up this game on my Xbox 360 and bought an Eightarc Fusion arcade stick that I still use today. I was committed to learning fighting games so I could play Persona 4 Arena.

Since 2012, I've played nearly every new fighting game. I've met new people in different FGC scenes, managed a gaming club in university, and traveled across the country to participate in tournaments/ sleep in outrageously comfortable hotel beds.

I've somehow convinced my place of employment to give me Tuesday nights off so I can go to a weekly fighting game meetup in Ohio. There, I've made new friends, played even more obscure fighting games, and even started doing commentary and learned how to run my own tournaments.

Fighting games helped improve my patience in games and in real life. They've taught me how to stay calm under pressure as well. And all of the traveling I've done and people I've met makes me excited to try new things in my everyday life. I'd say I'm in a much better place today than I was in 2012.

So, try new things as much as you can. See as much of the world as you can, and your life will be enriched for it. I'm gonna keep playing every fighting game I can get my hands on, even if I suck, because taking the step from spectator to player was an unexpected turning point in my life.

If you're interested in any fighting game I've talked about or one that's coming out, try it out! You'll likely see the fun of reading your opponents if you put effort into learning the game. You might suck at it for a while...or forever if you're like me...but you will learn something about yourself through the experience.

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