Ladies and gentlemen(?
) it's... SHOWTIME!
Legend tells of an artifact that can grant a woman's wish... The Skull Heart. However, if she is impure of heart, her wish will be corrupted and she will be turned into an immensely powerful, twisted being of destruction... The Skullgirl.
A new Skullgirl has risen; who will defeat her and claim the Skull Heart?
Developed by Reverge Labs, published by Autumn Games and Konami
, and currently maintained by Lab Zero Games, the frenetic 2D Fighting Game Skullgirls
puts players in control of an all-female cast a la Arcana Heart
. The game combines Animesque
character designs with a stylized Golden Age
, employing Art Deco (referred to as "Dark Deco" by the designers in honor of Batman: The Animated Series
which coined the term and art style.) stage backgrounds and a cinematic presentation. Skullgirls
features work from an all-star development crew: fighting game veteran
Mike "Mike Z" Zaimont (he of REAL SOVIET DAMAGE
fame) led the project, Cristina Valenzuela
directed the voice acting, Alex Ahad (whose prior work credits include Lava Punch
, Studio UDON’s Tribute books, and promotional art for Scott Pilgrim
) created artwork for the game, and Michiru Yamane
provided the music. The result is an eclectic and delightfully quirky cast and setting.
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, the Skull Heart corrupt both her wish and her physical body into a living nightmare that haunts humanity: a 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 transforming into the most powerful and dangerous Skullgirl in history, 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
' 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 default cast of playable characters includes Filia
, Ms. Fortune
, and Double
. Check the Character sheet
for more information on all of them. Six DLC characters are currently in the game or in production. The first, Squigly
, was included with the beta and final releases of the PC version and was later released for the console versions, having been funded thanks to a crowdfunding drive. Big Band
became the second DLC character, and first male character
in the roster. The third and fourth (fan-voted characters from the crowdfunding drive) are Eliza and Beowulf. The fifth is Robo-Fortune, started off as a meta joke, then became an alternate voice pack, before becoming a full blown character thanks to the crowdfunding drive becoming a massive success (see below for details). The sixth is Fukua, who was originally conceived as an April Fools' Day
joke and subsequently turned into an actual character after fan input. The team at Lab Zero has also confirmed 25-28 possible future DLC characters (all of which could be Saved for the Sequel
Both the PlayStation Network
and Xbox LIVE Arcade
carry the game in the US, Europe, and Australia, and the game's available to PC gamers through Steam. A version of the game with translated text was published by Cyber Front on the Japanese PSN in February 2013; despite Japan's general mild distaste for downloadable games, Skullgirls
became a smash hit. (There are currently no plans for a Japanese XBLA version.) Due to legal issues surrounding the developers' rocky relationship with Konami (see below), the original PSN and XBLA releases of Skullgirls
were delisted at the end of 2013; Lab Zero later republished the game on both services in Febuary 2014 on PSN and Steam, and in April 2014 on XBLA as Skullgirls Encore
(due to specific platform differences, PSN's version of Encore
comes as an entirely new standalone release, while XBLA's version patches the original Skullgirls
The game was notably in an aftermarket Development Hell
, due to a serious case of Troubled Production
. Most of the post-release content, including the first patch and the first DLC character, was delayed because the Skullgirls
team members were laid off from Reverge Labs (the original studio). This was due to Konami's and Autumn Games's (the publisher and owner of the Skullgirls
franchise) being hit with an unrelated lawsuitnote
which tied up financial assets intended for the developers. Thankfully, Autumn Games helped them back up by supporting their new independent company, Lab Zero Games, as reflected on the newly-patched intro screen of the game. Lab Zero then started a fan fundraising project
to get new content out, which became much
more successful than anyone expected it to be. Originally set to fund just one characternote
, the fundraiser raised enough to fully fund a total of five
DLC characters, each of them with their own DLC stage and story mode! (And two more stages were added thanks to Contest Winner Cameos
Additionally, as part of one of the final stretch goals of the crowdfunding, Lab Zero is allowing the Mane6 team
to use the engine behind the game as part of their new title which is replacing Fighting Is Magic after they received a cease-and-desist from Hasbro.
Make it flashy, guys... action! Skullgirls proudly presents the following tropes:
- Action Girl / Dark Action Girl: This being the kind of game it is, the entire playable cast certainly qualifies.
- So far, the only exception is a male DLC character named Big Band unless you count the parasites some of the characters have, all of whom are either male or genderless.
- Aerith and Bob: Well, we've got characters with names like Filia, Parasoul, Cerebella, and Umbrella, alongside others with names like Adam, Patricia, Carol, and Nadia. Sort of downplayed, though, since there are a lot more Bobs than Aeriths.
- Affectionate Parody: If, by some miracle, you defeat Marie 300% in Squigly's joke "story mode" (which consists of just that boss fight), you get a parody of anime episode previews narrated by Filia and Samson, complete with Japanese title cards and excessively lengthy episode names.
- Ambidextrous Sprite: When Peacock, Parasoul, Valentine, Eliza and Beowulf turn around, their respective weapons swap hands.
- When Squigly turns around, Leviathan comes out of the other side of her head.
- And the Adventure Continues: Unlike the Downer Endings of other characters Big Band's ending has him watch the sunset while knowing that the battle isn't over.
- Animesque: Made by Americans, but Japanese enough in feel to get backing by Konami.
- Antagonist Title: Even though there's only one.
- April Fools' Day: For 2014, a new character called Fukua was added to the game, a Palette Swapped Moveset Clone of Filia who appears to have been made without spending a single cent, and might be a jab towards another fighting game's latest character.
- 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.
- It begins to show in the game itself. The DLCs are a step up from the artwork of the original campaigns.
- While not technically Art Evolution (Presentation Evolution?), the story mode paths of the DLC characters have much higher production values than those of the default roster, featuring longer cutscenes and more artwork. Earlier characters' storylines can feel very light in comparison.
- Artifact of Doom: The Skull Heart. If there's even the least taint of corruption within the person who uses it, the Heart will mutate her into the next Skullgirl. Even worse, one of the characters' endings reveals that the Skull Heart is sentient, and actually ''wants'' to create more Skullgirls.
- Artificial Stupidity: Even on the harder modes, the AI doesn't seem to know what to do when the player is in the air (except Marie, who does what she always does). Normally this doesn't amount to much, because most jumps are very short, but repeated jumping and Painwheel's Flight mode can leave the computer uselessly futzing around for extensive periods of time (ironically making Painwheel a good counter for CPU Peacock).
- Art Shift: In the story modes of Squigly and Big Band, the story segments that aren't simply a character portrait or two against a stage background are of a more painterly style than the artwork used in the main game. Fukua's story mode segments are all in a much less detailed style than anything else in the entire game.
- Art-Style Dissonance: See Crapsack World below.
- Ascended Extra:
- Most of the potential DLC characters are background characters in the vanilla game.
- A non-character example with the Glass Canopy stage. It was first seen solely as a background in a panel of Parasoul's story mode.
- Ascended Meme: Robo-Fortune, who will be a fully fleshed-out character in the near future, thanks to the fund-drive. Also applies to Fukua, who became a playable character on a mere whim of Lab Zero's.
- As well as a few of the Gag Dubs mentioned below.
- In Squigly's tentative story mode included in the game's extra menu, Marie asks when her real story mode is going to come out. Squigly's response? "Two weeks!" Marie is not pleased.
Marie 300%: I'll teach you to troll me!
- As Long as There Is Evil: The Skull Heart can never truly be destroyed; it always return every seven years to turn those with dark desires into Skullgirls. (That is, unless The Trinity has any indication).
- Aside Glance: One of the things Peacock can drop on her opponent is a fully grown live elephant, which not only survives the fall unharmed, but gives one of these glances at the player.
- Cerebella takes several looks at the player at blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments during several of her attacks. Possibly justified, as she is a performer at heart.
- Ballroom Blitz: The fourth DLC stage, Glass Canopy, is a massive ballroom first seen in a background in Parasoul's story mode.
- Beating A Dead Player: Continuing a combo on a defeated opponent would originally allow you to build meter, but after a patch, this was changed so that only the defeated player would (encouraging players to not be jerks about it).
- 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, or the wish even slightly selfish, 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: In Real Life, several "fans" pressed Mike Z's berserk button by complaining too much about Double's Hornet Bomber.
- Big Damn Heroes: Filia and Squigly pull of one of these at the end of Eliza's Story Mode. It doesn't work very well.
- Bigger Bad: No seriously. Eliza is one of the Parasites who blew up the world aeons ago. Even the Skull Heart and Double, the local Big Bad Duumvirate, hate her guts for the greater depths she sank to.
- Bilingual Bonus: The achievement for completing the tutorial is "Sküllgirls". That would be pronounced Schoolgirls.
- Bittersweet Ending: Almost every character ending. The closest one to a completely happy ending is Ms. Fortune's, but even in that one Minette gets kidnapped, leaving Nadia and her friends to search for her. Peacock's would be relatively happy, if not for Dr. Avian and most of the Anti-Skullgirls Labs being destroyed.
- 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. There are a few exceptions... but see the character sheet and Getting Crap Past the Radar below for more details.
- Bloody Horror: Invoked in Ms. Fortune's backstory. She got her abilities when she swallowed a stolen gem with immortality-granting properties, and was promptly butchered alive by a mafia assassin. She woke up later on the seafloor, finding her body in pieces and surrounded by the chopped-up carcasses of her friends.
- Bloody Hilarious: Ms. Fortune's Detachment Combat. She doesn't appear to be in any pain when making weaponized use out of her limbs and is cracking Incredibly Lame Puns constantly while doing it, further adding to the hilarity.
- Body Horror: One of the defining elements amongst the characters. Many of the girls have some kind of terrible, weaponized bodily gimmick, and many of them are fully explained. Squigly, Filia (and by extension, Fukua) and Eliza have Parasites assisting them. Double is an Eldritch Abomination, Peacock, Painwheel and Big Band are walking weapons, and Ms. Fortune is a zombie catgirl who detaches her limbs on a normal basis. The only exceptions to the rule are Cerebella, Parasoul (both use living weapons alongside their own skills) and Valentine (who's a trained ninja/soldier nurse).
- Boss-Only Level: Squigly's Joke "story mode".
- 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.
- The Cameo: As of a recent patch, Yuzuriha from Under Night In-Birth can be spotted hanging out at the River King Casino.
- The Under The Bridge stage may include an appearance of Bonus-kun.
- Capcom Sequel Stagnation: Parodied in the codename of the first patch: "Skullgirls: Slightly Different Edition".
- The second major patch continues the trend, being named "Skullgirls: More Different Edition".
- Due to a bit of legal trouble involving Konami, the team also unintentionally played the trope straight by releasing Skullgirls Encore as a way to replace the console versions that were de-listed. It has its own "edition" names for its major patches: "Unfinished Business Edition" for the patch that introduced Big Band, and "Are You Ready For? Edition" for the patch that made Fukua an Ascended Meme.
- Casanova Wannabe: Riccardo, a thug working for Vitale Medici who feels up Filia in her storyline and hits on and later helps abduct Minette in Ms. Fortune's storyline.
- 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: Since the majority of the roster are women, expect this to happen a lot.
- There's even a cat woman who often meows when attacking or being hit and a lot of her attacks are scratches.
- Cliffhanger: 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.
- Chekhov's Gunman:
- The Trinity in the Cliffhanger ending upon clearing Double's Story Path.
- Big Band (the first male DLC) can be seen in the Lab 8 stage.
- Quite a few characters that appear in the background or as assistants to the main cast were either intended to be playable, but cut from the roster, or are planned for DLC / a possible sequel.
- Chromosome Casting: All-female cast of characters.
- Cloak & 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. Subverted in Valentine's case, as she's a Reverse Mole.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The color of a floor bounce determines whether or not a character can ground tech.
- Red: Cannot tech immediately.
- Blue: Can tech immediately.
- Green: Can still tech immediately, but the opponent can still deal damage if they are quick.
- Likewise, Valentine has poisons that can be loaded into a syringe mid-battle and each color poison has a different effect on the opponent.
- Purple: Causes Damage Over Time.
- Green: Victims stagger for longer when hit.
- Orange: Causes delay to button inputs.
- 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.
- A new mechanic in Squigly's patch update introduced a different kind of combo breaker, where instead of bursting out of a combo when an infinite is detected, you can burst out of a combo when the opponent uses too many non-super moves in a combo. This is referred to as "undizzying", based on the mechanic in Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age Of Heroes; this was introduced as an alternate escape method after clued-in players began deliberately using infinites to bait their opponents into bursting in order to take advantage of the (extremely) short cooldown period and combo them again.
- Combos: Naturally.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Used as a game mechanic. The more characters you have on your side, the weaker each individual character is.
- 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.
- Cosmic Horror Story: Double's ending reveals the characters and fate of the story are being controlled by Aeon and Venus's arcade stick, and suggests that none of the current storylines are Canon.
- Crapsack World: 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.
- 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 Injoke: 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.
- Dark Reprise: The Lives We Left Behind, the stage music for Maplecrest, gets two. First is Nightmare Crest's The Dreams We Left Behind, while the second, The Lives We Tried to Reclaim, plays at the end of Painwheel's story and during the credits.
- Defector from Decadence: Why Lab 8 went rogue; to prove they could help humanity in ways besides building weapons.
- 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 for a couple seconds to pause the game in any form of PVP environment. 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. Furthermore, Fukua's 360 detection only activates when her team's super meter is at maximum, as her 360 move is her rarely used level 5 Blockbuster and part of her gameplay revolves around quickly throwing air fireballs, which can be problematic if she can't jump.
- Which may be a bit of a waste, as only two moves currently require it; Cerebella's Ultimate Showstopper and Fukua's Head Over Heels.
- 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.
- As of the first major patch, this is replaced with the characters appearing as de-rezzed versions of their usual art. "Looking all 8-bit", in the words of the creator.
- 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?
- The first major patch patch added savestates to the training mode, for repeatably testing out different scenarios. Savestates are cleared by holding down select. They can also be cleared by pressing LP+LK+select, because somebody alerted the developers that some types of dual-moddednote arcade sticks can't register "holding down select."
- There's an icon in the HUD that indicates who is leading in total health so as to make it easy to tell who will win if time runs out.
- The patch also introduces a mechanic based on Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age Of Heroes where hitting both the point character and assist character with a snapback attack leaves the assist character open for combos. Because it's impossible for the IPS to trigger on an assist character, the assist is trapped in a potential infinite loop resulting in a KO. As compensation, whenever a double-snapback occurs, the game detects it and automatically regenerates the meter of the player being comboed, so as to prevent the attacker from having too much of an advantage.
- One of the stages a fight may have Anti-Skullgirls Lab 8, where Big Band can be seen watching the ensuing fight. If Big Band is one of the characters in the match, he will not appear in the background.
- Diesel Punk: The game's setting is a weird amalgam of thirties-forties United States and Europe, with incredibly advanced technology housed in Art Deco architecture.
- Dominatrix: Mrs. Victoria has an alter-ego in one - who is a dominatrix superhero. She was one of the DLC candidates.
- Double Meaning: Peacock usually says "Poke!" during her crouching light punch, not just referring to how she's literally poking the enemy, but to how using light attacks to keep an opponent at bay is called "Poking".
- Double Jump: Only Parasoul and Painwheel are unable to double jump. Lampshaded in the tutorials:
Tutorial: No one knows how they do it, but some characters can perform a rather mysterious feat: jumping a second time in mid-air!
- 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 Medici 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. With the implication that she is somehow going to be the next Skullgirl...
- Cerebella: Word of God is that she's the only one with a pure enough heart to make a wish without turning into a Skullgirl. Her affection for Vitale, however, means that she never gets the chance; instead she's forced to murder Ms. Fortune both to protect him and to recover the MacGuffin he 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.
- Squigly: Double reveals she was behind the events that exterminated Squigly's family. With Filia's help, Squigly defeats Double and destroys the Skull Heart. Unfortunately, Squigly's exsistence is still tied to the Heart and she passes away again. Her only comfort is that Leviathan swears to stay with her until her next awakening. At the end of the credits, we see Filia visiting Squigly's new grave.
- Surprisingly averted in Big Band's story. There's about one whole sad moment: Dr. Avian's death, but it's not as emphasized as it is in Peacock's story. Heck, Peacock fighting her best friend Marie isn't emphasized either. Big Band's story is pretty easy going, although he does acknowledge that despite destroying the Skullheart, another one will pop up, and that "I'm smart enough to know that this isn't a happy ending" (paraphrased), but it's still much more optimistic than other stories.
- Fukua's story mode has our Villain Protagonist pull a Grand Theft Me on Filia.
- Eliza. The Bad Guy Wins... and she takes out nearly half the cast along the way.
- Downloadable Content: Squigly was released in August 2013. Big Band was the first male character added, released in April 2014, and Fukua arrived in May, and Eliza in late 2014. Beowulf and Robo-Fortune have yet to have a decided release date, but Beowulf will be released first. See also Gag Dub below.
- Dual Boss: The penultimate stage in most of the characters' storylines has the player fighting against Valentine and Double.
- This is actually inverted in Squigly's story mode, where you fight as both Squigly and Filia against her Final Boss, Double.
- Eliza never fights the Valentine-Double team; her final match is against Squigly and Filia.
- Dummied Out: Originally, each character except for Double would have two endings, based on a choice made by the player after defeating the endboss. They have been found in the game's data, and they were as follows:
- Filia: Filia, against Samson's warnings, wishes for the return of her memories. The Skull Heart chastises her for her selfishness and transforms her into the new Skullgirl.
- Cerebella: Cerebella wishes for Vitale to love her. When she returns to him, she finds that he has murders the other circus performers so he could be with her. Feng kills him in self-defense, but he revives as a monster.
- Ms. Fortune: Fortune wishes for the return of her old friends in the Fishbone Gang. The Skull Heart abides her wish, reviving them to serve her, the new Skullgirl.
- Painwheel: Painwheel wishes for "freedom". The Skull Heart grants her wish, rendering her free from "the needs of mind, body and soul...of memory, reason, and morals...", and transforms her into a Skullgirl of unprecedented power.
- Parasoul: Parasoul destroys the Skull Heart. Umbrella is caught in the ensuing explosion and is fatally wounded.
- Peacock: Peacock wishes for all of the world's oxygen to be turned into chocolate. When the Skull Heart is unable to abide her wish, she wishes for everyone to become puppies, which the Skull Heart also refuses to grant. The two get into an argument, ending with the Skull Heart declaring Peacock the worst wisher ever.
- Valentine: Valentine weakens the Skull Heart's power enough that she can seal it and return it to Lab Zero. Brain Drain accepts the Skull Heart, but punishes Valentine for betraying him and killing many of his forces, including Christmas, by implanting her with a mind-control device.
- Dynamic Loading: On the console versions, character animations are streamed in and out of memory as they are needed. The occasional failure to load fast enough results in the unloaded sprites looking heavily pixellated. This was introduced in a patch in order to make the characters actually appear somewhat normal before the streaming is complete; beforehand, the artwork was completely replaced by the character's hitboxes.
- Eldritch Abomination: Double, who serves a trinity of higher-level abominations: Venus, Aeon, and the Mother.
- Elevator Action Sequence: The Medici Tower stage.
- Excuse Plot: One of the few fighting games to actually avert it. Much care has been given to the character's personalities and the game's lore, with a very detailed world tying together the game's plot. However, aside from the opening sequence explaining the purpose of the Skull Heart, the game still just throws you into everything, and the story and game world aren't really fleshed out until you've played through multiple character's storylines. It wouldn't have hurt to actually explain the setup for each character's story instead of showing through art frames either.
- 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.
- Subverted with Peacock. Those Black Bead Eyes are actually eye sockets.
- Parasoul bears a resemblance to Mitsuru Kirijo, to the point of even having a Palette Swap based on said character.
- Squigly tends to resemble Emily from Corpse Bride, right down to the patch of exposed ribs and parasite in her head. She actually dresses up as CB in a Halloween fancy dress shot, and also has an alternate palette based on the character.
- There is a drawing of Umbrella dated 2001(!) which puts her before Yachiru. Skullgirls is not just Reference Overdosed, it makes Shout Outs to the future.
- The series has another brush with Persona due to Beowulf, a wrestler who fights with a folding chair. The character was around some time before Ms. Fortune's design changed, but most people heard of Persona 4 Arena first.
- Amusingly, in the list of characters and games that inspired Beowulf, one of the items is "Not Kanji"
- Fan Disservice: While there's an underlying theme of playful fanservice running through a lot of the characters, there's an equal amount who totally turn it on its head. Sure there's busty gals in Form Fitting Wardrobes like Valentine and Cerebella, but then there's:
- Ms. Fortune, a Cat Girl in revealing clothes, who fights by dismembering herself, wrapping her opponents in her muscles and tendons, spurting blood everywhere, and THROWING HER HEAD AT PEOPLE.
- Peacock, a cute little kid, who also happens to be a playfully bloodthirsty cyborg who looks like she sprang out of a demented Merrie Melodies cartoon.
- Painwheel, a Broken Bird in a revealing Qipao, who was experimented on and brainwashed into being a berserk warrior that attacks with her extended spinal cord and spikes that pop out of her skin, usually while roaring in agony.
- Venus Lovelace is a goddess wearing nothing but lingerie and a pair of Sexy Spectacles. She also has a monstrous Parasite inside her that comes out of multiple mouth-shaped holes in her stomach.
- Marie, another cute little kid, who has segments of her flesh missing showing some of the bones of her body. Her defeated story sprites are even worse.
- Filia, a cute schoolgirl in a Catholic-style uniform, who has a sentient face with a male voice and personality in the back of her head. It is violent, has big teeth and spits bones with their level three Blockbuster.
- Squigly is... well, a zombie. She's definitely a Cute Monster Girl but she has a Mouth Stitched Shut and parts of her body are rotting.
- Eliza is a lounge singer in a revealing dress that shows off Side Boob. She feeds off the blood of others and has a Parasite for a skeleton. Her skin sometimes rips away to reveal bones.
- Even the fully human characters who seem to be designed for fanservice have this:
- Cerebella has disturbing shades of an Electra complex with a very cruel and manipulative man.
- Parasoul is a gorgeous redhead with legs and a Dangerously Short Skirt. However, despite being a good person, she has a lot of Nazi imagery associated with her.
- Valentine seems to be pure fanservice. Then there is all the gore and the creepy story sprite.
- Fanservice: It's a fighting game with an (almost) all-female cast. This shouldn't be a surprise.
- Fantastic Racism:
- Female Gaze: The crotch area on Beowulf's pants is tight and moves rather bouncily.
- Film Posters: The opening movie shows movie posters for each of the game's fighters (except for Double and Squigly).
- Fish People: The Dagonian race. As an added bonus, many of them inhabit a district known as Little Innsmouth.
- Funny Background Event: In the Class Notes stage, Ms. Victoria will react in surprise toward particularly powerful attacks (such as Cerebella's Diamond Dynamo blockbuster or Peacock's fully charged Shadow of Impending Doom special).
- Gag Dub: The voice actors have recorded videos of themselves playing the game and doing gag dubs for their own characters. For a charity donation drive they even did this for playthroughs of the story mode (see the Funny Moments page for more details). This culminated in Gag Dub voice packs being announced and funded for the Indiegogo campaign, they are, as follows:
- 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".
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Skullgirls pushes the boundaries of the T-rating to its limit. Besides the obvious fanservice, there's also:
- Riccardo is an ephebophile Jerk Ass who sexually harasses Filia, up to the point of grabbing her bare thigh, dangerously close to her butt. He also hits on the presumably teenaged Minettenote , and is seen stalking her in the background of the River King Casino stage.
- Similarly, there's the fact that Filia is underage, despite her still being played for fanservice.
- The amount of Gorn is incredibly high for a T-rated game. Ms. Fortune dashes by jettisoning her own blood around and uses her muscle fibers in various attacks. Valentine's level 3 Blockbuster shows off copious amounts of blood. There's also Eliza's gimmick, using her own blood to attack the opponent. An M-rating was likely only avoided because of the fact the game doesn't use 3D models and that most animations involving gore are Bloody Hilarious.
- D. Violet is a dominatrix (note that this isn't even subtext, it's explicitly stated), wielding a whip with a suggestive bulge that drools a white liquid.
- Some of the voice lines when characters are defeated, as well as Valentine's use of a Magical Defibrillator to revive a teammate, suggest they may actually die when KO'd. This even includes a line from Peacock.
- 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).
- Golden Age of Hollywood: The primary Motif of the game:
- The main menu is styled after a film reel, and during the game's intro it displays classic-styled film posters of the playable characters.
- Most battles begin with the announcer declaring some sort of on-stage direction (such as "Showtime!" or "Action!"), and they can end with the announcer declaring "Cut!".
- The screen that appears when a team is defeated is normally topped with "That's a Wrap!", the retry menu says "Encore Performance?", and super moves are called "Blockbuster" attacks. When activated, they show a character's portrait on a film reel, and the world briefly takes on a sepia tone.
- Snapback attacks are called "Outtakes", team super cancels are called "Blockbuster Sequels," and guard cancels are called "Stunt Doubles".
- The Super Gauge is called 'Dramatic Tension'.
- The game's jazzy soundtrack would fit perfectly with many classic 30's films.
- The game's Updated Re-release is titled Skullgirls Encore.
- Gorn: The game's rated "T," but it can really push the limits at times. The best example is probably the "Gehenna" stage.◊
- Grotesque Cute: Most of the young cast members, in one form or another.
- Guide Dang It: When the initial release hit, there were no in-game move lists. Players had to go to the game's website to obtain the characters' move lists in PDF format. Now, moveset lists can be accessed in the pause menu, complete with a feature that shows only the movesets of the characters(s) the player is currently using.
- The achievement titles & descriptions are rarely helpful. One references medicine & surgery but requires you to use a defibrilator in a certain way. Another tells you to throw stuff but actually only requires you to drop stuff. The one that says to let the weight off your shoulders requires you to play as Ms. Fortune & leave your head off for an hour in total. Most of the achievements have tons of ways they could be interpreted & the requirement usually has to be met a large unspecified amount of times but you have no way to know whether or not you're meeting the requirement. However, the character-specific achievements have their requirements outlined at the beginning of each character's tutorial, which can be easily missed. For example, the tutorial says you've truly mastered Cerebella once you've thrown an opponent 100 times.
- Harder Than Hard: Nightmare difficulty.
- Hartman Hips: Almost all of the girls.
- 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.
- Surprisingly, some dissonance had to be intentionally added in patches, because making the hit boxes too accurate caused problems like combos dropping when they shouldn't.
- Fukua's standing hitbox arrangement is exactly the same as Filia's, even though she stands in a different pose. This is because the creators believe that any combo that works on Filia should also work on Fukua.
- Humanoid Abomination: Double and the Trinity.
- 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", 34 is "Crass", 37 is "In A Row", 42 is "Meaningful", 65 is "Jurassic", 66 is "Devilish" (with 616 -- if you ever get that far -- being "Infernal" and 666 "Diabolical"), 121 is "Gigawatt", 314 is "Algebraic", 403 and 404 are "Forbidden" and "Not Found"...
- And then some are just intentionally bizarre, the most cited example being 32 hits — "Anatiferous"note .
- The entire list is available over at Shoryuken. And yes, it goes all the way to 999note .
- Impossible Hourglass Figure: Most of the characters, due to the art style. Aeon's midsection is a literal hourglass.
- Improbably Female Cast: Up until Big Band was added as the first male character, all the playable characters were so far are female (If you can even consider Double female...)
- Word of God is that Alex Ahad wanted to completely flip the usual gender ratio of fighting games.
- Interface Screw: Valentine's Orange Syringe can cause delay to button inputs.
- Squigly is able to pull the camera towards her, dragging her opponent and the stage boundaries with it.
- One of Isaac's conceptual super moves would temporarily speed up the round timer, making it easier to win via time-over.
- 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.
- Kill 'em All: By the end of Eliza's story mode, virtually every character except Eliza herself is either dead or condemned to a Fate Worse Than Death.
- Ladies and Germs: As the announcer says "Ladies and Gentlemen," a question mark briefly flashes next to "gentlemen" as a reference to the absencenote of male characters to choose from.
- A Lighter Shade of Grey: Anti-Skullgirl Lab 8 is this to Lab Zero. Both produce super-powered child soldiers to fight the threat of the Skullgirl. But whereas Lab 8 takes in war victims and, with their blessing, gives them upgrades, Lab Zero's only known subject, Painwheel, was an innocent girl kidnapped off the streets and brainwashed into a fighting monstrosity.
- Literal-Minded: A snapback is a specific type of move in tag fighters such as this game. When used, they force the opponent to tag out. In Skullgirls, they're called "Outtakes" - as in, literally taking the opponent out of the fight.
- Little Bit Beastly: Fish People and Cat People exist in the game's world, and the various stages show there are more, such as bears and tigers mingling with each other at a high class party.
- Living Weapon: Erm...Living Weapons. Word of God has stated that unlike Parasites, Living Weapons are not sapient; they are conscious when in use, but strictly subsentient, more or less in the manner of intelligent animals. They also don't bond with the user the way Parasites do.
- Loads and Loads of Loading: More common, among other bugs, in the Pre-Patch Version on the Xbox 360. This was rectified after the patch.
- Lovecraft Lite: Double and Marie are cosmic horrors, the time period is similar to that of HP 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.
- Meaningful Funeral: Squigly's funeral, paid for by Lorenzo. Subverted though, since the Continello family were murdered on his orders. In the end of her storyline, Squigly is re-interred by Filia, away from the city.
- Mind Screw: Double's story-mode ending. Expecially if you aren't familiar enough with the game's story to know about The Trinity
- Minimalist Cast: Up until Encore there were only 9 characters (8 playable, 1 unplayable), as of the release 13 characters will be playable, that is until the number was bumped up to 14 by means of the inclusion of Fukua.
- Moral Dissonance: Filia is not pure enough to use the Skull Heart, 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.
- Also, the Skull Heart mentions that it's Filia's wish that isn't completely pure, because of her forgotten guilt of being cruel to Carol/Painwheel in the past.
- Motif: See Golden Age of Hollywood above.
- 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 "Threads of Fate" for each individual character's triumph over all the others, in which will all have a single common point where they converge.
- Nice Hat: Extra points to Cerebella's, which is alive.
- Nighthawks Shot: The first scene of Filia's story mode is a blatant shout out. It takes place at a cafe that strongly resembles Nighthawks.
- No Fair Cheating: The PC version is coded to instantly kill anyone who plays as Marie or a character they do not own online, and playing as Marie online is planned to zero out a players win count and TrueSkill.note
- Not so Fast, Bucko!: In Eliza's story mode - three times. First, just as Eliza is about to claim the Skull Heart, she's attacked by Double. Afterward, it looks like the ending begins...but then Filia and Squigly barge in and the player has to fight them. Then the true ending plays..which leads to The Stinger where Marie suddenly reappears to oppose Eliza.
- No Swastikas: The Black Egrets flag is based off of Nazi Germany, but with an umbrella.
- Obvious Beta: The pre-patch version of the game by Reverge Labs. The Xbox 360 version suffered from this longest due to Microsoft's very strict file size patching limits, but it was eventually patched months after the PlayStation 3 version, plus unless you didn't download the required patch, you're stuck with it until you do.
- Obvious Rule Patch: While the Infinite Prevention System is useful, people were still able to find ways to pull off insanely damaging, even lethal, combos without triggering it. This lead to the addition of "Drama", which puts a hard limit on how long a combo can be when the player can't get out of it.
- One-Woman Wail: The main theme music — a remix of Marie's stage theme, which also fits the trope.
- On the Next: Parodied in Squigly's Joke Story Mode ending.
- Only One Name: Zig-Zagged. The full names of a little over half the playable cast - Parasoul (Renoir), Squigly (Contiello), Big Band (Ben Birdland), Peacock (Patricia Watson), and Ms. (Nadia) Fortune - as well as the Medicis, Squigly's family, Parasoul's family, Marie (Korbel, according to Word of God), Adam (Kapowski, also as of Word of God) and Stanley (Whitefin), have been revealed. Every other character, including every DLC candidate besides Stanley, Marie, and Adam, have no revealed full name. Dr. Avian is unique in that we only know his last name.
- Filia at least has the excuse of simply forgetting her last name. (It's almost certainly Medici, though.)
- Our Giants Are Bigger: Gigans have their own nation with a violent history with the Canopy Kingdom, a reputation as berserkers hungry for battle, and are interfertile with other races. Scythana is part-Gigan, but no full Gigans have appeared as yet.
- 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.
- Power Creep, Power Seep: The characters' strength is adjusted depending on whether or not they're fighting in a team or alone.
- Product Placement: Billboards for various real-world sponsers of the game, such as EightySixed and Sanshee, can be seen in the background of some stages. In addition, the developer build of the game is streamed on the EightySixed Twitch.tv channel.
- Punny Name: Almost the entirety of the playable cast. Many other examples as well - check the characters page for the full list.
- Cerebella is a pun on "cerebellum", a region of the brain. Cerebella's primary weapon when fighting is a hat.
- Double "doubles" the other characters.
- Parasoul uses an umbrella for a weapon, and, as the ruler of the Canopy Kingdom, is the heart and "soul" of her kingdom, as well as her wielding of a Living Weapon and her symbol being the same as that of the main in-universe religion.
- Painwheel's most distinguishing feature is the giant metal pinwheel sticking out of her back.
- Ms. Fortune's name is a pun on the word "misfortune", which makes a bit of sense considering she's kind of a zombie.
- Bloody Marie's name is a pun on "Bloody Mary".
- Valentine's name is a pun on her real name, Valerie. It also ties into the Last Hope's Theme Naming after holidays.
- A non-character example in two stages: Under the Bridge literally takes place under a bridge, and Glass Canopy is a massive ballroom with a glass canopy for a roof. The name of the country the game takes place in is the Canopy Kingdom.
- Recurring Riff: Those first nine notes you hear in the opening? They play a lot throughout the course of the game, mostly in the cutscene music for the story modes.
- 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!
- Refrain from Assuming: The credits theme is called "In A Moment's Time", not "In Just A Moment's Time'', as most sources on the Internet have it listed.
- Renegade Splinter Faction: The Anti-Skullgirl Labs.
- Retcon: Juju. Due to legal issues with her concept, Mike Z has removed her from the story and the game itself.
- Rooftop Confrontation: The stages New Meridian Rooftops and Rooftops Assault.
- Secret A.I. Moves: Sometimes, computer assist Peacock will use her charged up Shadow of Impending Doom (item drop move). You cannot have your own Peacock assist do this. You also can't do Painwheel's charged up attacks as assists, something the computer player also periodically uses.
- Sequel Hook: Double's (the final story mode's) ending. For that matter, it's technically a True Story Mode hook.
- Set Swords to Stun: Despite most cast members carrying some sort of lethal weapon of some sort, none of them are actually killed as a result. Cerebella's death in Eliza's story mode doesn't count, because that was in a cutscene rather than as a direct result of their fight.
- Shaped Like Itself: In Squiggly's Joke story mode ending the preview says that "a mysterious rival mysteriously appears! How Mysterious!".
- She's Got Legs: Exaggerated, almost, to the point where in some bits of art◊ character's legs take up well over half their body. The best (worst?) example is Mrs. Victoria in this frame◊ from the ending of Filia's story mode.
- 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.
THAT'S A WRAP!