Skullgirls Encore: Big Band and the Unfinished Business Patch
Skullgirls Encore continues to be the little game that could as it chugs along with the release of their “Unfinished Business” Patch. This patch gives us the completed version of Big Band, as well as some new stages and fixes to some previous issues.
First off, Big Band, who is the tenth playable character (11th if we count Fukua, who uses most of Fillia’s assets and moves and is given different properties) to join the Skullgirls Encore roster and is free for everyone for the first three months, similar to the previous DLC character Squigly. In addition to being the first playable male character in Skullgirls Encore, Big Band is a huge, slow-moving bruiser who uses all manner of instruments to inflict varying amounts of pain on his opponent’s faces. He practically has a whole orchestra in that coat of his, minus the string section. He’s big, he’s slow, he hits like a truck full of rampage and death, and he’s all wrapped up in the equivalent of a giant saxophone shaped iron lung, giving himself the appearance of robotized Dick Tracy.
The first thing I noticed when I gave Big Band a whirl was his sound effects. Considering he’s a walking orchestra, this is something that only makes sense, but his medium punch attack is that he just pulls out a trumpet and every button that you hit plays a different note and it won’t stop until you stop. The fact that his strongest super attacked is performed via this improv attack by playing the first four notes of the Skullgirls theme is just icing on the cake. As the newest Skullgirls character…he has a lot of character and uniqueness to him. With his walk animation, you hear the gears in his legs whir and spin as he moves. It’s something that genuinely seemed cool. It’s the little things that can make a character endearing, and Big Band certainly succeeded for me.
Big Band hits hard. He has to, considering he lacks the rushdown tools of similar characters such as Potemkin from Guilty Gear. Instead, he makes up for it with pure unadulterated damage. Big Band also is the first character in the series to have a parry. Whenever an opponent attacks him, Big Band has the option to either tap forward if it’s a medium or high attack, or tap down if its a low attack, and if the stars align and you time it properly, then you will parry the attack. This parry option is slightly different from the parry normally found in fighting games such as Makoto’s parry in BlazBlue or Street Fighter: Third Strike, in that if you parry attacks that would do chip on block, then you will take a third of the damage that you would have taken on block as opposed to taking zero. Like parries in Third Strike, you can input commands during the animation that the parry is going off. Additionally, medium attacks can be parried both high or low in succession, so long time fans will be pleased to hear they can style on their opponents again by alternating the parries. Finally, Big Band has a taunt which is built into his gameplay similar in ways to Third Strike. When Big Band performs his taunt and holds it long enough an aura will appear around him and this will basically unlock additional segments to two of his Blockbuster super attacks while adding a sizable portion of damage for no extra super meter.
There have been several aesthetic changes to a couple of stages in addition to two new ones as well. The Lab 8 stages and the Grand Cathedral stages appear much more abandoned now, leaving them completely devoid of any life to convey the severity of what happened in the story. It’s an interesting idea that’s been done before in games, but its nice to see Lab Zero trying to keep things fresh. Additionally, most of the background characters from one stage have vacated to a new stage labeled “Under the Bridge,” where they are currently squatting as they figure out their situation. Its a nice change of pace to see new stages and have something done with them story-wise, not just “Here’s a new stage. These dudes fight on it.” The other stage, Glass Canopy, is a well to-do ballroom where the fancy enjoy their time in whatever ways they see fit, and the remainder of the fan-designed NPCs find their home here (if they dress well enough that is to get in.)
Several other little fixes have been added to the game as well. We can now properly mash through the story of the game if we so choose by holding the start button. This is great news, considering that the story was slow as molasses at points. Additionally, several issues have been fixed as well. DLC protection has been removed from spectator mode, which is definitely a plus in my opinion. It’s kind of bad for a person who is on the fence about purchasing a DLC character to not even be able to view the character in lobbies and wind up having to either YouTube it or tune into streams hoping the character they like is being used. It’s definitely a good call switching DLC protection off. It’s a good patch all things considered; we got two new stages and a new character, which is a lot for a game that had a paltry nine or ten (if we count Fukua). Lab Zero covered a lot of little desync and camera issues as well as minor balance changes to the game. Hopefully this content patch will be enough to tie the community over until the next character Eliza is released several months down the road.