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SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy shines in its simplicity

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Hands-on with the female fighter

SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy is coming later this year to the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, and it may have a hard time getting noticed. Between Dragon Ball FighterZ, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, Soulcalibur VI, Fighting EX Layer and all the other games Virtua Kazama wrote about, 2018 is packed for fighters. Judging by the reveal trailer for the game, it kind of looked like Tag Team Frenzy just couldn't compete. But looks can be deceiving.

At the NIS America press event in San Francisco on February 9, I got my first chance to sit down with the game and see what it is all about. The demo was limited to six characters announced so far with a new character reveal promised soon. Though I tried them all, I found myself most comfortable teaming up Fatal Fury's Mai and Samurai Shodown's Nakoruru. Right off the bat, I can choose from one of three costumes for each girl and one of four colors for those costumes. Mai's are predictably skimpy but some of the other costumes are just fun, including a belly dancer getup and a "Swan Lake" outfit. There is a lot of T&A here, but not everything is in-your-face sexuality.

There is something endearing about the graphics to this game. Make no mistake, they're not top quality. This is some early PlayStation 3 stuff we're working with here. And yet, I think the chintzy look of it actually adds to its niche appeal. It's bright, it's colorful, it's silly and it all just works in a way that wouldn't if this were going for top-of-the-line visuals. This choice of art direction will also help people come to terms with just what type of fighter Tag Team Frenzy is. 

SNK Heroines is one of the simplest fighting games I've ever played, and in this case, I mean that as a compliment. Even easier to grasp than the straightforward but deep Tatsunoko vs. CapcomTag Team Frenzy has just three attack buttons: light attack, heavy attack, and special attack. On the PlayStation 4 controller, circle is the special attack and all I have to do is press the button to send a projectile flying. I can combine that button with a press of the directional pad to use one of the girls' other special attacks. Chain light and heavy attacks and sprinkle in some specials and you have the basics of the game down.

Though it is a two-on-two fighter, both girls on my team share a single health bar. They do have their own special bar that depletes anytime I use a special, switch them into combat, or use the Dream Finish technique. Unlike other fighting games, the end of my energy doesn't mean the end of the match. In order to defeat my opponent, I have to hit her with a Dream Finisher when a knock-out is viable. I can use my Dream Finisher at any time as long as I have enough juice in my special bar, but if it hits and she's not knocked out, the match keeps going. In several of my matches, it got to the point where both my opponent and I were completely out of energy, trying desperately to hit that Dream Finisher and end the match. When I fought against the game's designer in front of everyone at the event, that's how the match ended.

Beyond that, there is a dedicated block button, a swap character button, and items my partner can use to attack our opponent. This completely optional feature adds gold coins in the stage that, if I hit them -- and I mean physically hit them not just walk into them -- it gives my partner some sort of trap or tool they can throw at my opponent. A flick of the right joystick is all I need to make it happen, but hitting my adversary isn't always easy to do. I can also end up hitting myself, which can lead to my KO. 

I'm going to be honest: SNK Heroines was very button-mashy for the first several matches I played. Anyone can string together a combo and it's very hard to get out of them. I don't know if there is a combo break technique beyond just hitting my opponent with an item, but I wouldn't blame people for looking at this game and thinking it's nothing more than a cheesy fanservice fighter.

And yet, when I watched Yasayuki Oda and Kaito Soranaka -- the game's producer and designer respectively -- duke it out, I saw legit strategy, epic comebacks, near misses, seemingly impossible maneuvers; all the drama the fighting game genre is known for. There is depth here, and while it may be a shallower pool than its contemporaries, it's certainly something that can be studied for the metagame I keep hearing about every time I turn on Twitch.

The more I look back at the fighting system, the more it seems like an amalgamation of a traditional fighter and Smash Bros. That game has just one attack button and one special button that operate differently depending on how you use them. Tag Team Frenzy has separate weak and strong attacks, but it largely works in the same way. And just as Smash doesn't need a wide array of buttons to make it a reputable fighter, neither will this game if SNK gets it right. Because they're on to something here and I can't wait to see the final product. SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy may be silly and sexy and have the visual stimuli of beating up AKB48 with a cake-filled piñata, but it could also be a competition-worthy fighter.

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CJ Andriessen
CJ AndriessenFeatures Editor   gamer profile

Just what the internet needs: yet another white guy writing about video games. Also, I backed that Bloodstained game. more + disclosures


 


 


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