SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: September 7th 2018
Price as of Article: $49.99 USD £39.99 GBP
Game code provided by NIS America for review
When it comes to fighting games, very few companies can boast the same legendary status that SNK has. In the 90’s we had Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, but SNK pumped out so many classic fighters for their MVS machines in arcades that were the Rolls Royce of video game enthusiasts. With fighting classics such as Fatal Fury, the King of Fighters and The Last Blade, SNK has an almost untouchable legacy. After the arcade scene began to die in the early 2000’s the company had to take a back seat after filing for bankruptcy, it’s taken a while, but the famous arcade company is mounting a resurgence of their brand, what with the 40th Anniversary Collection and the Neo Geo Mini all releasing so close together, as well as making a brand new game, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy.
SNK Heroines does provide a little bit of a story for the reasoning of the crossover and, just like all the crossover fighters I’ve reviewed recently, it’s top of the line nonsense but that’s to be expected. Your collection of heroines are just that, they are being collected by a perverted shadowy entity, who wants all the girls for himself in his fantasy pocket dimension. By battling away against the other fighters and finally taking down Kukri himself, they can allow their freedom.
I’ve recently reviewed Blazblue Cross Tag Battle which storylines went on for an eternity, then Blade Strangers which was much more truncated, and now we have SNK Heroines which is even more streamlined and I for one can appreciate it.
It harkens back to SNK fighters of old, where due to the arcade nature, they wanted you in and out of the game as soon as possible, so cutscenes are mostly kept to one line of utterance from one of your fighters between rounds. There are slightly more lengthier cutscenes every couple of rounds, but since these are the same every single time through, you’ll probably be skipping those after the first time through.
The one commendable thing about the story for me, is that each pair match up will have their own unique little dialogue at the beginning of the story, and then less significantly at the final showdown. So with all the possible combinations between characters, that’s a nice amount of effort from the developers no matter how small the interaction may be.
What SNK Heroines does do right for me, is that there is a nice little reward for completing the story with each character. During the end credits a nice little animation will play, showing the character you completed it with. It’s a little bit nonsensical, as you’re not sure if this is before or after the events or not even related at all, and only fans of the characters will probably get the references, but it’s nice to have a little something to watch for completing the game.
I know I keep referencing Blazblue and Blade Strangers a lot these days and will continue to do so in this review, but that’s because I feel they share a lot of similarities with each other in regards to simplification of the combat. SNK Heroines proudly boasts minimum input special moves just like the previously mentioned games, and considering they’re all coming out at around the same time it’s very relevant I feel.
SNK Heroines is a tag fighter as you can imagine from the title. You choose two of the female fighters to square up against two more fighters. Although it’s set up as a 2 v 2 fighter, it very much feels like a 1 v 1 still, thanks to the fact that both of your fighters share the same health bar and if one is knocked out then you lose the match.
You only have a few attacks; two normal attacks, plus a grab button, as well as a dedicated special attack button. Different moves can be performed by holding a certain direction and then pressing a button, kind of like Smash Bros and the more recent Blade Strangers. There is a lack of moves though, as not every direction is home to a unique attack, which is a shame.
What makes SNK Heroines unique and stand out from the rest is the Spirit Gauge and Dream Move. Pulling off your special moves may be pretty easy, but you can’t always do them to full effect as their ability is dictated by your Spirit Gauge, which depletes as you use them and increases as you take a rest. Also of interest is that the more damage you take, the larger the your Spirit Gauge becomes. It’s an interesting balancing attempt, although I’m not sure how much you will feel it in combat.
The major gimmick in SNK Heroines is the Dream Finish. This is where the only way you can K.O your opponent, is by performing a finishing move on them when their health bar is in the red zone. The Dream Finish is set to the right shoulder button, and can only be performed when your Spirit Gauge is over a certain amount, so winning the fight isn’t quite so simple. Only when these requirements are met can you take down your opponent. Even then it’s not guaranteed, as Dream Finishes can be avoided and guarded. This is where the game has a very tense nature to it, as you and your opponent race to get their Dream Finish out first.
While it’s very playable it does end up feeling a little more stilted than other fighting games. It’s not quite as fluid as other fighters I’ve played recently. Going between moves as well as guarding just doesn’t quite flow right in my opinion, the lack of a duck was also a bit difficult for my reflexes to overcome. It’s fine though and I wouldn’t say it’s bad, but it lacks what you may be used to from modern fighters. It does feel like it’s a bit older than it actually is.
One thing that I actually didn’t like about the fighting is the use of items. They’ve gone a bit Smash Bros, in the fact that items are regularly dropped and can be picked up by hitting them. Your partner currently in the background, will then throw them to be used whenever you tilt the right analogue stick. These items can range from health potions to bombs and even banana peels, in order to add chaos to the match. Now while in Super Smash Bros I’m all about the items, and if you don’t like playing with items in Smash then you’re just too boring for me, but in SNK Heroines they just put too much randomness into each round. You don’t feel you’ve earned the items and since you’re not actually using them yourself, they are there to just get in the way rather than have fun. Now, you can turn these off in the options menu if you feel the same as I, so I’ll give the game credit for that.
Now, let me talk about the final boss. I don’t think it’s a spoiler considering it only takes about 20 minutes to get to him each playthrough. Well, what an absolute cheese monkey this guy is. The blatant cheating that goes on is hilarious, truly looking back to the arcade days where the computer could read your every input, and instantly and impossibly react. Whether it be perfectly blocking three finishing moves in a row, getting a health regeneration a millisecond before you pull the trigger on your final move, or I especially love it when as soon as he goes into the danger zone and you’re ready to pull off your final move, he turns superhuman and mega combos you down to your danger zone, and conveniently puts you into a stun before then finishing you off himself. It’s genuinely funny. Now, he’s not impossible by any means. I completed the game with every single character, and sometimes I even beat him on my first try, but just play against him and you will be in disbelief. And for the record there are difficulty levels but I played on the default one.
I know most of this is complaints, but that’s because it does have plenty of flaws and mechanically just isn’t as good as its peers. Saying that, despite the average fighting mechanics I did find myself enjoying playing it. Yes it wasn’t as smooth as Blade Strangers and lacks the moves, but I had just as much fun playing it. It’s a tense game, and playing against friends makes it even better. I had fun fighting, maybe even more fun than Blazblue, even though I will admit that is a much better fighting game. It’s weird right, how you can like something more than other things, even though you know it’s not as good.
While the fighting may be fairly average, I like the effort gone into the surrounding elements of the game, like the little unlocks you get from completing the game, the costumes and accessories, the movie clips and so on. These are things that should always be in fighting games these days but are often neglected, so I can appreciate that.
As you fight and win you’ll earn coins, which you can then use to unlock things for your characters, which upon earning your first 1,000 coins you should immediately head into the customization menu and buy Mai’s next costume, which is similar to her standard look. God knows why but they put Mai, one of the most iconic fighting game females of all time, into a cow costume. Like a cow, really? And some of the other fighters do have ridiculous costumes too, which I was happy to change. I’m fine and dandy with bikinis and skimpy stuff, but some things are just downright weird and unappealing here, some designs just aren’t great, so it’s nice to be able to revert to more iconic outfits.
The audio is fairly fine, but in all honesty I barely noticed when playing the game. I found it very subdued in the mix, and I can not remember a single piece of music from the game. Now, that doesn’t necessarily make it bad, in fact I went into the media menu and sampled the music in the game and it’s fine, it’s just so lost within everything else.
The voice acting is only in Japanese which you could have probably expected. It’s alright, I don’t mind it. I know plenty of you can’t bear the high pitched overacting but it’s not that bad. The problem is that most of the characters sound the same, and so because often characters’ mouths don’t move it can be difficult to know who’s actually speaking.
Visually the game is okay, you can see it’s working on a budget though. The animated cutscenes are great and the arenas are fine enough, pretty much on par with the other competition on the Switch. I think my main problem is with the character models. Sometimes they can look okay, but for the most part I can’t help but shake the feeling that they look far too plastic-y, lacking detail and pretty much coming across like Barbie models. It’s not great and doesn’t compare nearly as well to the hand drawn characters that we often see these days.
While the game runs smoothly it is 30 frames per second. I honestly didn’t know it was 30, I actually thought it was 60 until I went into my editing software to check, so it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game at all. It’s probably disappointing for some of you, but for me it was fine.
For value SNK Heroines comes in with a $49.99 and £39.99, which is on the high end even for the lower budget fighting games. It’s more than Blade Strangers, and also more than Blazblue’s price in the UK. So is it worth the higher price? Well, no it’s not. Production values and gameplay don’t match the higher price in my opinion, even if I would say that I kind of enjoyed it more, if that makes sense? I would say definitely wait for a reasonable sale for this one, or go for the physical version which should be cheaper already.
Still fun despite flaws