SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy
The female cast of SNK’s many franchises have been featured in fighters before – but haven’t had their own outing since Gals’ Fighter on the Neo-Geo Pocket Color. Mai Shiranui has been one of the most popular characters in the company’s history, but SNK Heroines takes the focus away from simply using her and expands it to a wide selection of SNK’s female characters throughout its 30 year history. SNK Heroines is destined to be a highly-divisive game based on not only its fanservice, but also its incredibly-accessible gameplay that is designed with newcomers in mind, and limited roster.
As Blade Strangers recently showed, a roster that is few in number, but high on variety, can wind up working fairly well. That isn’t quite as much of the case here, but still holds fairly true. You wind up with 15 playable characters, including a gender-swapped version of Terry Bogard that makes this an even easier game to learn for SNK veterans as that is one of the most popular characters in the company’s history with a very easy to learn set of special moves. Mai remains a solid mix of short-range attacks alongside lower-powered projectiles, while Mui Mui and Athena are longer-range strikers. The roster is a bit lean, and aside from projectile and attack animations, many characters wind up feeling far too similar.
The core gameplay is a team-based fighter with a primary character and a backup character that you can tag in whenever you want using R2. The big difference between this and SNK’s usual fighters is that it isn’t just about winning two rounds and winning with any attack necessary. You have light attacks, medium attacks, special attacks, and finishers. Finishers use R1 and are the only attacks that can finish a fight. Knocking an opponent’s health down to nothing won’t end the fight – instead you have to finish them with a filled-up meter, and if you don’t have one, you have to grind a few attacks or swap characters and try a finisher there and hope that speeds things up.
At its core, this is a casual-friendly game that sacrifices a lot of depth in many areas for an accessible experience. The limited depth in the core gameplay means that there’s only so much to learn about how to play each character – and that issue is made worse by so few of the characters truly feeling different. In some cases, movesets are far too similar and picking a different character just comes down to feeling like watching a particular character go at it – like Mui Mui just to watch her kick ass in a giant dress. It’s an absurd visual, but one that provides a bit of comedy amid the insane plot and fanservice.
SNK Heroines has a story mode, and as it should be, it’s completely ridiculous. The SNK female roster has been effectively kidnapped and brought to a giant mansion in skimpy garb where they must fight for their freedom. Of course, it can’t be just any mansion – it’s an occult mansion! He’s opened up a pocket dimension and is forcing them to fight in skimpy outfits for his own amusement – adding an odd sense of perversion that just feels out of place for an SNK fighter. There’s a big difference between light-hearted fanservice and creepy fetish stuff in a game, and this tows that line a bit too much for what appears to be a very light-hearted game with its marketing presentation.
Beyond that, SNK Heroines is greatly-hurt by its lack of depth and content in nearly every major area. The core combat is very lean in terms of what you can do, and leads to most battles feeling very samey. This issue may have fallen under the radar too, except after playing Blade Strangers – which has a similarly small cast, it’s clear that one game focused on creating as in-depth an experience as possible while the other effectively created video gaming cotton candy. There’s something to like with what you see, but there’s so little substance that you can’t help but feel disappointed. You can feel like you’re having a great fight and then it just ends due to a finisher – killing the flow of things abruptly. Even trying to have an exciting battle is tough due to how similar so many characters are.
Visually, SNK Heroines uses the same kind of art style that we saw in King of Fighters XIV. The character models look pretty good and everyone stands out visually. While this is a fanservice-heavy game, not every character winds up with a cleavage window and the models are highly-detailed. The characters and their move animations are solid too – without anything being mind-blowing. Attacks look reasonably-smooth and don’t seem jittery – but the overabundance of gimmicky icons added to attacks as a bit of a distraction make it harder to precisely aim attacks in advance.
Musically, SNK Heroines features a perfectly fine soundtrack with a heavy dose of soft rock. None of the songs stick with you for very long, but it’s fine for the bouts themselves and keeps your blood pumping enough. The game uses Japanese voice acting alongside subtitles, and it’s probably the best way to get a game like this out because English voice acting could easily go awry for a concept like this. As it is, the Japanese acting keeps a fair amount of creepiness for the main villain and annoyance for the playable characters.
SNK Heroines is a tale of two cities. It being an SNK game means that it has a built-in expectation of being good and worthwhile. For what the game is trying to do, it is reasonably good – it just lacks content. As a result, it is technically okay, but falls short in major ways. The combat doesn’t feel satisfying, and there’s no thrill of victory since everything has to end in the same kind of attack every single time. The game looks good-ish at times, but also has some parts that look slapped together and not quite fully-formed just yet. The whole game feels like a bad rough draft that is being showcased as a final product – and it’s a shame. The concept of an all-female SNK fighter has potential – but Gals Fighter remains the best overall to enjoy that core concept.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: NIS America
This review is based on a digital copy of SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy for the PlayStation 4 provided by NIS America.