Some of my favorite fighting games include the likes of Marvel vs Capcom 2, X-Men vs Street Fighter, Marvel vs Street Fighter, etc. The appeal of these games was simple, fun fast arcade gameplay with cool easily-known characters (I did always have a fondness for Gambit). Along those lines, SNK was introduced into the series as a logical step around 1999 in the game series SNK vs Capcom. After SNK filed for bankruptcy in 2000, the company re-formed and was called SNK Playmore. In 2005, SNK Playmore decided to bring out a game that played very much to the old versus games in NeoGeo Battle Coliseum. In the last breath of 2007, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum makes it to the states for the Playstation 2 system. Now in my greedy little hands, I explore the game and see if it stands up as a true fighter.
The Vs. games were always strong in graphics, you could recognize most of the characters immediately and know who you wanted to start playing with because of that look. NGBC is unfortunately just average. You could spend a long time looking at the various characters that you have to play with because you can’t discern between one male fighter and the next. The characters and action appear very pixilated and this game has not improved since the console versions of the Vs. games already mentioned. In some ways, those seem better now; Marvel vs Capcom 2 for Xbox is a good example. Even Mai Shiranui of Fatal Fury fame isn’t as beautiful as I hoped and there are few standouts in the background or animation department. While no progressive scan or widescreen is provided, in the options menu there is a Screen type setting (Type A / Type B) which stretches it out a bit. But it is not a widescreen option.
NGBC doesn’t get any better in the audio department. Supporting typical Stereo and Mono output, it returns a very average sounding game. Sounds that should boom and be impressed by your sub like for example, a Fuuma Dragon Wave attack, barely impress and alert the senses. Even when you start unleashing a chain of attacks leading to a Super Special move, they sound bland for the most part. The background music isn’t bad but mostly it suffers from being repetitive and one tune can not be differentiated from another.
The story (which nobody cares about in fighting games) consists of a fighting tournament held by the Warez organization (playing on the fact that SNK Playmore blames software piracy for their initial collapse). The government who is worried about the situation send Yuki and Ai (the two original characters in the game) into the tournament to find out what is going on. Then there was a whole lot of kung fu fighting and man those kids were fast as lightening. SNK fighting games have long been standouts in the fighter world. NGBC highlights characters from games such as Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, Samurai Showdown and many lesser games such as Garou: Mark of the Wolves & Last Blade. In fact twelve different games are represented, including a total of near forty characters. From the common, such as Robert Garcia from Art of Fighting or Hanzo from World Heroes to the more peculiar like Athena (from the original NES game) and Mars People from Metal Slug. What, no Rasputin from World Heroes? I’m so hurt that they chose Mudman over the Mad Monk.
If you have played either a SNK fighting game within the last ten years or one of the VS games, you will probably be right at home with the fighting system. You have weak and strong punches & kicks and try to outwit your opponent who also has these attacks. In addition, you also have special attacks which are used frequently to set up combos against your opponent. However, like many recent games, this makes use of the tag system. You pick two characters and through the R1 button you can switch out when you get low on health or simply want to change up styles. Down at the bottom of screen, you fill up a charge system which will help you unleash devastating attacks such as Robert Garcia’s Conquering Crunch. These can also be used in tag moves which are equally exciting to watch.
Sounds good so far, right? The regular special moves are easy enough to pull off but when you get to the super special moves, things decidingly get harder. The commands for most moves are right in the instructional manual and accessible on the pause screen akin to many current fighting games. However, pulling them off is a much different story. Most of them are so complicated that you might consider having some sort of cyborg hand surgically attached to your body in order to execute them. The standard Dual Shock Playstation 2 controller does not help the situation either (curses the fact he didn’t purchase the Tekken 5 special collectors pack with joystick for cheap when he had the chance) as cramping will become the word of the day.
The difficulty in the game is variable, it starts out simplistic enough. Beat a few guys and gals, move up the ranks. Once you start getting further into the contest, the difficulty gets ramped up quite a bit. There are points where you can hardly pull off an attack and even worse the attacks start to get cheap and put you at a definite disadvantage. However, that is something you can live with. That all changes when you get to the bosses. The first boss you will face most likely is Mizuchi (of Fatal Fury fame) who perhaps is the cheapest boss I have ever seen. The mere fact that you can lay a finger on him would be accomplishment enough. The fact that you could beat him without the use of a continue service would darn near suffice as legendary. The bosses that follow don’t get any better and continue to test your patients and whether or not you have broken a controller in the last twenty four hours.
This game has quite a few modes to keep you interested. The most obvious and intriguing one is Arcade mode. Pick a fighter and a partner and try to accumulate as many wins as possible in a 300 second time frame. Beat three in that time frame and get a game service that includes more time, full power, and adding more life. Once you do enough of these, you fight a boss (who is incredibly cheap and will crush you). There are characters to unlock like Shishioh (from Kizuna Encounter) or Neo-Dio (from World Heroes). There is also regular Tag play and a Survival Challenge where you only get one life bar per character to expend. These modes contribute once beaten to a gallery mode where you can look at concept art and endings of various characters. The game also boasts a practice feature. But perhaps the most interesting feature is the Character Setting Menu which is tucked away in the Game Options. Here you can actually create two different color schemes for each character. You can create with reasonable success other color variants seen or imagined in other SNK games with easy to use sliders and a little experimentation. It’s unfortunate that you can’t create better than average graphics.
After reading this review, you might be under the impression that I did not like the game. This is actually not true. I did like the game, however I am not in love with it. It has the potential to be awesome. But like so much potential, it gets wasted in the details. With so many characters, one would think this would be a great game simply on that alone. But once you start to explore the fighting system, you find there isn’t too much to it at all. The graphics and audio are average and appear to have a look that dates back to the early days of the Playstation 2. Once you get past that, there are a wealth of modes including a fun little Character Setting editor. However all the modes in the world can’t hide the idea that gameplay is very difficult to execute and once you are able to execute correctly, you have to overcome the very cheap and hard bosses. NeoGeo Battle Coliseum is basically your average fighter. Your enjoyment will come if you have a deep fascination of SNK fighters or have a friend or two willing to play it with you. It is certainly worth its bargain price tag but it is a shame because it could have been so much more than just another difficult fighter.
Other Coverage & Reviews
- GameVortex.com: “While it’s a solid fighter, it’s not bringing much that’s new to the fighter world.”
- GameZone.com: “The fluidity of changing partners on the fly is superb and didn’t slow down the mechanic of fighting opponents”
- Palgn.com.au(Australia’s Gaming Network): “A good port of one of the best 2D fighters in the last couple of years. The only new thing it brings to the table is novelty, but with solid mechanics and visuals it’s worth a look for fighting fans anyway.”