Have you ever wanted to bring together your favorite female characters from SNK titles, such as Samurai Showdown and King of Fighters, put them in silly costumes and make them fight for the number one waifu spot in your heart? Well that’s exactly what SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy is.
When SNK Heroines was first unveiled, I was expecting King of Fighters with a dash of fan service. However, what we got instead was almost all of the latter. It’s a silly, over-the-top brawler that’s both easy to get into and master. The game features simple controls, a shared-health tag team system, and lots of customization.
Low Floor, Low Ceiling
Fighting games come in all shapes and sizes with varying degrees of difficulty. Some of the best titles have a low skill floor, which allows new players to ease into the game, but allow the top players to take their abilities to the next level. The higher the skill ceiling, the better chance that a game will have a competitive scene.
SNK Heroines, on the other hand, decided to focus on the ultra-casual crowd with simple controls that are relatively easy to master. Most other fighting games have light, medium, and heavy attacks with all types of special abilities, grabs, and combos mixed in. For the most part, SNK Heroines cuts out the complexity by only having a heavy and light attack, a button for grabs, and a single button (with directional input) that controls all of your special abilities; there are no half-circle or charge attacks in this game. Additionally, each character has access to two Dream Finish abilities, similar to a Super Move, which can be used by pressing R1 or Down R1.
Not only has the button command complexity been reduced, but a couple of other core fighter components have also been nerfed. Something that any veteran to the genre will immediately notice is that there’s no duck function; this also means there are no down attacks either. Thankfully, there are still air attacks, dashes, grabs, dodges, and bounces, so the vertical complexity isn’t completely removed.
The other odd choice is the blocking mechanic. Instead of using the traditional hold back to block, SNK Heroines went with the Super Smash Bros. route and has a dedicated button for blocking. Furthermore, players can dodge roll while blocking, and taking too many hits causes a stunned status. The blocking mechanic isn’t the only idea borrowed from SSB, as the game also features items that can create traps, cause damage, or heal your character. These items are obtained by breaking yellow orbs that appear on the battlefield, which creates a random element to the game.
An Awkward Finish
Trying to complete a match of SNK Heroines can be a very frustrating affair. Generally, fighting games end a match once a player’s health bar disappears. In SNK Heroines, however, players can only win by using a Dream Finish on an opponent when their life bar is low enough to flash red. I understand how frustrating it can be to lose a match through chip damage, or a simple jab, but this takes that problem to the other end of a spectrum.
Having to land the equivalent of a super move to end the match is especially frustrating because normal special moves drain your Spirit Gauge. Without enough spirit gauge, your attacks become weaker and you can’t use a Dream Finish. Combine this with how easy it is to block, or dodge, and matches that should otherwise be one-sided can take a long time to finish.
The first time I really noticed how annoying this could be was during the final boss in the story mode. I could easily bring his health low enough to end the match, but most of the time he would block or dodge my Dream Finish and then unleash a long enough counter attack to finish me off in one combo. A strategy to deal with this is to bring an opponent low with one character and then tag in your supporting character to finish the job (both of your characters share a health bar but have separate spirit gauges).
Speaking of the story mode, don’t expect anything fantastic here. A decent player can probably clear the story mode in 15 to 30 minutes and it mostly consists of a very eccentric villain perving on the girls. There’s not really a lot of replay value here, unless you want to unlock artwork and videos, and the only other game moves are Versus, Training, Survival, and Online.
While the fighting aspect of SNK Heroines leave a bit to be desired, there is a good amount of value in the unlockable sections. Currently, the 14 characters come immediately unlocked and there is nothing gated behind DLC. Each of the characters has three outfits, two of which need to be unlocked, and four color variants.
In addition to purchasing full outfits, characters can be customized with all sorts of accessories and different voices. There’s even a portrait mode where players can adjust the background, framing, pose, and expressions of the characters to create customized avatars for their gamer accounts. Thankfully, everything can be purchased with gold and/or unlocked simply by playing the game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to collect everything the game has to offer, and without new content there isn’t much to keep players occupied.
One of the biggest faults of SNK Heroines is its lack of depth. The simple combat system could be forgiven if there was a plethora of content in the game, but that’s simply not the case. The story mode is incredibly shallow, and once you’ve played through that with all the characters there is a limited amount of things to do.
SNK Heroines manages to be different from most other fighters but it’s not necessarily breaking the mold. Instead of building new and unique gameplay systems, Heroines simply borrows from other franchises and waters them down. The biggest source of innovation, which is the customization and screen capture elements, has little to do with actual gameplay.
Learning Curve: 8/10
The controls and general gameplay mechanics are incredibly easy to pick up, even for newcomers to the fighting genre. There is also enough complexity to satisfy mid-tier players, but the ceiling is low enough that I doubt we’ll be seeing much of a competitive community.
I find it strange that a game entirely based around fan service didn’t attempt to ramp up the visuals. The character models seem to have been pulled from, or based off of, King of Fighter 14, which was never considered visually impressive, and the stages are rather bland. Furthermore, attacks result in an explosion of confetti and teddy bears, which kind of diminishes the feeling of impact. Compared with games like Dead or Alive 5 Last Round, Heroines just falls short in the visuals department.
For the most part, the audio and music track is good, but there is a weird bug on the PlayStation 4 where the in-match sound effects only come through the controller. This might have been intended to be a feature but the quality is quite poor.
Just shy of full retail price, I can’t say that SNK Heroines feels like a good deal. There simply isn’t that much content and what’s presented is mediocre at best.
While playing through SNK Heroines I had a difficult time figuring out its true target audience. The combat system isn’t complex, or interesting, enough to attract hardcore fighter fans while the steep price and lackluster visuals make it difficult to recommend for fan service alone. Unfortunately, it seems like SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy falls into an awkward middle zone and doesn’t excel where it needs to.
Easy to learn
Lots of custom outfits
Low skill cap
Relatively high price for the amount of content