REVIEW: SNK Heroines ~Tag Team Frenzy~ (Switch)

More than just for show.

It doesn’t take a cute face and a couple of eye-drifting distractions to get the crap kicked out of you, but it certainly might make things easier for your opponent. SNK HEROINES ~Tag Team Frenzy~ takes a more streamlined approach with fighting mechanics making it very pick-up & play friendly by not having to memorize different inputs across the 14 readily available characters (with DLC on the way) and still offers veterans of the genre a compelling time when pitted against another of similar skill. With a strong female cast coming from SNK’s long-spanning history — some who debuted in the King of Fighters series — from pachinko slot machines to retro arcade classics, the developers took great care in providing fan-service even in the most general, basic sense. The dazzling style and tone might not be for everyone, but with plenty to unlock and customize while having fun & unique gameplay to back it up definitely makes this a worthy addition to the SNK family of fighters.

A fresh change of pace.

Just as one person might not believe another who says they read an erotica magazine for its articles, the same principle applies to SNK Heroines and in-fact, its content scratches more than one itch. Underneath the see-through tops and skinny bikini-bottoms reveals a traditional fighting engine that is smooth and responsive. SNK Heroines applies a unique twist to SNK Playmore’s own formula where it controls similarly to any other fighter on the market, but plays a bit with the rules allowing matches to flow either a little longer in some cases or have scenarios where the tides are turned due to players pulling through in a fair fashion. A full match consists of just one round only. Players don’t lose the match once they have their health meter fully depleted and how SNK Heroines handles completing a match can make for some tense moments.

To lay down some basics, here are the bare essential actions of pretty much everything you can achieve in a fight: Light Attack, Strong Attack, Sprint Forward, Shield, Back Step, Throw, Throw Breaks, Dodge Roll Forwards or Backwards, Air Dash, Air Dodge, Air Throw, Tag, Special Moves, Finishing Moves, and even use various items if the feature is enabled. Players may also find it odd that there is no crouching in the game thus leading to no crouching moves. While this may feel like a step back in certain regards, it also provides a larger focus on other mechanics given to the players. In some ways, there’s a hint of Super Smash Bros. in here, but this is still a traditional fighter to the core.

Sho-Yuri-Ken

With “Tag Team Frenzy” in the title, there are no exceptions to this rule. Matches will always be 2 vs 2, although it’s still entirely possible to never swap between characters during them. A team of two have slightly different attributes, however. A player’s 1st pick is the Attacker in the front fighting while their 2nd pick is the Supporter reserved in the background and swapping them in & out can be done as frequently as the player likes. What ultimately encourages doing so are the two gauges each character has: Life Gauge (green) and Spirit Gauge (pink). The relationship of the two gauges are almost playing a game their own being tug-of-war. Players can do standard attacks and be efficient while doing so, but performing special moves (one button + direction) requires Spirit. They can be performed with an empty spirit gauge, but the effect is extremely weak and leaves the player vulnerable. The spirit gauge refills on its own slowly over time, but creates the good reason of tagging in your partner since they have own spirit gauge as well. The Supporter’s spirit gauge refills much faster than the Attacker, so tagging both fighters in & out frequently is a fun jiggle juggle.

SNK Heroines finds a balance in this department. As your life gauge gets shorter, your spirit gauge increases. So the lower you are on health, the more special moves you are able to perform. SNK Heroines’ own take is getting your opponent’s life down until it turns red and using a Dream Finish to end the match. Dream Finish maneuvers can only be done if players have enough spirit to burn. A player’s life gauge that is red is pure danger zone, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the game yet. An opponent who can’t perform a Dream Finish means it’s possible for a comeback. Being low on health just means more spirit to win this thing. However, that doesn’t mean the player who already had the advantage should be penalized. In-fact, the life gauge can be completely depleted which leaves the player in a stunned state for a brief moment. While this is a perfect opening for a well-deserved Dream Finish to take place, it also keeps the losing player in the game if a Dream Finish doesn’t occur. Both players can also be in the red leaving them to be more careful of their next move, especially when the sound of the deep monastery bell starts ringing when players are in the danger zone making it more intense.

What makes the battles so flashy and fun is the combination of mechanics. SNK Heroines, despite being streamlined, is still technical with much to be mastered for those seeking. For instance, performing combos in succession is just a matter of repeated attack inputs, but how you use them to your advantage and setting up combos goes beyond just pressing the same button repeatedly. Attacks can be canceled and led into another move. Players can knock their opponents against the wall and follow up with more combos. In-fact, setting the CPU difficulty on high will demonstrate just how brutal they can be and perform a chain of unstoppable combos using various techniques. For the one who wishes to learn the knitty-gritty, it will be fun in the coming months learning all that there is to know. Light attacks can be led into a strong attack allowing for a wall hit, but light attacks could also follow up with a set of special moves and at the cost of spirit, tag in your partner in the middle of a combo to perform even more special moves and combos. While there’s a very approachable control scheme for anyone to have fun, highly competitive players will enjoy finding new things. The game’s balance might not be the most refined overall, but great attention was given to not make the gameplay a complete button-masher.

Tag Team Combo, plus Dream Finish.

 

One of the main modes in SNK Heroines is the Story Mode. Simply to not be taken seriously while still providing the humor for it, the story mode is completely aware of the game’s direction and doesn’t hide it. The only villain in the game is also the only man in the game who is a familiar face seen in the most recent King of Fighters title. His main agenda is a fantasy created in his mind to fulfill his own perversion by having the ladies of SNK battle their way out of his domain or else he’ll use turn them into sand statues for display. As he simply puts it, “his own pocket dimension”. The Heroines aren’t fooled by any of it and don’t even let it bother them as they crack jokes or make little banter in the small cut-scenes provides. The setup is the same no matter which two characters you choose for the story. What’s different is the exchanged dialogue and animations within those cut-scenes. Pairing different Heroines will provides different results, displaying the exact outfit you chose or if you went all in fully customizing Heroines to your own taste. It’s all the unlockable content to pursue that will keep fans and completionists at it. Each winning Heroine in a normal match also have different dialogue spoken depending on who their opponent was that they defeated, acknowledging them and even themselves in mirror matches.

Honestly, though, has Terry ever looked better?

The Gallery Mode provides every piece of movie clip, voices, character background art, music, etc. Unlocking certain stuff is pretty straightforward, but can be done by two different ways. Playing Story Mode with two characters will unlock their movie clips, but for anyone not wanting to go through the story mode again, they can be purchased individually using in-game currency. Luckily, that money is easy to come by through various means. There are many modes available in SNK Heroines perfectly suitable for single player, but for co-op as well. Story Mode can be a good way to earn a good amount of gold while unlocking movie clips at the same time. Playing Versus locally will earn you gold per match. The quickest way I’ve found is going through the completely unfair Survival mode, which is an endless amount of matches that ramps up in difficulty and the shenanigans that are items. Items themselves are interesting. “For Glory” players might disregard them, but “For Fun” players will find enjoyment in them. Players can snatch an item from orbs that appear on-screen. They all have various effects. Some are support items that increase your life or spirit, while others are offensive. Pushing the right analog uses the item, but direction also decides where the item comes into the scene; either from the left, right or top of the screen. A wrecking ball will come steamroll your opponent from the right when pressing the analog stick to the right, for instance. Items are completely optional and can be turned off as well as their frequency during matches if they are enabled, such as Low, Medium, and High.

Wrecking Ball comment.

No matter how you earn your moolah, plenty is required to obtain everything there is. Players will be spending most of that in Customization mode, where everything you see may only be obtained through purchasing them using in-game currency. Each character has a total of 3 outfits, 4 different voice samples to use in-game, and a multitude of accessories to style themselves with. In some cases, purchasing an outfit for one character will unlock additional accessories for every other character to use. 4 colors can be changed between freely between each outfit. To accessorize, SNK Heroines allows players to gear up (or gear down) from head-to-toe. Head and face accessories, face paint, and back, hip, hand & leg accessories. There are a few already unlocked in each category to get you going, but everything else will need to be cha-chinged in. Aside from costumes and voices specific to each character, they all access the same library of one time purchases. Accessories may also be more than just snapped into place on your character. Their X/Y/Z scale can be changed independently in size, tilt and position. It’s completely possible to make goofy disproportions if you desire.

Well, pardner, I done reckon I got everything I need, I reckon.

Your identity matters. Player profiles have an avatar and by default it’s the avatar of your Switch profile. This can be changed, however, as you are the director of your picture. Various background layouts and stamps can be added to the scene while you customize your character. Every character also has 30 unique poses exclusive to them as well. While this does seem like leisurely novelty, I’m a big fan of customization and putting players in control. Once you set up the scenario you feel is worthy for a profile picture to take online, you’re free to snap and save up to 12 different avatars. Furthermore, scenes containing background layouts, character poses and positioning, as well as character customizations can be saved as presets to use as a starting point in the future.

Hey! Up here.

 

Setting up an online lobby also works very well. Up to 8 players can join in a lobby just as they can with local wireless. Players can opt for a quick match or search for a room as well as change parameters for both, such as region/items/battle type. There is also a chat system set in place that allows for set phrases with caricatures accompanying them, but players are also free to use the keyboard. There is no voice chat to my knowledge. While I wouldn’t think so, I haven’t checked with a headset to be sure. The downside to playing on Switch is that the game runs at 30 frames-per-second while docked instead of 60 as fighting fans have hoped. The game remained stable during my 35 hours so far with the game and never once did I feel that the 30fps hindered gameplay in any way. Playing in handheld sings the same tune, but definitely looked like it was running with an unlocked framerate going above 30 in the rarest cases.

Presentation-wise, the game is a knockout. While backgrounds can seem a bit blurry and aliasing is noticeable, audio-visual aspect is fantastic. Stages are modeled in 3D and some of the set pieces look elegant in design. SNK Heroines isn’t afraid to use colors and whether its the sunset in the background glowing through the opening over the arrangements of different colored flowers or the character models themselves, it all looks very nice. Character animate very fluidly and have a certain cel-shaded technique. While they have a slight cartoon aesthetic, certain angles creates a shimmering reflection that shows the outlines of the characters. Fully inspecting their outfits up-close shows a level of detail that’s very appreciable. The menus are no different, especially the main menu. Players are also able to hotkey certain menu options and even their sub-menus to certain buttons to save time navigating through them. The attention to detail of attacks make every move pop with effect. Each character also have their own effects. The voice acting, while in Japanese, is also good suited for each character and scene. To top it off, the soundtrack is just as good housing a great main menu theme and what I’d easily call the best renditions of familiar tunes from the previous SNK entries. These new arrangements are memorable.

Summary
SNK HEROINES ~Tag Team Frenzy~ is made with love from the creators and it shows. It's accessibility is meant for players of all skill types, neither catering to only the hardcore players or only casuals; just both at once. There is plenty of content to unlock and plenty of ways to customize your character. Even if it's not as sharp as the PlayStation 4 version, it's still eye-candy on the Switch. The soundtrack is also pretty good with the best remixes of past songs. There's enough single player for the solo player and co-op/versus for players of two, but up to 8 can play together both offline and online. Above all, it's just fun to play. Looking forward to the future characters being added to the roster.
Good
  • Unique fighting mechanics that are fun.
  • Both accessible and challenging.
  • Dazzling presentation.
  • Great music tracks.
  • Lots of unlocking and personal customizing.
Bad
  • Backgrounds are little blurry.
  • Varied framerate in handheld mode.
8.6
Pretty Good
Gameplay - 8
Visual - 8.5
Audio - 9
Value - 9

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