When I first heard of SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, I thought that perhaps SNK were making a fighting game geared more towards a female audience. Later on, when they announced Terry Bogard had been gender-swapped. I wasn’t under the impression that SNK was making any sort of statement about Terry’s gender identity, but that SNK were confident enough in taking one of their main male characters from the Fatal Fury series and turning them female just for the game. Unfortunately, upon booting it up and exploring its story mode, I found that the game was nothing more than a chance to showcase a select number of female characters in various skimpy outfits, with a shallow but accessible fighting system in tow.
Don’t get me wrong, fan service in video games doesn’t bother me in the least, but if a game is going to have that kind of content, I would rather it be more in my face so to speak. While characters like Mai Shiranui wear a very skimpy cow suit that leaves little to the imagination, other characters wear much less revealing clothing which flies in the face of the game’s own narrative.
A number of women wake up in a mysterious mansion owned by Kukri, of King of Fighters XIV fame. He explains to the ladies that they have woken up in a pocket dimension of his own creation, that he has created the women in his image, and that he can draw the power of fear from his prisoners to bleed his pocket dimension into the real world, realizing his perverted dreams. Where this falters is the fact that Kukri takes pride in his perverted ways, and that he only accepts women who are at least a “nine” or above. While this seems to work for characters like Mai Shiranui and Nakoruru, other characters like Shermie and Yuri Sakazaki wear similar clothes to what they wore in their respective games. It just feels to inconsistent in terms of whether or not it is a game that depends on fan service or not.
What the game does have is a small representation from a range of SNK games including King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. Most of the 14 characters included come from King of Fighters, which is a shame, as there seems to be a lot of female characters from the other series that didn’t make the cut. There is always the opportunity for DLC in the future though, and Thief Arthur from Square Enix’s Million Arthur series is already confirmed, so fingers crossed for more.
The women that have made the cut are represented in-game with uninspired 3D models. The pacing and action is very fast-paced so it’s not as noticeable when playing the game; however the downside comes when each character is represented by very nicely drawn 2D images, only for them to turn into a lacklustre 3D character model. Quite frankly, these models barely resemble their 2D representations in the character selection screen.
The fighting mechanics are very simple. There are heavy and light attacks, and a throw which can be used bidirectionally. As expected, there are also special attacks, which consist of the same set of button combos, regardless of which character you’re playing as. While they are all tied to the same button presses, each special attack is different for each character. You also have access to a finishing move with a quick tap of the “R button”, which will knock out an opponent if their health is in the red. More advanced techniques include evading and move-cancelling, which are all explained very well in the included tutorial mode.
SNK Heroines doesn’t have the subtitle Tag Team Frenzy for no reason. Each battle is a 2-on-2 affair, with one character attacking while the other offers support. While the attacker is fighting the battle, the support character can replenish their special meter so they can perform their finishing move when they tag in. The attacker can also collect items mid-battle, which can be used by the supporting character to either help the attacker or hinder the opponent. Items include poison, bombs, bed-pans and banana peels, which are specifically designed to get in the other fighter’s way and make things tough for them. Items are used by flicking the right control stick, and you can influence which direction the item spawns from by flicking the control stick in different ways. Granted, it’s a unique take on the tag-team fighting system, but it ultimately feels pretty gimmicky.
I’d like to inform you all about how well the online mode plays, but as of writing this review, I was only able to find one opponent, and their connection dropped out on me in the character select screen. I tried finding matches multiple times and at different times of the day without success, so I have my fingers firmly crossed for a boost of available players post-release.
SNK Heroines is an accessible fighting game that’s easy to pick up but much harder to put down. Unfortunately, the cast of characters is not very extensive, a disappointment considering the number of female fighters that missed the cut. The 3D character models don’t do the hand drawn art justice whatsoever, and the game seems confused as to whether it is providing fans ervice or not. There are worse fighters out there, but SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy isn’t something I can easily recommend to anyone but the most die-hard SNK fighting fans.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided by NIS America.