Skullgirls

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Skullgirl 7598.png

Developed by Reverge Labs and published by Autumn Games and Konami, the frenetic 2D Fighting Game Skullgirls puts players in control of an all-female cast (much like Arcana Heart). Instead of banking on the "moe" aesthetic and anime designs, the game uses a more stylized "Golden Age" Hollywood film motif, employing Art Deco ("Dark Deco", as the designers lovingly call it) stage backgrounds and a theatrical, movie-studio presentation. Skullgirls features work from an all-star development crew: fighting game veteran Mike "Mike Z" Zaimont led the project, Cristina Valenzuela directed the voice acting, Alex Ahad (whose prior work credits include Lava Punch, UDON’s Tribute books, and Scott Pilgrim) created artwork for the game, and Michiru Yamane provided the music. Both the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade carry the game in the US, Europe, and Australia; the developers also have plans for a PC release later in 2012. Japan will receive a stand-alone disc release of the game after the developers finish work on the DLC characters (as Japan harbors a general distaste for DLC).

In the Canopy Kingdom, female combatants fight in an attempt to control the enigmatic Skull Heart, a mysterious MacGuffin with the power to bestow wishes -- but not without a substantial price. Should the victor possess an impure soul, both her wish and her physical body will be corrupted into a living nightmare that haunts humanity: the monstrous entity known only as the Skullgirl. In the middle of a war with two other nations, the Canopy Kingdom's queen won the Skull Heart and wished for peace. In a way, she got her wish: after she transformed into the most powerful and dangerous Skullgirl of all time, all three countries agreed to stop fighting each other in order to save themselves from the Skullgirl. When the game's story begins, the now-ended war remains fresh in everyone's minds, and rumors say a new Skullgirl has risen…

Skullgirls' gameplay carries the feel of old-school arcade fighters while providing a high-definition twist. It features a "ratio system" that allows each player to choose to fight with one character or a team of up to three characters, resulting in different combinations for a particular match. The game also features a special combo detection system: if a player begins an infinite combo, the damage strikes change color, and the game will allow the opponent to "burst" out of the infinite and knock the offensive player away.

The cast of characters includes Filia, Cerebella, Peacock, Parasoul, Ms. Fortune, Painwheel, Valentine, and Double. Check the Character sheet for more information on all of them. Two DLC characters, Squigly and Umbrella, are already known to be in development, however Reverge has stated that any named character has a chance of being turned into DLC.


Ladies and Gentlemen, SHOWTIME! Skullgirls proudly presents the following tropes:
  • Action Girl: This being the kind of game it is, the entire playable cast certainly qualifies.
  • Animesque: Made by Americans, but Japanese enough in feel to get backing by Konami.
  • Antagonist Title
  • Art Evolution: Not in the game itself, but Alex Ahad's drawing skills have increased big time, from the rough, unpolished first concepts of 2005-2006 to the professional spreads of 2012.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Skull Heart, when obtained by an unworthy woman. Even worse, the Skull Heart is sentient and, according to Ms. Fortune's ending, wants to create more Skullgirls until the world ceases to exist.
  • Art Style Dissonance: See World Half Empty below.

Alex Ahad: The personality is kind of my own thing -- I like making things that are ridiculous and over-the-top, but are also serious and tinged with a dark sense of humor. And a lot of my characters are cute, but I always end up putting something off-putting or violent about them.

  • As Long as There Is Evil: The Skull Heart can never truly be destroyed and will always be there to turn those with dark desires into Skullgirls.
  • Beating a Dead Player: You can continue your combo on a defeated character to gain meter.
  • Beat Still My Heart: The Skull Heart is both a skull and a heart, with glowing blue blood vessels that spread out and provide the platform for the final stage.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The Skull Heart can grant any wish, but if one's heart is even the slightest bit impure, they will turn into a Skullgirl, and their wish will be perverted. The queen of the Canopy Kingdom wanted to end a global war. She got her wish, but only after becoming so dangerous a Skullgirl that the warring nations set aside their differences to stop her.
  • Berserk Button:
  • Bigger Bad: The mysterious entity that Double serves, and that she claims the Skullgirl is supposed to serve as well. Also Vitale, arguably.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The achievement for completing the tutorial is "Sküllgirls". That would be pronounced Schoolgirls.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Almost every character ending.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The characters are stabbed, shot, crushed, blown up, and God only knows what else in-game, yet there's far less actual bloodshed involved than you would expect.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: When Peacock's getting ready in the morning, Andy asks Avery if she even took a bath and if she brushes her teeth with metal polish. Avery's response is that a bath and her usual morning routine were implied, but not something the audience needs to see.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: Good luck finding two background NPCs, let alone player characters, who look even remotely alike. Well, aside from the Egrets, but they're a special case.
  • Cat Fight: Until Downloadable Content comes then this is basically what this game is fond of.
  • Cliff Hanger: Double's Story Mode path ends with two girls playing the game and mentioning the existence of "other routes." According to the devs, it's essentially a fancy and long-winded way of saying that none of the various plotlines are canon, but that there will be a single unifying storyline sometime in the future.
  • Cloak and Dagger: The Anti-Skullgirl Laboratories, founded as a military R & D group by the leaders of the Canopy Kingdom. In the aftermath of the last war, the King disbanded the agency -- but instead of going their separate ways, the ENTIRE organization went rogue, and without government oversight their methods became ever more questionable (ex. Painwheel and Peacock).
  • Co-Dragons: Valentine and Double in Story Mode.
  • Combo Breaker: Tied in to the game's "Infinite Prevention System." You can only burst out of a combo when the IPS detects an infinite.
  • Combos: Naturally.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Double's ending reveals the characters and fate of the story are being controlled by Aeon and Venus's arcade stick.
  • Corrupt Church: One of the story mode's paths suggests that the Trinity may be the source of the Mineral MacGuffin's power. Even the cathedral architecture and sculptures suggest one of the characters as quite representative of the church's true nature.
  • Creator Cameo: One of the bullies hanging out in Maplecrest -- the guy with the black star on the back of his jacket -- is designed to look like one of the game's animators. Several of the developers' dogs can be seen in the same stage.
  • Creator In-Joke: The random cat that has a .02% chance of appearing when Cerebella hits you with her Lock & Load move (seen here). One of the animators doodled a cat in one frame and forgot to take it out, and Mike Z then insisted that the cat be put into the game as an Easter Egg. Everyone agreed -- on the condition that Mike Z animate it himself.
    • Peacock's TV drop sometimes has Filia dressed as Sadako crawling out of the TV. This references a bit of Halloween artwork Alex Ahad did, which had the same reference.
  • Cute Monster Girl: A whole lot of cute monster girls and not so cute in the case of Double.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Just about every minor feature Mike Z has added.
    • The Infinite Prevention System - The game knows when you're trying to pull off a proper infinite combo (a.k.a. a loop) and allows the player being hit to burst out of it. At the same time, the system is lenient enough that players can rack up huge extended combos as long as they don't start repeating themselves.
    • Unblockable prevention - The game knows when you've been put in a true unblockable situation, where blocking one attack means getting hit by another, and requires you to only block one (whichever hits first, or either one if they would hit at the same time). At the same time, the game allows for "hard-to-blockables" -- where it seems that you're faced with a true unblockable situation, but you can actually block both attacks if you time it right.
    • The game requires you to hold Start to pause the game. This is necessary to prevent the players accidentally pausing the game in the middle of a tournament match, which is frequently grounds for disqualification, though it's just as appreciated by Button Mashers.
    • 360 detection - The game recognizes when you are inputting a 360 motion, which usually ends with an up direction. This can end with the character jumping and attacking instead of performing a special throw (as the motion usually requires) if you're not fast enough. So instead, the game keeps you on the ground as seen here, to make intended 360s easier to perform.
    • The game prides itself on the high count of animation frames. When you switch in a character and not all of its animation loads in time, your character's hitboxes show instead as an error handler, just so that there's something there. It doesn't last for more than a split-second and it's fairly rare.
    • The game actually uses a shading layer and depth map for its sprites. Not only does this speed up the art process, it also allows for some amazing lighting not usually seen in 2D games.
    • How about turning on hitboxes during Practice? How many other fighting games do that?
  • Dieselpunk: The game's setting is a weird amalgam of thirties-forties United States and Europe, with incredibly advanced technology housed in Art Deco architecture.
  • Divide by Zero: One of the characters wishes to become the Skullgirl; unlike other endings, the Skull Heart offers no comment.
  • Dominatrix: Concept art shows someone named D. Violet. Strangely, Filia's teacher Ms. Victoria has concept art that identifies her as D.Violet.
    • Confirmed to be one and the same, and Miss Victoria may not even be aware of it.
  • Downer Ending: A fair few. For example:
    • Filia: Deciding that her regaining her memories wasn't as important as ensuring Carol (Painwheel) had a chance at happiness, Filia wishes for Carol to have a normal childhood. The Skull Heart grants the wish, but because the wish was to a small extent self-serving, it was impure. As a result, she would become the next Skullgirl. The transformation would be slow, though, and the Skull Heart advises Filia to use her remaining time well.
    • Peacock: The Skullgirl, Bloody Marie, turns out to be a childhood friend of Peacock. Peacock kills Marie to free her from the Skull Heart's control, then destroys the Skull Heart. Afterwards, she vows to continue Marie's work: destroying the Merdici family, the ones who injured Peacock and forced Marie to find the Skull Heart...
    • Parasoul: To save her younger sister Umbrella from becoming the next Skullgirl (and because shooting the Skull Heart would set off an explosion that would kill Umbrella), Parasoul wishes for Umbrella to not become the Skullgirl. The wish is granted, but Parasoul would eventually become the Skullgirl in Umbrella's place. Like Filia, though, her transformation would be slow, so she begins Umbrella's combat training shortly thereafter, knowing that once she transforms, Umbrella would have to kill her...
    • Painwheel: After destroying the Skull Heart, Painwheel returns to her home in Maplecrest. Her parents reject her, however, because of her grotesque appearance. With nowhere else to go, she returns to Lab Zero and begins to plot her revenge against Brain Drain and the Anti-Skullgirl Labs...
    • Cerebella, Word of God is that she's the only one with a pure heart who can make a wish without turning into the Skull Girl. However, her affection for Vitale means that she never gets the chance. However, in the end she's forced to kill Ms. Fortune to recover the MacGuffin that Vitale sent her to retrieve, leaving her broken and confused.
    • Valentine: We discover that she was in fact a Reverse Mole and possibly a Stealth Mentor to Painwheel, to whom she seems to harbor remorse for turning her into what she is. She kills Marie, and at first considers using the Skull Heart to resurrect the other members of Last Hope, but knows the Heart is a Jerkass Genie and will likely corrupt that wish. So she instead wishes flat out to become the next Skullgirl, with the implication that she wants Painwheel to hunt her down and kill her to atone for what she had done to her.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Double certainly looks the part. GTTV even described her as a "freaky shape-shifting mass of flesh and eyeballs".
  • Elevator Action Sequence: The Medici Tower stage.
  • Exotic Eye Designs: Whoever becomes the Skullgirl gains red pupils that are shaped like half of a skull.
    • Valentine has medical crosses in her eyes. And in her ending, she retains those crosses along with the aforementioned Skullgirl eyes.
  • Eye Scream: One of the first things you see in Peacock's story mode is a first person view of her eyes being gouged out.
  • Fan Disservice: About as frequent as the Fan Service. Double, Painwheel and Ms. Fortune certainly qualify.
  • Fan Service
  • Fish People: The Dagonian race. As an added bonus, many of them inhabit a district known as Little Innsmouth.
  • Gainaxing: All of the buxom females do this, though Cerebella, Parasoul and Valentine are the more obvious examples.
    • Double may qualify as well... If you consider those "breasts".
  • God Save Us From the Queen: The previous Skullgirl, who was the former queen of Canopy Kingdom (though it's implied that she was a nice ruler until the Skull Heart corrupted her).
  • Guide Dang It: As of initial release there are no in-game move lists. Players need to go to the game's website to obtain the characters' move lists.
  • Hartman Hips: Squigly, whose physique has been likened to a bowling pin.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: The game does its best to avert this with some of the most detailed hit boxes seen in a modern fighter.
    • The game also has more than just hit and hurt boxes allowing for all manner of different effects.
  • Hourglass Hottie: Most of the characters, due to the art style. Aeon's midsection is a literal hourglass.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Every Skullgirl.
  • Idiosyncratic Combo Levels: It was mentioned that there are at least 250 different lines for combo ratings. Several of them are meant as obvious jokes: 7 hits is "Lucky", 13 is "Unfortunate", 18 is "Barely Legal", 42 is"Meaningful", 66 is "Devilish" (with 616 -- if you ever get that far -- being "Infernal" and 666 "Diabolical"), 314 is "Algebraic", 403 and 404 are "Forbidden" and "Not Found"...
    • And then some are just intentionally bizarre, the favored example being 32 hits -- "Anatiferous"[1].
    • The entire list is available over at Shoryuken, and yes it goes all the way to 999[2].
  • Fundamentally Female Cast: All the playable characters so far are female (If you can even consider Double female...). Male characters are confirmed to show up as DLC in the future.
    • Word of God is that Alex Ahad wanted a game that went against the usual norm of fighting games having male dominated casts.
  • Jackass Genie: The Skull Heart, given the ludicrously strict requirements of Incorruptible Pure Pureness that it demands in order not to turn someone into a Skullgirl.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: More common, among other bugs, on the XBLA version. Set to be fixed in the first, upcoming patch that will be released regardless of sales.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Double and Marie are cosmic horrors, the time period is similar to that of H.P. Lovecraft, and the setting even has a city called Little Innsmouth.
  • MacGuffin: The Skull Heart. When Peacock finds it she calls this trope out by name.
  • The Mafia: The entire Cirque de Cartes works for them, whether they want to or not.
  • Mooks: The Black Egrets help Parasoul in combat, which includes taking a bullet for her. D'awww.
    • Peacock has her own gang of cartoon hooligans to call forth. They all gang up on her opponent during one of her hypers.
  • Moral Dissonance: Filia is not pure enough to use the Skullheart but Cerebella, who is a leg breaker for the Mafia, apparently has the Incorruptible Pure Pureness to use it?
    • The whole point of Cerebella's story arc is Moral Dissonance: she's a fundamentally pure and good-hearted person who owes her entire life to a fundamentally rotten and outright evil group of people. Her ending suggests that she's been high-minded enough to accept the contradictions in her life until circumstances force her to commit her first murder, to keep Ms. Fortune away from Vitale.
    • It's also possible that the Skull Heart was just lying in an attempt to trick her into using it.
  • Move Along, Nothing to See Here: The Announcer, after a particularly drawn-out match. "All right, all right, show's over!"
  • Multiple Endings: There is a canonical true ending, as yet unrevealed, but the endings in the game's initial Story Mode are all cases of What If Scenario for each individual character's triumph over all the others.
  • Naughty Nuns: There's quite a lot of fan art of Double's human form compared to her... Whatever she is form.
  • Nice Hat: Extra points to Cerebella's, which is alive.
  • Nuns Are Spooky: Double, the local Eldritch Abomination, takes the form of a nun when not fighting.
  • Panty Fighter: Might be some Author Appeal in it all, given how frequent and almost intentional it seems (the end of Cerebella's grapple super has her do a handstand, revealing her thighs and then some). The game isn't overtly sexual but no doubt that it tries to be cheeky.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: The Skullgirl.
  • Petting Zoo People: Fish People and Cat People have been confirmed to exist in the game's world, and the nature of the story seems to imply that there are a few others.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: The characters' strength is adjusted depending on whether or not they're fighting in a team or alone.
  • Punny Name: Nearly half the cast! Cerebella, Parasoul, Ms. Fortune, Painwheel...
  • Putting on the Reich: Parasoul and the Black Egrets. A subversion, however, as they're pretty much good guys...
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Quite a lot of characters have them. They either have parasites implanted in their body, or have a connection with the Skullgirl.
  • Reference Overdosed: Boy howdy. See Shout Out page below!
  • Retraux: An April Fools joke from the official site shows the initial game redone in the style of Neo Geo Pocket Color fighting games (most notably SNK vs. Capcom Match of the Millennium), complete with 3-color super deformed character sprites, eye candy backgrounds and even mockups with the actual handheld console.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Again, Parasoul.
  • Shout-Out: Check the page.
  • Show Within a Show: There's a show called Annie: Girl of the Stars. Peacock and Parasoul (secretly) are known fans of it, but ironically not Umbrella.
  • Stealth Pun: In Valentine's Story Mode she steps in between Painwheel and Double's fight, prompting Double to call her a "double-crosser." She's referring to Valentine's ambiguous alliance of course, but given that she's literally crossing Double... And Valentine's red crosses...
  • Super Soldier: The projects from the Anti-Skullgirls labs. Peacock and Painwheel are two of them. Concept art of Panzerfaust shows him to be a very literal interpretation, being a hulk of a uniformed soldier with a tank for a hand.
  • Tag Team
  • Title Confusion: People seem to think that the title refers to the seemingly all-girl cast, but it refers to the game's central plot and antagonist. The demo, where the only two playable characters are Filia and Cerebella, seems to give people the idea that all the girls fight with their head/headgear.
  • Underboobs: Ms. Fortune.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Ms. Fortune in Cerebella's story.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Skull Heart grants both to the Skullgirl.
  • World Half Empty: Powerful Police States constantly on the border of expensive and bloody conflict? Check. Organized crime getting its tendrils into everything? Check. Science run amok with no regard for ethics? Check. Eldritch Abominations loose in the world? Check. Dark And Troubled Pasts for almost every character whose name we know? Check. Skullgirls qualifies.

THAT'S A WRAP!


  1. Literally "producing ducks", after the belief that geese and ducks spontaneously generated from barnacles
  2. (999 hits being "You Can Stop Now")