Though several rumors made the rounds across various online sites, it was tough to get an impression of what SNK would work on after they finished with The King of Fighters XIV. The game’s success made them feel confident enough to change their name back to SNK from SNK Playmore, indicating how they fully returned to development of arcade and console games. Rumors about a new Samurai Shodown circulated around gaming websites, while a separate set of rumors for a Neo Geo Battle Coliseum sequel followed soon afterward. Some fans also thought they might be working on a Garou/Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves sequel, after Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike director “Neo G” left Capcom for the company in 2016.
The answer is something no one predicted: It’s SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, a new 2-on-2 tag-team fighting game that will star several female characters from the series. It was also surprisingly first revealed on last week’s Nintendo Direct Mini, making this one of the first new SNK fighting games to release on a Nintendo system in a good while, though it’s also due for a PlayStation 4 release. Needless to say, this is far from what most fans expected their next fighter to be, but despite some cautiousness, most of them are looking forward to it.
The concept with SNK Heroines isn’t unfamiliar territory for the company or its longtime fans. It’s a successor to SNK Gals’ Fighters, a title released for the Neo Geo Pocket Color back in 2000 which starred chibified versions of several female characters from SNK’s line of fighters. It was far from the most popular game in SNK’s library, but it had several fans thanks to the unique concept of having an almost-entirely female cast, which hasn’t been replicated outside of Lab Zero Games’ Skullgirls. Note how Gals’ Fighters’ cast included Miss X for a small twist, who was actually King of Fighters’ Iori Yagami in disguise, while Skullgirls received male characters in Big Band and Beowulf as DLC.
This game, however, has nothing but female characters thus far. The five confirmed are Athena Asamiya, Leona Heidern, Kula Diamond, Yuri Sakazaki, and Mai Shiranui. Notably, the only character among those that wasn’t in Gals’ Fighters was Kula, who as introduced in the KOF series after that game released, and has since become so popular that there was no way SNK could leave her out if the staffers wanted to live. There’s also a character that resembles Kukri from KOFXIV in the background of the promotional art, though whether that’s actually him or an alternate female iteration with a similar move set remains to be seen.
All the confirmed-playable characters appeared in KOFXIV, and SNK is reusing the character models from that game. Since this was just announced, I’m not concerned about most, if not all, the characters being recycled… yet. Gals’ Fighters mixed it up with characters like Shiki and Akari Ichijou from the Samurai Shodown and Last Blade franchises, respectively, and this one should do the same.
The reveal preview was short, but enough to pinpoint gameplay changes this will have compared to previous SNK fighters. The official info sheet mentions how many techniques can be done with one button, but it appears to be similar to other fighters in how there’s a simplified option that can be used. But the catch here is how special techniques require the use of a quickly-recharged bar, so they can’t be executed as often as in other games. Characters can also use items on the opponents, which will cause effects like hitting them into a wall for a wall bounce or freezing them. It also sounds like a “Dream Finish” super technique is required for characters to finish opponents off in matches, which marks an interesting change compared to other SNK games. Also, two characters on a team mighty share a life bar, but that’s tough to confirm.
The other changes are related to cosmetics, where players can use in-game points to purchase more outfits and voice clips. Some options will include legacy outfits for all the characters, but others like the default outfit are more fanservice-driven, which should confirm the audience this game is aimed towards. Hopefully they make sure to include Athena’s entire wardrobe from the slate of KOF games, but you should expect some outfits to be DLC.
SNK Heroines is due for a release for PS4 and Switch this summer, which will be published by NIS America, as opposed to being handled by KOFXIV-publisher Atlus. Interestingly, the physical PS4 version will only be available as part of the $120 “Diamond Dream Edition” in the west, though the physical Switch version will be available as a separate purchase.
Meanwhile, hopefully SNK will choose female characters from a variety of their franchises, and not just include them from KOFXIV. The release isn’t too far off, so the character reveals should come quickly.