Hands-On Preview: SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy

SNK is putting strategy over execution and the results are glorious.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 03/01/2018 07:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Look, full confession: I can probably take on most people when it comes to Smash Bros., but come see me in some Street Fighter and I’m likely going to fall flat on my face. I love technical fighters like Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, Guilty Gear, and so on, but to be able to play those games competently takes a ton of training and dedication. There’s a reason the competitive scene flocks to these titles, as the bar is set very high for admission, meaning the average player on the street likely isn’t going to have what it takes to compete at a high level.

This is cool, but it does mean that for fans like me, I’m often on the outside looking in, wishing I could keep up. If you’re wondering why titles like Street Fighter can often be so monolithic, the reason they’re not as accessible is because it takes a heck of a lot of skill to execute attacks. There’s a very basic attack input that video game players the world over are typically familiar with: up, down-right, right, attack.

That pattern represents Ryu’s Hadoken, an orb of weaponized chi that emanates from the fighter’s palms. It’s the basic stepping stone of fighting game inputs and is easy enough to learn, but the reality is that it’s one of multiple, almost countless inputs overall for an entire legion of different characters. Being able to instantaneously pull one of these attacks from a player’s repertoire in the middle of a match is a great test of skill and dexterity. Sadly, as entertaining as that can be to do and watch, as I noted above, not everyone has it in them to pull these sorts of moves off.

I bring all this up because the fine folks at SNK are hard at work on the upcoming fighting game SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, which is aiming to take all that fancy button pressing and throw it out the window. When the game was announced for Switch, many fans were likely wondering what exactly SNK Heroines was aspiring to be. In a market fairly saturated with fighting games, it would take something special to stand out and actually be noticed, after all. Thankfully, now that I’ve gone hands-on with the title, I’ve found that SNK Heroines is aiming to be the Super Smash Bros. of technical fighters, a game with a low point of entry that has nuance and strategy hidden right below the surface.

SNK Heroines eschews complicated button inputs for a more streamlined and easily executed brand of attacking. Think Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition on 3DS. That game allowed players to do attacks like Ryu’s Hadoken the traditional way via standard button press combinations, but it also offered a more simplified way of initiating the move using the 3DS’ touch screen. A simple tap of a colored tile would allow players to send Ryu’s Hadoken flying, allowing them to focus on battle strategy as opposed to laboriously inputting the same complex button presses ad nauseam.

In SNK Heroines, the basic principle is the same. Special Attacks are delegated to specific buttons on the controller rather than combinations of inputs. This means that over the course of a battle, anyone who picks up the controller can learn how to utilize a fighter’s entire library of moves without having to also memorize dozens of different attack inputs. As a result, it only took me a handful of matches to become acclimated to the control scheme and really begin fighting competently. I made the comparison to Smash Bros. because it’s very similar in how once a player knows the basic move set for one character, they’ve essentially learned it for every fighter on the roster; the only difference comes in the way the actual attacks are delivered by each fighter.

Many fans enjoy the frenzied mayhem of Smash Bros., and while SNK Heroines does have that to a certain degree, the action here is much more traditional fighting game fare. Combatants have standard life bars, but rather than just deplete it down to nothing, there’s a special move that must be completed in order to deliver a defeat: a Dream Finish. Every fighter has their own unique Dream Finish, which can only be deployed once the bar that powers it is filled while fighting. Once it’s topped off and the enemy’s life bar is down in the red, a Dream Finish must be executed in order to win.

This means that if a player accidentally tries to use a stock attack in lieu of a Dream Finish, the opposing fighter won’t go down and can even rally a comeback. Again, while some of the complexity of more garden variety fighting games is missing in SNK Heroines, that doesn’t mean this is a dumbed down experience. It’s simply placing the emphasis on coming up with proper strategies to win battles. There are also items that pop up over the course of the battle that add further complexity to each brawl. They imbue things like buffs and aren’t so intrusive as to be obnoxious, instead offering a nice bit of variety to the proceedings. Speaking with NIS America Senior Product Marketing Manager Travis Shrodes, both SNK and NISA have high hopes that the fighting community will come to embrace SNK Heroines‘ unique approach to the genre.

During my time playing the game, I was very impressed with how accessible the title is and, as a result, how engrossing it quickly became. Some people have bemoaned the roster, but know that Shrodes said the entirety of it has yet to be revealed. There will be a lot of classic SNK ladies available at launch to choose from. I will point out that, yes, along with the blistering combat, there is a lot of eye candy to partake in, as well. I’ll be blunt: if you have a problem with a little “titillation” in your video games, you probably won’t be happy with SNK Heroines. I personally have no problem with it: after all, if this was a game with chisel-chinned and muscly male brawlers, there wouldn’t be many complaints. If we can have movies like Magic Mike, we can have video games with pretty women fighters.

Besides, it’s a bit disingenuous to paint SNK Heroines as the equivalent of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue with brawling mixed in. Yes, players can choose skimpier outfits for the various fighters, but there are also plenty of outfits for each character that don’t show much skin at all. It gives the player freedom to be as demure or naughty as they want, which I thought was a nice touch. Speaking of nice, the visuals are buttery and sumptuous. Bright colors pop off the screen and the animations are incredibly smooth. While I didn’t get to see what it was like to go into a battle online, I have no doubts that SNK will be able to translate the offline gameplay to online, as well.

SNK Heroines is slated for this summer and, if the preview session I enjoyed is anything to go off of, it’s a title that fighting fans both hardcore and casual will want on their radars. There are some great characters to choose from and SNK’s unique approach to combat means that players of all stripes will be able to enjoy themselves when the game finally launches. We’ll keep you posted with more news about the title as it develops. In the interim, share your thoughts with us about SNK Heroines below and on social media!

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