Review: SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy (Nintendo Switch)
- Release Date (NA): September 7, 2018
- Release Date (EU): September 7, 2018
- Publisher: NIS America
- Developer: SNK
- Genres: Fighting
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
- Also For: PlayStation 4
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Fighting games are not my forte; if you've ever read any of my press event writeups, you'd know this. While I can often see the appeal, the reliance on swift and complex input patterns, combined with the hours of practise required to really start having fun with others; really it just isn't for me. It's a genre I can appreciate from afar, and I'm happy with that relationship. Enter SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy—SNK's latest in a long line of fighters, and their debut title for the Nintendo Switch. What particularly caught my eye in the advertising was its focus on one button combos and accessibility, so here I am as a relative newcomer to the genre to see just how accessible a title it is.
Before I can so much as talk about the gameplay, the elephant in the room should be addressed. Where I say elephant, I of course mean the scantily dressed women cherrypicked from SNK's rich history. The plot has these women placed in an occult manor and told to fight one another for their freedom. The manor itself is its own pocket dimension, and the fear of these fighters is to be used to bring it into the real world. As you progress through each fight, you get a short cutscene of those you've defeated being engulfed by sand, or simply lamenting in shadows; all this leading to the penultimate fight with the evil hooded pervert. I'll give it some credit in coming up with such a crazy idea, but I find myself disappointed to see just how little effort has gone into fleshing it out. Why are they wearing such revealing clothes? Why these women in particular? Who is the hooded pervert? Why is his manor in another dimension? Why should I care about any of this? Even where the game did something good like adding unique cutscenes depending on which two fighters you picked, it falls short; these interactions feeling so stale and lacking in chemistry. The game tries to use its design and target demographic to put across a story of cheap laughs and miscellaneous sexualisation, but that's really all it is. It's a shame honestly, I love the freedoms a game like this has to put across something wild and absurd, but SNK Heroines just ends up coming across as lazy.
It's not to say I didn't get a few laughs out of what was shown. It had a few moments that caught me off guard, but looking back, these scenes were flamboyant and over the top just for the sake of said cheap laughs. It's easy to say a game like this shouldn't be taken seriously, but that shouldn't be an excuse for such lazy writing. Where I do believe the story mode succeeds is in providing a short introduction period to the game as a whole. Featuring just a few fights strung together, it's a particularly non-intimidating way to get stuck in. That's really it though, and even saying that, it's nothing that couldn't be accomplished by playing the game's survival mode.
With my issues with the plot put to one side, I did actually find a lot of fun in the gameplay itself. SNK Heroines promised an accessible fighter and they delivered on just that. The game's tutorial mode features a step by step guide of each element in isolation, and allows you to build yourself up to a point where you're comfortable before jumping in. With no reliance on strings of inputs or complex manoeuvres, the entry level is quite pleasantly low. To me, the depth of combat stems from two main areas: attack cancelling and the Spirit Gauge. Attack cancelling is simply using another attack while one is currently in progress, interrupting the animation and allowing for swift and satisfying combinations. Special charge is where the game makes use of its tag mechanic. The Spirit Gauge is used for both special moves and dream finishers. Special moves use up a proportion of the gauge to perform powerful attacks; while you can still use special moves with a low Spirit Gauge, the attack power will be weakened. Dream Finishers are how battles are ended. Instead of simply reducing your opponent's life to zero, SNK Heroines tasks you with reducing their health to a certain point, before having to use a finisher move to actually end the battle. These moves can be dodged and blocked, allowing for fun late comebacks and counters if not used properly. Where this ties into the tag mechanic is how the Spirit Gauge charges—the character not currently in play has their gauge charge quicker. It really is that simple, and yet this alone incentivises constant swapping between your two characters and a rapid play style. It's also worth saying both characters share the same health meter, so the extent of the tag system in this game really stretches to optimal use of the Spirit Gauge and allowing for a more diverse range of available moves.
I'll admit I'm still not entirely sold on the genre itself, and this game hasn't done anything particularly revolutionary in my eyes to sway my opinion, but what it sets out to do, it does well. The core gameplay is simple enough that while I don't necessarily desire to rapidly improve my skills, I feel myself capable. It's something a person could really sink time into, or something to be pulled out with friends for some fun. While it isn't as easy to pick up as something like Super Smash Bros, it does a good job in making an intimidating genre inviting to new players.
Now the plot and fighting are out of the way, there's really only one thing left to talk about: character customisation. This is one area where, for better or for worse, the development team clearly put a lot of thought into. With each character having three costumes, each with a set of colour options, and a huge variety of accessories for their head, back, hips, and any other part of the body you could think of, these characters can be made your own. These costumes are largely the same kind of revealing attire I'm sure you came to this game for, but there's one or two that really stood out to me as just amusing. One of these sees everybody's favourite busty police officer don a pristine and primed premier moustache to match the costume's western theme.
A part of me wishes the game embraced this direction further to put across something more amusing and fun. I don't necessarily have an issue with a game like this for its overly sexual themes, but I wish it would have something more to set it apart from every other game with similarly skin-baring women. Even so, if this is your kind of thing, you can not only dress to impress, but place your fighters on a range of backdrops in a range of poses for your picture-taking pleasure.
All things considered, I don't believe SNK Heroines to be a bad game. It's certainly not a game for me, but it's one where its strong points shine through despite this. Were it more creative in its offerings, I feel it could appeal to a plenty larger audience, but if all you want is an easy to pick up and fun to play fighter with a bare-bones plot and tons of customisation, it's something I can definitely recommend.
+ Impressively accessible fighting game
+ Huge set of customisation options
+ Single system, local wireless, and online multiplayer options
- Lazy writing
- Little single player content outside of lacklustre story
Looking past the obvious presentation of perversion and loosely-dressed women, the game looks fine. There's nothing really standoutish but there's also little that looks particularly off or bad.
SNK Heroines genuinely impressed me in putting forward a traditional fighting game in such an accessible and easy to pick up way. The game feels great to play, with the characters being responsive and diverse in their moves.
Thanks to the lackluster plot, the game is largely forgettable to me. If you can see yourself really getting into the competitive and online aspects of the game, this number could be largely insignificant to you. Its lasting appeal will come entirely from your personal experience and what you really want from the game.
out of 10
(not an average)
Despite its shortcomings, I did enjoy my time with SNK Heroines. Its weak plot and lacklustre single player options did leave me wanting more, but the fun and ease of playing with friends really stood out to me. If you have a group to play with or find yourself eager to play against the masses online, it's definitely a game I can recommend. An appreciation for the partially dressed also helps.