Review: SNK Gals’ Fighters (Switch)

A forgotten SNK classic fighter from the start of the millennium has returned!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 05/10/2020 07:37 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Excellent fighting controls based around a two-button input system; solid graphics and sound; solid variety of fighters; plenty of unlockables; multiplayer is smooth; killer soundtrack
Poison Mushroom for...
Small screen of Switch isn't ideal for facing a second player; short on modes; some might not enjoy the simplified controls

This might come as a surprise, but the original SNK Gals’ Fighters is already 20 years old. Two decades! It launched on SNK’s Neo Geo Pocket Color, a portable console that hit store shelves a little bit after Game Boy Color. The handheld never was able to make a dent in the market, but it still churned out a number of notable, engaging games. SNK Gals’ Fighters was one of them. Although it doesn’t have the mainstream clout of countless other classic fighters, this was a gem in 2000 and it’s still a gem in 2020. A direct port with some welcome quality of life changes to freshen the experience, this is the definitive version of Gals’ Fighters.

King of Fighters serves as the inspiration for Gals’ Fighters style of brawling, with the apropos Queen of Fighter mode positioned as the nerve center of the game. Here, Gals’ Fighters’ minimalist narrative plays out across a series of one-versus-one fighting matches. Players have access to various moves, including character-specific specials (Mighty Bops), counters, combos, throws, and more. All of which is carried out via a simple two-button input system.

It’s this dearth of buttons that might make some players balk, particularly fighting game purists. Accessibility is something of a dirty word among those who love the ilk of Street Fighter and BlazBlue, but it’s inclusion isn’t a sign of a lack of quality or fun. Titles like SNK Heroines and Nicalis’ Blade Strangers have done some pioneering work by taking the familiar architecture of the prototypical fighting game and paring down the inputs so that special moves are easier to perform while diminishing none of the actual nuance and complexity of the combat, itself. Gals’ Fighters is no different and did it before those games.

With eight playable fighters to start and three more available by way of unlocks, it’s not only easy to pick up and play the game, but there’s also a respectable amount of fighting styles to choose from. Combatants vary from ranged attackers to more powerful, heavy hitters, all of which providing players with plenty of tactics for battle. Feedback is great, although something is lost in translation without the wonderful clicking analogue stick that Neo Geo Pocket Color is so famous for. Ah, well, it’s a small complaint that is only going to be noticeable to those who played this on original hardware.

There are three modes to choose from, with Queen of Fighters joined by training and local multiplayer. That said, QoF offers more than enough to sustain players as they make their way through each fighter’s storyline. What’s more, players are rewarded for their diligence in the form of unlockable items. There are 16 total to go after, with each becoming available after completing specific challenges. These items add even further variety to bouts and are worth the effort to collect. A note on multiplayer: it’s local-only, which is fine, but it’s best played on a large screen. The action can be somewhat hard to track on the diminutive display of a Switch.

If SNK is known for anything, it’s the company’s stunning visual designs. SNK set the standard for pixel art with titles like Metal Slug many moons ago at the height of the ’90s arcade era. Neo Geo Pocket Color wasn’t a powerhouse system by any means, but it was nevertheless still home to games that pushed the limits of what an 8-bit console was capable of. The character designs in Gals’ Fighters are a delight. Chibi-esque in their aesthetic, SNK played to the strengths of its handheld by producing fighters that look solid and are animated just as well. Throw in a rocking chiptune soundtrack and there’s no question why Gals’ Fighters was chosen for a new lease on life.

Rounding things out are some fine quality of life tweaks. Gameplay can be rewound, which will be a blessing for many come the later rounds of the story mode. There are also several authentic Neo Geo Pocket Color console borders to choose from as a frame for the action. As someone who owns two of this handheld, it’s hard not to love the attention to detail. Gals’ Fighters might fly under many people’s radars, but it shouldn’t. This is fighting game that deserves to hit a wider audience now than it did in 2000 by being on Switch. If you’re looking for something different but with the quality and pedigree that SNK is known for, Gals’ Fighters is worth a download.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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