The Queen of Fighters
SNK is a Japanese company best known for the Neo Geo gaming system and a flood of fighting games. Its latest creation, SNK Heroines ~Tag Team Frenzy~, answers the question: what if you gathered only the developer’s female characters, put them in silly fanservice outfits, and forced them to fight against their will? Okay, that sounds creepy, but this game doesn’t shy away from doing what it takes to achieve its appeal.
Check out the leading ladies in action in my Video Review!
SNK Heroines is a spinoff of The King of Fighters series, which itself is a crossover game of SNK’s franchises. With only 14 playable female fighters, not including DLC, the roster is slim. It’s a quality cast, though, featuring notable classics like Fatal Fury’s Mai Shiranui and Psycho Soldier’s Athena as well as fresh faces from The King of Fighters XIV. There’s also a gender-swapped version of Fatal Fury’s Terry Bogard, which is as unsettlingly captivating as it sounds.
The girls find themselves trapped in a mansion and dressed in revealing costumes, all the handiwork of one creepy mastermind who is trying to leech off their fear and despair. As light and ridiculous as the plot is, you see enough of this crazy fourth-wall-breaking voyeur that you’ll wish your own fist could go through the screen and knock his lights out. The story mode is essentially a brief arcade-like affair with short cutscenes that alter slightly depending on the girls and their costumes.
Matches are two-on-two fights with simple controls. Weak hits, strong attacks, and throws are each mapped to different buttons, but what makes the girls distinct are their special moves. Unlike most fighters, you don’t have to memorize a plethora of lengthy button inputs. Instead, you initiate special combos by pressing a button, along with a specific direction on the control pad, similarly to Super Smash Bros. The combos are well-suited for controller play, and you don’t need an arcade stick to fight effectively. Despite the simplicity, fights can get intense in the hands of hardcore players, with potential for multi-hit strikes, cancelling, and juggling. My biggest gripe is that the movesets are fairly limited, and most characters have only four special attacks. It’s a decidedly more casual experience, solidified by the random items that can hurt your opponents or buff you up. Although I didn’t mind gaining an edge with surprise blasts, I appreciated that I could turn items off.
The tag team element provides some diversity. You choose two characters going into the match, and you can switch between them at any time. I enjoyed utilizing different team match-ups, although there aren’t any exclusive benefits in using any one character combination. Interestingly, the two characters share a life bar, which means no tagging out to conserve your health. However, each fighter has her own Spirit Gauge, which is used to activate the aforementioned special attacks.
The Spirit Gauge replenishes over time, but what most fascinated me was that the lower my health was, the higher my maximum spirit became. The power boost can be game-changing. Aside from performing strong specials, you need enough spirit to use your Dream Finishes. These final attacks are akin to finishing moves and fatalities in other games. Depleting a fighter’s health will only stun them. The only way to win is to pull off a successful Dream Finish, which can be blocked. As a result, battles are more heated, less predictable, and genuinely exciting when two players are down to the wire, with one carefully timed move determining victory. On the flip side, allowing matches to depend on a single move feels a little cheap, and I would have liked an option to play with a more traditional system.
The game runs smoothly offline, and I didn’t experience any slowdown or lag, whether on the TV or Switch tablet. The mansion-based stage backdrops look nice, albeit generic. The music ranges from regal overtures to bouncy pop, as if a Japanese idol group were performing it. Speaking of which, there are also some annoyingly catchy J-Pop songs.
The 3D character models look fine in battle, though they really shine in customization mode. Indeed, SNK Heroines knows who it’s marketing to, as this is one of its most in-depth sections. You can dress up your fighters in customizable costumes, three for each character, and an extensive amount of accessories. You can then use your glammed up girls in battle or pose them in photoshoots. In-game coins earned through battles are necessary to purchase the numerous items and photoshoot options, and it will take many hours just to grind enough currency to obtain everything.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many fighting modes besides story—only versus and survival mode. Survival is a fair challenge, in either single-player or two-player co-op, asking you to fight until you drop. It’s not groundbreaking, but it really tests your limits as the battles get harder. Versus is more satisfying, specifically in multiplayer with up to four people in teams. Even with just two players, it’s fun to go head-to-head or partner up against the computer, which you can do either with one system or multiple Switches. SNK Heroines’ greatest strength is its utility as both a fighter and a lighthearted party game.
The frenzy truly shines in online rooms, where you can hang out and match up with up to eight players. There are also decent options for matchmaking with friends or randoms in quick matches. You can even bet coins on your victory. My experience so far with online multiplier has been laggy, dipping in frame rate and occasionally freezing for more than a second. Hopefully, the developers work out this issue as a healthy online multiplayer is what will greatly increase longevity for players who fall in love with the femme fatales.
SNK Heroines ~Tag Team Frenzy~ doesn’t hide the fact that it’s an obvious appeal to fans of female fighters underdressed for battle. However, under the surface, there are enjoyable Dream Finish mechanics and a tag team system that offers engaging combat. And with simple button combos, it’s an accessible fighter that’s easy to learn and fun to master. Gameplay isn’t as shallow as it seems, but the package is. Its small roster and limited modes, combined with a fairly high asking price, make it a hard sell, except to those willing to go all in with multiplayer. But for fans craving more from SNK’s universe, or anyone seeking a casual fighter with glamorous character customization, SNK Heroines can fulfill those desires.
Note: A review copy was used for this article.
What do you think of SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy? Do you have any favorite SNK games or characters? What are your favorite fighting games? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and watching!