Full disclosure: I have never played a Fatal Fury or King of Fighters game. The only SNK game(s) I’ve played are the Metal Slugs. So, if this game is a fan service, then it misses the mark with me. That being said, as a fun to play/hard to master beat ’em up, it does a very good job as a standalone title. But unless you know your Terry Bogard’s from your Love Heart’s (yes, that is a real character), you may be out of your depth on the lore side. Oh yeah, and Terry Bogard’s been gender bent into a woman, because…reasons?
The story, as much as I can gleam from the absolute madness that it is, concerns a roster of SNK’s finest female fighters, trapped in a pocket dimension. Their jailer, the enigmatic Kukri of KoF fame (again, no idea) has them fight each to bring out their dispair and misery, with the loser being encapsulated in sand.
As far as depth in fighting games though, if Mortal Kombat X were deep enough for James Cameron to get lost in, then SNK Heroines is sat on an inflatable slice of pizza, cocktail in hand. But then, who are we kidding? You know, I know, and the store clerk know, nobody is buying this for the story. It’s a bevvy of busty beauties beating and finishing each other off. Dream Finishes, to be more exact.
Combat is relatively straightforward. You’ve got a weak and heavy attack, a grab, and a special move button. Much like Smash Bros., special moves are directionally mapped, whereas weak and heavy are simple and more often used to set up combinations. Blocking is mapped to L1, and swapping your partner is on R2. Unlike conventional fighters, health is shared between the pair, not individual. The special move bar, which depletes on use yet refills automatically, is also on the life gauge. So, the more life you lose, the more special moves you can do.
In another convention-defying twist, rounds aren’t finished when your opponents life gauge is diminished. That’ll be those Dream Finishes I mentioned earlier (see, wasn’t just being crude, I was setting this up). Akin to Super Arts from Street Fighter, or X-ray moves from Mortal Kombat 9 onwards, Dream Finishes are a special move, required to finish rounds. You can use them at any time, but when the life gauge is the red, it’ll deal a finishing blow. Admittedly, you can also let the time run down, and the winner be judged on points, but where’s the fun in that? Each character’s finish is different. Some are Hadouken-esque energy balls, some are grabs, whilst others have area of effect blasts. So it’s worth having a play around with different tag teams to see which you prefer.
Again, to throw Smash Bros. comparisons into the mix, either as an homage or lack of original ideas, fights also include items for you to assist you or damage your opponent with. Bombs, mines, pinballs, springs and walls can be deployed on your victim, whilst stamina and special move buffs can be utilised by your fighter. Collected by attacking one of the floating capsules that appear mid battle, a quick flick of the right analogue stick will see your partner throw it into the foreground for your opponent to blindly stumble into, hopefully. It’s a fun little addition, but not worth relying on when the battles start getting a bit quicker and frantic, especially in the later stages.
So, vague story and simple combat mechanics aside, what else does the game offer? Well, besides the standard slugfest extra modes like Survival, Tutorials and Training, and Online battling, there isn’t much more to it.
Well, except for the character customisation. This would be the aforementioned fan service portion of the game. Now, in order to do my homework properly, I had a look at some of the fighters in their respective game uniforms. Then, I looked at them in this game. Hoo boy.
Much like Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball, it’s almost like the crux of the game is based around the customisation and purchasing thereof of new costumes and accessories for your fighter. Ranging from the sweet and kawaii, cat and bunny ears, angel wings and a multitude of eyewear, to all sorts of swimwear and other skimpy attire. It’s not derogatory, per se. It’s all bright and colourful, and isn’t going for the realistic portrayal of the human form as a sex object, but c’mon, we all know the player is going to use their imagination to the fullest.
Is that a bad thing, though? Is it gross exploitation for repressed men to act out their fantasies, or just some harmless costume-based shenanigans in a colourful, over-the-top fighter for long time SNK fans? Y’know what, only you can answer that. It all depends on your outlook, I guess. In this day and age, it’s too easy to inadvertently offend someone by saying what is/isn’t pandering or offensive.
But, as a beat ’em up, is it any good regardless of the bumf? Whilst lacking the fast pace of Street Fighter, the juggling and combo mechanic of Tekken, or the graphic fidelity of Mortal Kombat, it’s a fun game. Lacking the ability to crouch is a weird omission, but that’s hardly a deal breaker. More of a throwback to bright brawlers like Rival Schools, Bloody Roar and Power Stone, it’s a break from serious strategic scraps and just says, “Hey, go nuts, here’s some brightness and sparkle in your face!”.
Overall then, I’d say play SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy if you’re a die hard SNK fan, or you fancy something new for your pugilist palette, or just in the market for a random weekend game to play with friends. Just don’t expect anything revolutionary. Or tell your mother what you’ve spent your money on.
SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy is out now.
Developer: Abstraction Games, SNK
Publisher: NIS America
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we received a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.