I can almost see the boardroom meeting that led to this game; a sunny day in SNK headquarters, with a full array of management fresh off the relative success of The King of Fighters XIV. Then, one of them chokes on their lemonade thinking of their legacy characters wearing the most fan service outfits possible, a couple of years later, and here we are: SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy.
The story is notably hilarious; especially as, with all crossover titles of any magnitude, often the reasoning given for bringing together these disparate characters is paper thin. SNK Heroines does not break this tradition at all. The basic gist is that the characters of your selection wake up locked in some strange creepy mansion and are instructed to fight each other by an even creepier male voice (spoilers: it’s Kukri for some reason).
SNK Heroines plays … erm … unusually, in the best word I can use to describe it. All of the usual elements from the anime fighting genre are here, including air dashes and other such advanced manoeuvres, but the overall impression I get from the game is one of emptiness from a gameplay perspective.
It’s popular at the moment for fighting games to have auto-combos at the moment in the interest of accessibility, but they often have depth elsewhere in the game’s mechanics to balance out this fact. SNK Heroines does not really have this bonus. Even the addition of a support character, which can be switched to with a single button press, cannot add enough to the moment-to-moment gameplay to stop this game feeling rather brainless.
There’s also an item mechanic, which just feels overly gimmicky instead of actually adding anything tangible to the gameplay. You can get items to use on your opponent by collecting the little spheres around the stage, with each giving you an item to use including (but not limited to) springs that will launch either player, or bombs that can be thrown into to detonate the characters in play.
Less inspiring than this is the one main truly unique feature of this game, which is an exercise in frustration. The way the fights in this work is that there is a shared life bar between both of your chosen fighters, but any round must end with a Dream Finish. That’s right, each round must end with a super attack. This means that, if you reach the end of a round with an insufficient amount in your Spirit Gauge, your opponent will survive, even with zero HP.
The only small advantage in this is that, if your opponent does reach zero, they become temporarily stunned allowing for the Dream Finish to land easier, if you have the resources to do so of course. This doesn’t really salvage what feels like a poorly realised concept, however, and instead (as I mentioned earlier) just feels frustrating and hackneyed.
One thing that this game does have, arguably, is an oddly copious amount of content. Everything you do in the game, from Versus matches, to the Tutorials, to the Story Mode, all earn you an in-game currency that can be spent in the Customize menu. Every character has three costumes of varying levels of fanservice that can be purchased in this menu, then they can be customised even further with Accessories.
Now, these are possibly the most ludicrous addition, allowing the player to change the appearance of the fighters beyond the standard costume change. These include animal ears and tails, wings, masks, and bracelets, and are great for taking your own distinct adorable monstrosity online against others, if for absolutely no other reason. This, I have to admit, is possibly the only great addition to the game, giving the player an almost unnecessary amount of customisation options for their favourite waifu(s).
In its general aesthetic, SNK Heroines is somewhat off to me. The visuals are very heavily borrowed from the models and such of The King of Fighters XIV, with even identical animations for a lot of characters, and yet it oddly doesn’t look as good as that game does. Add to this an excessive amount of ‘cute’ attack particle effects like stars, hearts, and arcade cabinets, the whole package ends up looking like an incomprehensible, rushed mess.
Furthermore, it can’t be ignored that the art style decisions for the characters are just embarrassing. In fact, apart from Leona, pretty much every character in the game even looks upset about being in this title (see above). Couple all of these odd design decisions with a forgettable soundtrack too, and the whole project is just aesthetically underwhelming.
SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, ultimately, is a disappointment. Shallow gameplay, excessive fan service and quirks that ultimately detriment the overall package. I genuinely wanted to enjoy this title, but with the releases of some incredible accessible fighting games this year like BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and Blade Strangers, this braindead experience just cannot compare, and no amount of cat ears are going to change that.
Did you pick up SNK Heroines? If so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter, and keep an eye here for more coverage of more anime fighters and other Japanese games. SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy is out now on Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4.
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