I have a love-hate relationship with the Marvel vs. Capcom series, especially the second iteration of the game. While I love Capcom’s mish-mashy blend of its own properties with Marvel’s, the over-the-top gameplay pretty much turned me off from any serious gameplay. The title has gobs of followers, so it would make sense that another company that specializes in fighting game to develop a universe-clashing game. Enter SNK Playmore with Neo Geo Battle Coliseum.
Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, brings various Neo Geo characters together in a knock-down drag out brawl to help stop the evil WAREZ company from harshing on gaming (a thinly veiled autobiographical tale if I’ve ever hard one). Story lines in fighters are just half-assed excuses to punch digital foes squarely in their faces, so let’s get to the lineup.
- New Faces: Ai, Yuki
- King of Fighters: Kyo, K’, Iori, Shermie, Mizuki
- Samurai Shodown: Haohmaru, Genjyuro, Shiki, Hakoruru, Asura
- Fatal Fury: Terry Bogard, Mai, Geese Howard, Chonrei, Hotaru, Rock, Kim, Tung Fu Rue, Chonshu
- Art of Fighting: Ryo (Mr. Karate II), Lee, Robert, Mr. Big
- ADK: Hanzo (World Heroes), Mudman (World Heroes), Fuma (World Heroes), Kisarah and King Lion (Savage Reign/Kizuna Encounter)
- King of the Monsters 2: Cyber Woo
- Athena: Athena
- Metal Slug: Marco, Mars People
On the surface, Neo Geo Battle Coliseum looks like a run-of-the-mill fighter, but there is a surprising amount of depth for those that want to dig into the combat system. The gameplay should feel familiar to anyone who’s played King of the Fighters 2003, SNK vs Capcom: Chaos, or Garou: Mark of the Wolves as it samples their gameplay elements: You can Guard Cancel, Guard Cancel Switch, Guard Cancel Attack, Guard Cancel Step, Just Guard Cancel Step, Tactical Step, and AC Tactical Step. Casual fight fans may mistake those terms as one from a foreign language, but the hardcore will appreciate the depth. There’s lots of opportunity to attack and counter in a variety of situations.
One of the new gameplay features that is pretty cool is Double Assault (or D-Assault), a rush special that combines a team’s supers into one powerful attack. Most Double Assault attacks aren’t character specific, but a few are. Kyo and Iori, for example, perform the special attack used to finish Orochi in King of Fighters ’97.
Despite being a game centered around team play, it only takes one fighter to be KO’d (in one-player mode) to defeat the opposing team, which makes for some rather interesting character/lifebar management. In two-player mode, things revert to standard tag team rules where both members of a squad must be brought down.
Walking hand-in-hand with Neo Geo Battle Coliseum‘s schizophrenic roster are schizophrenic graphics. Although the majority of sprites sport excellent designs, the actually sprite work’s of lesser quality. Geese and Kyo, for example, have the ruggedly SNK Playmore animation that we all know and love, but Robert’s new sprite stands out like a sore thumb as it’s over-animated–sort of like Kim in King of Fighters 2002. In fact, Robert’s sprite would look more at home in Garou: Mark of the Wolves than here. The two protagonists of the game, Yuki and Ai, suffer the same fate, but before you begin to think that only new/redrawn characters suffer from the visual inconsistency, let it be known that the Wold Heroes characters blend into their surroundings quite nicely. Backgrounds are unfortunately cold and lifeless. Audio is mildly satisfying, but ultimately forgettable. None of the game’s tunes are particularly memorable.
So is Neo Geo Battle Coliseum worth a purchase? Definitely, but you’ll be disappointed if you take it too seriously. Nothing about it particularly stands from other 2D fighters besides the mix-and-match nature of the game, which gives it, unfortunately, a MUGEN-like air. Play this at parties. Play King of Fighters ’98: Ultimate Match with competition.