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Skullgirls 2nd Encore review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Autumn Games
Developer: Autumn Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes
ESRB: T

From a gameplay perspective, it doesn't seem like there's a whole lot to say about Skullgirls 2nd Encore. I mean, it's a 2D fighting game. I'm undoubtedly showing my ignorance here, but I feel like there's not a tonne of variety when it comes to that genre. There are obviously nuances that separate Street Fighter from Marvel vs. Capcom, or Blazblue from Guilty Gear, but in general terms, if you've played one, you'll have a pretty good idea of what's in store for you here.

To be sure, it's not exactly the same as those games. The attacks in Skullgirls are built around the characters, which — as I'll explain shortly — gives them some individuality. Beyond those, though, it's all your standard punch-kick-combo move-teammate assist controls, all of which will seem pretty familiar to anyone who's ever put in any amount of time with these games.

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However, while Skullgirls 2nd Encore's gameplay may be a little lacking in originality, it more than makes up for that by having an aesthetic that's 100% its own.

See, Skullgirls oozes style. A very specific style, in fact: art deco-meets-film noir. Obviously, Autumn Games didn't come up with that combination, but it's still clear that they had a distinctive vision of how they wanted this game to look and feel — and, what's more, it's clear that they put a lot of care and attention into turning that vision into a reality.

This means that the slang-heavy dialogue sounds like it comes from some fast-talking movie from the early days of talkies. This means that the music sounds like it should be spilling out the window of a smoke-filled speakeasy. And, most of all, it means that the characters and the environments and pretty much every graphic element of the game look like they sprang forth fully-formed from the minds of, say, Tamara de Lempicka or Erté. It's pretty impressive stuff, with the only downside being that everything looks oddly muted on the Vita's smaller screen. I don't know what they had to sacrifice in order to make the game run properly, but you always have the sense that you're looking at a somewhat pale reflection of incredible art, rather than at the incredible art itself.

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Nonetheless, the art is impressive enough that even a somewhat pale reflection of greatness is still worth seeing. Combine that with an average fighting game and…well, to be honest, I'm not sure if it's enough to make Skullgirls worth a recommendation, unless you're either really into fighting games, or really into seeing an aesthetic that doesn't get nearly enough representation in games.

Grade: B