Way back in the year 2000, SNK released an all-girls fighting game called SNK Gals’ Fighters on its Neo Geo Pocket Color portable console. Many years later, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy (published by NIS America) revisits the same concept on PlayStation 4 and Switch. But simplified mechanics and an overdose of fan service could make this game a tough sell to fighting game enthusiasts.
SNK Heroines’ primary game type is Story Mode. In this mode, players select a team of two heroines from the roster of fourteen and then complete a breezy arcade-style series of fights against six teams of opponents, followed by a battle against the final boss, Kukri (a male character introduced in King of Fighters XIV).
The narrative premise is that Kukri has pulled 13 female fighters (and a lady version of Fatal Fury’s Terry Bogard) from various SNK universes into his personal pocket dimension. If the ladies fail to defeat their captor, he will use their powers to kidnap even more mademoiselles. This silly story (along with brief character-specific sequences) plays out between battles. Defeat Kukri and you’ll be rewarded with amusing hand-drawn endings for your team while the credits roll.
Each Story mode playthrough clocks in at under half an hour, but players are encouraged to complete it with every character in order to unlock gallery items and earn gold. This gold can be spent on character customization items or even gambled in online matches. The character customization here isn’t up to Dead or Alive and Tekken standards, with the menus being particularly clumsy to navigate. Each character has one all-new outfit unlocked by default (Mai Shiranui’s is a truly awful cow-themed bikini), but you can spend a little gold to unlock their traditional outfit and one additional one.
SNK Heroines features simplified fighting mechanics that make it highly approachable to newcomers, but will likely disappoint experienced fighting game players. For starters, even though the game features a 2.5D viewpoint, it doesn’t allow players to crouch. Blocking requires the use of a block button, also fairly unusual for 2D/2.5D fighters. The face button mapping includes two regular attack buttons, a throw button, and a special move button. Special moves are generally performed by pressing the special button and a direction – talk about dumbed down!
Interestingly, performing special moves will consume special energy, a meter that fills up as fights progress. This limits how often players can use special moves, for better or worse. You’ll want to conserve some energy during the fight in order to perform your finishing move. Unlike most fighting games, running out of life won’t end the fight. Instead, you have to land a finishing move to defeat the opponent. Each character has two finishing moves which are (in keeping with the simplified nature of the game) performed by pressing a trigger button or holding a direction while pressing it.
The only other mechanics worth noting are the tag system and items. SNK Heroines is a tag-team game, so you’ll always select a team of two characters before fighting. The inactive character watches the fight from the background and quickly regains special move energy. As for items, they spawn fairly frequently. Touching one collects it, though you can only hold one at a time. Items can be used at will and perform buffs, debuffs, or attacks.
Besides the primary story mode, SNK Heroines also includes a single-player survival mode, local multiplayer, and online multiplayer. Online allows players to engage in one-off quick matches or join room matches with several other players. After joining a room, spectators have the option of betting gold on the outcome of the fight – a fun option.
SNK Gals’ Fighters was an all-girls fighting game, but it had some real substance in the gameplay department. The same can’t be said for SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy. This one is high on fan service, with revealing costumes, a photo mode, pleasantly goofy jokes during story sequences, and quality remixes of each character’s theme song. But as a fighting game, it’s frustratingly simple – not to mention light on modes and content. SNK fans who go in with realistic expectations will probably have a good time with SNK Heroines. Everyone else should probably wait for a sale.
SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy
- Fourteen femme fighters from various SNK games
- Lots of customization items to unlock
- Online multiplayer allows players to join rooms, spectate, and bet on matches
- Overly simplified fighting mechanics lack depth
- All backgrounds are set in the same basic location, so they lack variety
- Needs more single-player modes for long-term play