SNK HEROINES ~Tag Team Frenzy~ Review

SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy is a strange game. On the one hand, its simplified mechanics and bubble-gum aesthetic make it a perfect introduction to an increasingly obtuse and decidedly hardcore genre, but on the other, the skimpy outfits and questionable titillation are clearly aimed at a sub-group of an already rather hardcore fan-base. Sure, loads of young boys (and men) enjoy the unique appeal of scantily clad female fighters, but in terms of the distinctive charm of seeing King of Fighters stalwart, Mai Shiranui wearing an utterly ridiculous and unbelievable revealing cow costume, well, yeah, that’s something that is going to appeal rather exclusively to a very niche demographic indeed.

So yeah, as to who this is actually for, I have no idea, but judged purely on its merits as an accessible and rather silly beat em’ up, it’s actually pretty decent. It’s not great by any stretch of the imagination, but it stands as one of the more inviting fighters on the market….as long as you don’t have an issue with the multitude of suspect outfits of course. It’s hardly Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball, and plenty of fighting games are guilty of outfitting their female fighters in ludicrous attire, but by making this an all-female fighter, SNK clearly draw attention to the level of sexualisation inherent within much of the genre.

And honestly, that will be a barrier to some – unless you’re a fan of the series or are simply numb to this kind of borderline misogynistic art design (for the record, it really doesn’t bother me at all – I find it all far too ridiculous to find it in any way offensive), SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy might prove one of those oddly uncomfortable gaming experiences – especially if you’re playing it on the train via your Nintendo Switch.

As long as that’s not as issue, then yeah, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy is fine, but that’s about it – fine. The problem is, while the simplified mechanics are certainly enjoyable enough, they come at the cost of any meaningful depth with the relatively limited character roster of 14 (until the invariable DLC shows up of course) and unified move-set not leaving players with much to learn beyond the slightly more hardcore inclusion of evades and move-cancelling. These provide at least a modicum of depth for those looking to dig a little deeper, but this remains a decidedly basic brawler.

I assume the aim was to negate the lack of depth with mountains of fan service and a more Super Smash Bros-esque design ethos, but beyond raising that question of who exactly this is for again, the more pressing issue arises from the fact that these new additions ultimately feel more gimmicky that revelatory. Picking up items that can be used by your tag partner mid-battle can be fun and a special move that is required to essentially finish the bout is certainly unique within the confines of a traditional 2D fighter, but neither element add any real sense of depth to proceedings with both elements feeling like good ideas that were ultimately implemented somewhat clumsily.

That doesn’t mean that the game isn’t fun, it just means that it’s unlikely to keep your attention in the long run – in the short-term, the collection of fighters, made up of female combatants from the Samurai Showdown, King of Fighters, Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series, is perfectly solid, and while there are certainly plenty of notable omissions, what is here represents a varied selection of fighters, one that even includes a female take on series staple, Terry Bogard.

The move list might be the same for all fighters in terms of inputs, but at the end of the day, this is clearly supposed to be a more accessible alternative to the defiantly hardcore, King of Fighters XIV, and so it proves. While button bashing will certainly do the trick, the relative simplicity of the control scheme ensures that it is rarely needed. Combos and special moves are easy to pull off with the emphasis moved towards timing rather than complex manoeuvres. The game really needed more content beyond its bonkers but slight Story Mode (it really is bonkers), and its limited online options to ensure that it stayed entertaining in the long run, but for as long as it lasts (mileage will depend largely on your historic attachment to SNK’s core fighting series), SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy really is an enjoyable silly alternative to the increasingly hardcore fighters that dominate the market.

Sadly, while there is plenty of fun to be had with the mountain of fan service on display here, it is somewhat let down by SNK’s continued use of ropey 3D character models. I understand why they are falling in line with Capcom and the recent Street Fighter games in this regards, but the character models are, well, they’re a little ugly. Just as they were in King of Fighters XIV, the 3D models fall a long way short of the exceptional 2D character sprites that were used in King of Fighters XIII and don’t look nearly as cool as the hand drawn character art used on the character select screen. They’re hardly an aesthetic abomination, but they do look a little cheap and tacky as far as I’m concerned.

The odd mix of hardcore fan service, accessible gameplay and often hyper-sexualised outfits ensure that SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy will struggle to find a home at either end of the market, but if you are willing to embrace its simplified but undoubtedly enjoyable mechanics and overlook some of its more questionable aesthetic options, this rather bizarre SNK offshoot will likely deliver an enjoyable, if somewhat brief distraction that provides a partially successful alternative to the traditionally hardcore likes of Guilty Gear, King of Fighters and Street Fighter.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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