SNK Heroines ~Tag Team Frenzy~ Review
Release Date: September 7, 2018
Developer/Publisher: SNK Corporation/NIS America
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PS4
There are two main camps that I know of in the fighting game community, hardcore competitors and those there just to have fun. In the first bracket, you can also find a divide between traditional fighters and crazy brawlers, primarily like Super Smash Brothers. While some may call it a casual fighter, SNK Heroines tries to meld everything together into one experience. While it may not completely satisfy certain camps, it does provide an experience with enough new ideas to provide a fresh adventure for anyone from either fighting game camp.
To be honest, SNK Heroines does provide ease of access for beginners, in that every single one of the fourteen fighters has a weak, strong, special, and throw attack, and every special move is created by the singular Special button or a combination of a direction and the Special button. While SNK purists would say this kills any challenge to a good tournament, someone who enjoys Smash will feel right at home with the arrow + button play style and exclaim that there is skill held within knowing the right time to use those powers. There are also a variety of slapstick and beneficial items that pop up randomly across the play field. I really enjoyed how the tagged-out teammate is in charge of the item, so it can be activated even if you're caught in a juggle. Instead of being stuck and unable to get out of a seemingly neverending combo, your tag team member can drop a giant pan on your enemy's head.
There is an inherent skill to be had, though. You can do genuine weak/strong combos that chain into special moves, it just takes far less button pushes. This is where pros may have fun, as they can still nail people with chains. The special moves deplete a meter which slowly recharges. Tagged-out teammates charge faster, so it really pushes the tag-team mentality. The meter is bigger in proportion to your life bar going down, giving someone near death a better chance at a comeback.
Another unique part of the game is that a match has to end on a "Dream Finish." These extra special moves can be thrown out at any time to deal damage, but are the only way to K.O. an opponent once their life bar is down far enough. This guarantees the match ends on a flashy note. The basic fight moves are full of cute little graphics like flowers and animals to add to the silly flair of the game as a whole. The game is beautiful graphically, though it entirely takes place in a mansion. While there are a few different areas, most of the environments tend to look a little samey, especially since half the battlefield is taken up by the tag platform in the background with the two characters on the side standing on it..
The story of any fighter is usually pretty loose, and that doesn't change with SNK Heroines. Kukri from King of Fighters XIV lives out the dream of any "weaboo" who comes across fantastic cosmic powers. The whole point is to "feed on the despair" of the lovely ladies he has captured. Of course, he's trapped them in his fantastical mansion and dressed them in blatantly inappropriate attire with some goal of making them into statues and having enough energy to trap all the lovely ladies he can. I was a bit confused about the villain until I read a bit more about him on wikis (which also helped with the oddball ending video you get). Winning the game results in static screenshots centered around your two heroines. Nothing terribly special, but the game does a good job of crafting some nice back and forth between different combinations of characters. Win or lose, you also get coins to buy new costume parts that you can mix and match, then take the ladies into a photo gallery. The barebones storyline makes it out as if there's a "bigger bad" beyond Kukri, like his attempts at controlling his power and accumulating the despair energy would unleash a beast, but I hadn't seen anything during my play and Kukri's battle seems final. It just seems as if this is one of those games that you end up fighting some maniacal superbeast, like in a Marvel vs. Capcom title. I was sad to see the storyline end after Kukri.
There are plenty of customization options that can be changed on the fly, from training to story modes. You can pop between modes and choices quickly, to the point that you can even change difficulty in the middle of a round. I wasn't too fond of the placement, given that the pause menu defaults to the difficulty select. I'd jump backwards and pause, and be oblivious to the fact that I'd cycled the difficulty up to maximum, and then pound my head in frustration until I realized what I'd done. On Switch, the game options even allow you to take a deep brawler down to a single Joy-Con, with the item usage (usually tilting the R button) remapped to motion waggles. A Joy-Con isn't the most ideal way to play, but it is great to see a fighter still have that "on the road multiplayer" that Nintendo tries to push with their newest unit.
Given we are pre-release, I was unable to try any online play, but all previous SNK fighters I've played worked perfectly fine. I never saw a player to challenge, but the fanbase is only going to get bigger once release hits. There are DLC characters incoming (Thief Arthur from Japan-only Million Arthur: Arccana Blood, as well as another, shrouded character announced so far), but I haven't seen anything as to whether it is a paid download or simply a bonus character coming soon. I'll be sure to come back and edit this paragraph if I find out for sure (which I will when they release!)
SNK Heroines definitely powers on the cheesecake factor with it's blatant storyline, but the simplistic game controls and "Dream Finish" gameplay will allow anyone to pose a challenge. It delivers the SNK pedigree on a lighthearted, fun frenzy of a fighter that opens the door for new players to get into the fighting game genre.
-Easy access fighter with depth
-Brilliant new ideas like "Dream Finish" change the dynamics of fighting games
-Nice mix of casual and pro, serious and silly
-Could benefit from an "ultimate" end boss actually unique to the game
-Really don't like the positioning of the mid-game difficulty slider
-Simplistic special moves may turn off hardcore gamers
Special thanks to SNK Corporation and NIS America for providing a Nintendo Switch code for review!