Let the apples vs. oranges battle begin!
Skullgirls: 2nd Encore is perhaps the most beautiful high res, hand-drawn 2D fighter ever. It’s been critically acclaimed for years and is available on just about every platform as of today, its launch date for Nintendo Switch. Just last week, another 2D fighter called Roof Rage was released on the same console. This one is all-new, still working to build an audience, combining elements of AAA fighters like Street Fighter and Smash Bros. together with deep-cut darlings like Samurai Gunn and Outfoxies in equal measure.
These are about as different as games in the genre can get, though they both excel in the areas they prioritize. If Skullgirls is a hyper-focused distillation of everything great about the Capcom superhero rave arcade era, then Roof Rage is a jack of all trades, master of… three? Maybe even four, depending on how the still in development online mode turns out. They are also both games made by the first generation of developers who barely remember a time before Street Fighter and Smash Bros. existed. Neither has much interest in simulating an actual fight. Both take the wildest moments of ’90s fighters as a baseline and build on the abstraction from there.
But which game deserves to win the battle for your hard-earned cash? Read on to find out!
Round 1: Going solo
This one is tighter than you might expect. Skullgirls has 14 playable characters, but Roof Rage isn’t far behind with 13, including Rao, the unlockable boss. Getting him added to the roster isn’t easy though. You’ll have to beat single-player mode on medium difficulty or above without losing a match. Like most fighting games, Roof Rage‘s campaign mode randomizes the opponents to battle and the order you battle them in, so you won’t be able to pick a character from the outset who is ideal for their particular matchups. Harder still, some rounds have you battling multiple enemies at once, so you’ll need to sharpen your crowd control skills even when playing alone.
Skullgirls, on the other hand, is generally more straightforward. If you pick one character and want to master their single-player mode, you won’t have as many random elements to contend with. The question then becomes, which mode do you want to put your mind to, story, trials, challenge, or survival? While Roof Rage does an admirable job standing up to Skullgirls in terms of compelling single-player content, there is just no getting past the massive wall of content that the latter provides.
Round 1 goes to Skullgirls.
Round 2: One-on-one
I hate to say it, but Roof Rage doesn’t really stand a chance on this one. Still, there was a point when I thought it might be able to score an upset. Despite the fact that they are all so small, each of the game’s fighters has a very different feel, with tanks like Yamaha and Pakaw feeling appropriately heavy and rugged, while zoners like Punk and Lionel feel appropriately intimidating at a distance and fragile up close. There is a character based on Ryu, which is relatively standard for modern 2D fighters, but there’s also a guy designed to make Samurai Gunn players feel at home. On top of that, every character has a shared projectile move; they can pick up roof tiles, throw them, or even catch them mid-air. It’s a clear tribute to Towerfall‘s arrow mechanics that adds a wrinkle of depth rife with potential. It also has Towerfall‘s wall jump mechanics, which will make platformer pros feel right at home.
If it weren’t for the fact that Skullgirl‘s roster is even more diverse, ranging from a rubber hose-limbed demolition expert to a giant anthropomorphic saxophone, it could have been that Roof Rage could have taken the crown on this one. With nearly endless combos to master and a laundry list of moves to consider, Skullgirls‘ head-to-head game is among the most compelling in the industry.
Round 2 goes to Skullgirls.
Round 3: Party Time
Here’s where Roof Rage‘s claws come out. Allowing for up to 8 players at a time, it’s already got a huge advantage over most other fighters today when it comes to group play. Combine that with the previously mentioned available playstyles and you have an easy-input fighter that everyone from Street Fighter to Smash to Towerfall fans can pick up and play right away.
There’s also the fact that in Roof Rage, knocking out an enemy by draining their life bar is just as viable as knocking them out of the arena. You may be low on health, but an effective edge guard and meteor smash can still win you the match. Likewise, if you know that playing King-of-the-Hill style isn’t your speed, you can choose a character that isn’t tailored to those strategies while keeping yourself away from ledges. The large and varied range of stages, each tailored to play to a particular character’s strengths, further emphasizes the party power here.
Skullgirls, on the other hand, was never designed for more than a couple of people to jump in at once, and the skill ceiling around learning specials is immediately high. It almost feels unfair to throw the game in against Roof Rage in this arena, but we are talking about the Switch here, where the majority of the install base has Smash Bros. running through their veins. Knowing that, we just had to do it to ’em and the results aren’t pretty for the girls.
Round 3 goes to Roof Rage.
Round 4: Longevity
This is a tough one, as it involves attempting to predict the future. That’s never a simple proposition, but in this case, we have enough info to guess where things are going. Skullgirls, as a series, is over for now. The rights to the intellectual property are tied up in a few different places, and Lab Zero, the game’s creators, have moved on to new projects like Indivisible and other unannounced games. There is a frequently updated Skullgirls mobile game that’s worth checking out if you want more from the brand, and there is a chance that the competitive scene will get a boost with this Switch release, but on the whole, we can guess that the fighter’s best days are behind it.
As for Roof Rage, the possibilities are endless. While the game has been in the works for years, mostly built by one person, it’s definitely a new face to most. Launching with 13 characters to start is pretty ambitious for an all-new game, and due to their diminutive stature, it wouldn’t take a massive amount of time and money to add more characters to the roster. Of course, the game’s potential to grow will largely depend on if anyone buys it, but with Steam reviews staying strong at Very Positive, and the Switch being more than fertile ground for party fighters, chances are high that investing in Roof Rage now will lead more Roof Rage in the future, hopefully via free content updates for early adopters.
Round 4 goes to Roof Rage.
That’s right folks! It’s a tie! What an upset, right? I can’t say I’m too sad about it though. I like it when everybody at least kind of wins, and neither of these games deserves any sort of loss.
More than anything, I just hope people give Roof Rage a chance, as its the new kid on the block and things could go either way for it at this point. Skullgirls is already a hit on other consoles and its reputation will be enough to help it find its audience wherever it goes. For an all-new independently developed fighter on Switch, in today’s crowded market with no reputable publisher to rely on for marketing and reputation, it could go either way, no matter how good your game is.
There was a time when Skullgirls was in a similar position, with just a few playable characters on its roster and no pre-installed fan base to call on for support. Eventually, though, it found its place. I hope Roof Rage manages to do the same.