The ninth Evo game has been announced as a vote-in title, with nine separate games clashing over who is taking that final slot. Ask yourself: What game has an old-school playstyle, combo breakers, team mechanics, and is well past due for a space on the Evo main stage? That’s right, Skullgirls! It would be a fantastic choice, and deserves a chance for a number of reasons, which I’ll break down for you here.
Skullgirls Has NEVER Been a Main Game at Evo
Seriously, how many other games that get played today–or that people choose not to play anymore–have been on that stage? There have been Skullgirls side tournaments since before the game was even released (Evo 2011), but the biggest encounter was in 2013. A donation drive was held for the 8th Evo title at the time, which at the end came down to Skullgirls and Super Smash Bros. Melee for the most donations. In the final moments Melee pulled ahead with about $94,000 to Skullgirls’ $78,000. There was even a bit with developer Mike Z talking about his thoughts on the donation race as a whole, which was very sincerely put (he shaved his head to raise money, if you were wondering):
In recognition of the overwhelming support Skullgirls put into the donation drive, it was announced that Skullgirls would be a supported side tournament, complete with a Top 8 stream, a pot bonus and a stage to compete on. This would have probably been well enough for Skullgirls players, but it was partly spoiled when–after being told there was only one slot available–Injustice: Gods Among Us was announced as the final Evo title. If you want more background on this donation drive you can check out this Twitter thread for a more complete story.
The following year at Evo 2014, Skullgirls was in attendance as a side tournament once again. Although Skullgirls got a mini-stage and a stream, scheduling conflicts ended up cutting what was supposed to be a Top 8 stream to a very late Top 4 stream. After this unfortunate mistreatment, the community found Combo Breaker, which we’ve previously talked about regarding its treatment of Skullgirls. SG players have largely been happy with Combo Breaker ever since.
With that, you’re all mostly caught up on where Skullgirls is as far as Evo is concerned. Is any of this enough to make you throw your money at Skullgirls’ donation drive? We aren’t quite done yet, so let’s slow down a bit and take a moment to first think about exactly what game we’re talking about here.
It’s a Great Product with Thoughtful Developers That Give Back to the FGC
Skullgirls came out in 2012 and has had five major updates, spread across essentially three sequels with Encore, 2nd Encore and 2nd Encore+. There have been bug fixes, quality of life changes, new characters, mechanic updates, new modes, and gameplay changes all packaged with great netplay. We’ve also gotten cosmetic updates in the form of new animations, new stages, voice packs, voiced story mode, Japanese voiceovers, and fifteen new colors for every character.
Not to mention that all of this was completely redeemable with your original purchase, which for PS3/Xbox 360/Steam era players was $15. Even assuming you missed out on redeeming all of these updates, no gameplay changes have ever been restricted to a new version, meaning no matter when you bought the game you can update to the latest gameplay for free.
All of these features for the base game are good business practices, but there’s more: there is even support for visually impaired fighting game players, helping ensure as many people as possible can enjoy the game. This devotion to ensuring everyone can play their game led Lab Zero to create the PS3 legacy drivers–allowing PS3 arcade sticks to function on PS4 consoles–which they ended up sharing with Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-, BlazBlue: Central Fiction, Street Fighter V, and The King of Fighters XIV. That’s half of the current Evo 2017 titles, by the way.
These drivers have also been distributed to Mortal Kombat X, Ultra Street Fighter IV, and even PSN ports like Garou: Mark of the Wolves and Last Blade 2, with Lab Zero actively petitioning companies to use the driver in upcoming fighting games. This willingness to give back to the community extends past just the drivers; the Skullgirls team even went so far as to give Skullgirls’ game engine to the Mane 6 team for “Them’s Fightin’ Herds,” which one day will have an entire community of players that can play their game thanks in part to Lab Zero.
Skullgirls Gives Players Freedom and Rewards Smart Play
We’ve recently talked at length about the team mechanics and custom assists, and how they helped carry this game competitively through the years. Other than this a lot of decisions are made to both accommodate newcomers and veterans, which can most plainly be seen in the tutorial and training modes.
As for the competitive side, there are universal defensive mechanics–like Pushblocking, Alpha Counters, Guard Canceling and Land Canceling–that allow smart players to deal with crazy offense. There are also input buffers in a lot of situations, which removes input barriers on techniques and playstyles that allow more players the chance to play and get better faster. Overall, a lot of freedom is given in how players wish to approach their characters, neutral, pressure, and setplay.
We can’t possibly fully breakdown all the gameplay here, but this helps outline what kind of game we’re talking about: one that highlights player choice and allows creative solutions to nearly any situation. You’d think with a game that treats their fans this well and allows such freedom, people would love it, right? Well, they do. Echo Fox|SonicFox has been one of the hottest names in the FGC in recent years–best known for his performance in Mortal Kombat and Injustice–and he adores Skullgirls.
Heading home now! I had so much fun this weekend with the SG community! I love you guys! See you at the next tourny soon!
— Echo Fox | SonicFox (@SonicFox5000) October 3, 2016
If you follow SonicFox on Twitter, you’ll know this is nothing new. He posts about Skullgirls all the time, making it his mission to spread the game to as many people as he can. SonicFox isn’t the only top player who enjoys the game, with one example being Sonic’s teammate Echo Fox|Justin Wong.
Man Skullgirls is so good. I'm falling in love watching this Top 16 at @ComboBreakerFGC right now
— Echo Fox Justin Wong (@JWonggg) May 28, 2016
There are a lot of players outside of the scene that have considered playing, but simply can’t devote the time to it in today’s landscape of sponsorship and big prize pools. Evo titles pull attention, leaving little room for “passion” fighters in many competitor’s schedule. Despite this unfortunate truth, there are players finding the game all the time, like BrokenTier’s Koogy.
— KOOGY (@koogyplz) January 24, 2017
There are a lot of people who think this game deserves Evo-level attention and a grand stage. I could go on and talk about player after player, people who enjoy the game, or people who recognize the effort and devotion of Skullgirls players, but any more would honestly be gratuitous. We have one last talking point.
The Community Is Fantastic and They Honestly Deserve More
Skullgirls has a great community filled with many helpful players that go out of their way to teach newcomers, with approachable top players who help intermediate players level up. The community is also very positive towards one another, with players often hugging it out and gathering for community dinners after even the most frustrating tournament matches. In addition to this positive and healthy environment the players create for themselves, they also fight hard to support events that host them.
Skullgirls has had a public calendar of all the events they have planned to attend over the past year, which we’ve talked about here before. As per this schedule players are coming back from this past weekend at Frosty Faustings, which enjoyed a $1000 pot bonus from Autumn Games–Skullgirls’ publisher–and now many are gearing up for Northwest Majors, which was very successful last year. The final event on the calendar SG players are getting prepped and hyped for is their biggest tournament of the year, Combo Breaker. Thanks to the way the community has come together and organized themselves, all of Skullgirls’ calendar tournaments have seen legitimate growth over the past three years.
The scene has been steadily growing since 2013, with turnouts increasing and pots getting larger. Continued growth five years after release is a rare quality for any fighting game. This growth is thanks to the developers Lab Zero, who work tirelessly on the game and provide a healthy developer-consumer relationship, and it’s also thanks to the blood, sweat, and tears of community members who don’t quit and keep pushing for their game through any hardship.
That being said, talking about which game deserves to be at Evo in the context of the donation drive feels unfair; every community deserves attention and respect, and talking about which deserves it more feels dismissive of the efforts we all put into our individual scenes. So, while I won’t say that Skullgirls deserves the ninth Evo spot more than any other game, I can confidently say that if we’re talking about a competitively viable fighting game that thinks about the players before anything else–with a community that works hard and fights tooth and nail for everything it gets–then it’s time to stop dangling carrots because: yes, they deserve a seat at the big boys’ table.
Vote for Skullgirls 2nd Encore on generosity.com here. Voting closes at 12:00 PM PST on February 8, 2017.