Skullgirls is a difficult game to describe... Actually it's not at all. It's an indie fighting game with an emphasis on both the art deco style and fighting game mechanics here's a bunch of curvy anime women who are good or bad or something and fight using supernatural headcrabs and umbrellas...
Wait! No wait: come back! It's good I swear!
First thing I should note: I suck at fighting games. Besides Super Smash Bros. (because they're basically a completely new genre in themselves) the one I've probably sunk the most time into over the years is Tatsunoko Vs Capcom and I'm average at best. I'm still interested in fighting games but like bullet hell shooters I've long since realised the level of practice involved to become skilful with a range of them is far from impossible yet still tedious enough to be off putting and warrant acknowledgement of some serious chops. Skullgirls understands this and so in return made a precise and unforgiving system of combos, cancels, different block types and character movements like it's that one friend who somehow convinces you to go rock climbing and as you stare at the insurmountable wall they come up close... Nudge you gently... Then slap you round the back of the neck and tell you to stop being such a big crybaby.
And I love them for it.
The Skullgirls tutorial is one of the best I've ever played. I bought KOF XIII in the Humble Bundle a little while ago and I was actually gobsmacked at the difference between the two. KOF isn't a simple game to play but the entire tutorial consisted of a list of button combinations with an explanation of what you're doing. It's the sort of thing I wouldn't pay much notice to usually because that's what I've come to expect in video games but Skullgirls shows that little bit of indie magic in that it not only tells you how to do what but always tells you why. Not insulting King of Fighters in any way whatsoever by the way, it's badass and gets a complete free pass because they knew that the series was established and there would be a million fan guides anyway, but rather I wanted to compliment Skullgirls for not doing what a load of indie games, even the darlings, do which is just be an updated version of something older but slightly better looking.
Skullgirls could just be a combination of tropes and references and in fact if you can get an additional set of really high quality colour palettes featuring a number of shout outs ranging from Madoka Magica to Pokemon. It had that potential to just be full of that sort of thing if it had wanted to be. They could have made the game Street Fighters Gone Wild and it would have still sold fine but it's not Street Fighter. It is not Mortal Combat or Tekken or King of Fighters or Soul Caliber or another VS game because it's Skullgirls. Its got the assists, its got the 3v3s, its got 1 on 1s, its got air dashing and double jumping and six attack buttons but it's so simple somehow. As a fighting game rookie I think the only way for me to judge a game is for easily I can pull off moves with mindless spamming and preform combos without trying. With this the answer is a little and God no. Skullgirls has a lot of assists to help you always be able to do something. I went into Story and Arcade mode and I did alright on normal without even knowing what the assist buttons were or what any of the characters moves were but when I finally did there were so many new options available to me and strategies that I would want to try out.
Finally there's the art.
The art itself is beautifully animated but also does fanservice well which is an incredibly hard task. Yes, the majority of characters have some tig o' bitties, badonkadonk butts and openly flaunt them so you may quote Peep Show (if you're the greatest) and ask “Isn't it just the usual dead-eyed women in a desperate world of pain?“ then I can happily kiss you on the mouth, you glorious, David Mitchell loving bastard and say no because these are all characters which have been developed and planned from the offset with a definite sexuality which is just part of their character. Boob jiggle is done with great love and care not just to prevent it from objectifying the character but actually adding to it.
Double comes to mind as an example due to her being a macabre horror that wouldn't work as well without the consistent jiggling flesh serving to remind you that even though she stretches and morphs like plasticine she is a giant, terrifying, painful wad of meat and bones. Without any form of sexual features or looseness in her animation she wouldn't be anything but the monster character but there's a twisted sort of femininity and life which drives the contrast from the religious symbolism and furthers the dark undertone to her (and many of the cast's) actions.
Panty shots are also used frequently and each, though not integral to them, builds off and highlights the differences between fighters like Parasoul's jumps and kicks make her seem too determined to beat the living crap of whoever crosses her to waste any time holding down her skirt and I don't think I even needed to play a single frame of Cerebella's story to understand and respect her childish and flirty nature due to the incredible zero shits given in every single one of her animations. It's the first time I've played as a physically strong female grappler character who was so nonchalant. She's not playing to an archetype of prudishness or cute or coy or the tough girl or anything. She just having fun, smashing skulls and I'm pretty sure she could be fighting naked and just wouldn't even care. That's what I love the most of Skullgirls. All the girls (and that one token CYBORG ORCHESTRA) are well thought out people who live in a science fantasy world but when you look at them as individuals they're all surprising free of the usual melodrama present in anime-esque works.
In short Skullgirls is a good, fun fighter for beginners that's really pretty and about as sexist as Girls, Sex in the City or any other piece of media that doesn't avoid the fact that women can have sex with things so whip out yo' wallets.