SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy Switch Review
Being called a “kid friendly” company is one label Nintendo will probably never be able to remove from the general public’s perception, despite decades of attempts to prove the contrary. Besides allowing for some of the most visceral third-party games to release on their latest console (including Doom, Wolfenstein II, and Outlast), the company has also turned the Nintendo Switch into the premiere platform for one particular adult niche: Anime Tiddies.
Much like the classic Simpsons joke about how Fox became a hardcore sex channel overnight, somewhere along the line Nintendo became the number one stop for scantily-clad Anime waifus. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 featured some of the most gravity-defying character designs to grace an RPG in years, Senran Kagura crossed over with some additional molesty mechanics to boot, and the Fire Emblem franchise (which has been making a literal killing in the handheld and mobile markets with its bevy of babes and bros) will soon follow with a new console game. With Sony’s Playstation Vita dead and forgotten by publishers, the Nintendo Switch is looking to become the new portable paradise for perverts and “otaku enthusiasts” alike.
Small wonder that SNK decided to get in on the action with an all-female, all-skimpy spin-off of their beloved King of Fighters franchise; the fighting game series has no shortage of ladies of varying fetishes to exploit, including the original Queen of Bounce, Mai Shiranui. SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy is almost exactly like it looks like: a more streamlined and tongue-in-cheek alternative to the typically hardcore fighting game genre, promising more casual controls so that players can have more time to….ogle the half-naked ladies, apparently. Unfortunately, SNK Heroines is lacking in both fanservice and fresh mechanics, as detailed below.
The premise of SNK Heroines sounds like something ripped out of the Persona series: a mysterious (and explicitly perverted) individual has plucked several of the KoF ladies into an illusionary world, where they are forced to fight one another wearing kinky outfits as the villain records them from every angle for…. research purposes. Needless to say, between the premise and the embarrassed expressions each character is displaying in their artwork, this game is bound to come up in a few online critiques. The one genuinely amusing addition is Terry Bogard, the typically rugged and macho American with the iconic Engrish, who has been turned into a female version of himself, resulting in some bemused reactions from the other ladies. Nakoruru, of Samurai Shodown fame, is also included in the roster, but the overall selection of characters feels disappointingly small considering the large amount of characters SNK could be paying lip service to (Metal Slug’s Fio, for instance, would be a welcome addition).
As for the gameplay itself, SNK Heroines operates on a 2v2 system, where players choose two characters to square off against one another. The characters can be switched at any time in a match, but both share a single life bar. That is where the similarities to past games ends: as mentioned before, SNK Heroines tries to go for a more streamlined system in order to hook in casual players, and it seems much of the gameplay decisions can be traced back to Super Smash Bros; for one thing, special moves are no longer achieved using traditional fighting game inputs, but are instead mapped into a single button and direction combination, once again similar to Smash Bros. Opponents also cannot be knocked out with traditional attacks, and instead must be finished off with a “Dream Finish”, an attack specifically used to land the final hit. Dream Finishes tend to have a slow startup and requires a specific amount of energy stored up, so the tricky part is landing the move against a defensive enemy. Therefore, it’s also important to deplete an opponent’s life bar first, which will put them in a temporary stun state, allowing for the opportune moment to use a Dream Finish.
Another inspirational mechanic lifted from Smash Bros is the use of random items; each stage has floating orbs that yield an item to whichever player hits them first. These items can be activated at any point and offer different effects that are typically beneficial to the user. Examples include banana peels that enemies can slip on, tonics that restore health or special meters, or something completely wacky like a mosaic effect that blurs the entire screen like a scrambled porn video. Item effects aside, the game is filled with all sorts of trippy effects during battle: hit sparks are replaced with puppies and food, bone-breaking sound effects are substituted with cartoony bells and whistles, and the stages are mostly indoor avenues that look like nightclubs and ballrooms.
How much of that sounded sexy to you? The inconsistent aesthetics illustrate just one of the problems facing SNK Heroines…aside from the skimpy outfits (many which do not even feel appropriate to the character…dressing Nakoruru up as a vampire lady might cater to one or two fetishists out there, but a sexy shrine maiden look would have been much more meaningful) and low-grade jiggle physics, there is very little in the way of titillation. The game only offers two additional costumes for the ladies, one set that is their default outfits for those who want to restore their dignity, and the other set being another random and often inconsistent outfit.
The gameplay also falls short, with the developers leaning a little too close to casual play. By far the most confounding aspect is the omission of low attacks…in fact, the game has no ducking or downward directions whatsoever. For anyone who has put time into any traditional fighting game, this decision will undoubtedly feel jarring. Blocking is also mapped to a button, an eternally controversial decision that few fighting fans outside of Mortal Kombat will prefer. The auto combo and one-button special moves are easy enough to perform, but it rarely feels natural and severely limits the amount of combo strings that players can pull off. The most thrilling moments in most matches are trying to land a Dream Finish, which can drag a match significantly when faced against evasive opponents. Even so, such moments are brief and fleeting, much like the rest of this game.
Ironically, the biggest source of entertainment is the story mode and character endings. Depending on which pair of characters players choose, the story mode is filled with unique banter between the team, often leading to some amusing dialog. Similarly, the cutscenes involving the perverted main villain are delightfully trippy and is more in line with the kind of tone the game should have delivered more consistently. Finally, the character endings are often hilarious and filled with fun nods to previous games. That said, all these cutscenes and ending illustrations could be easily looked up online, and barely make up an hour’s worth of total playtime. There are numerous additional collectibles, including sound files and costume accessories, that could add up more playtime for the collectible enthusiast. Whether the rewards are worth grinding over will depend on the individual, but many other fighting games have offered far better incentives to keep playing.
Overall, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy suffers the same problem that many of the most recent fighting games have: barebones content. The character selection is small, with more characters planned to be added via DLC, but the brief story mode and unsatisfying combat put a permanent hamper on the experience regardless of increased roster. There just isn’t much here in the way of fun or fanservice, and the Switch version runs at a shoddier framerate to add insult to injury. The fun little nods and imagery do not make up the overall price tag, and the neutered controls feel far more unconventional then streamlined. Everyone should just put their clothes back on and sober up, because the mood just isn’t there this time.