"Whether you like Marvel vs. Capcom or dream of seeing all your favorite NeoGeo characters duke it out, there's something here for you."
Two-dimensional fighting games are a staple of classic gaming. Everything from Mortal Kombat to Street Fighter II utilized that setup and in the process provided some of the most competitive and complex gameplay available to date. The arrival of more advanced consoles resulted in the genre evolving to the third dimension, though, with mixed results. Fortunately, 2D fighters are still alive thanks to nearly constant re-releases of Capcom's backlog and the annual release of a King of Fighters game. As long as those continue, 2D fighters will never truly die. NeoGeo Battle Coliseum, a recent release from SNK Playmore, only serves to add fuel to the fire.
Fighting games have never been known for their epic storylines and Battle Coliseum is no different. A maniac from the Warez Conglomeration has built a coliseum and plans to take over the NeoGeo world by having its chief inhabitants duke it out in an arena. The scheme doesn't make much sense but I suppose it at least explains why characters from all over the NeoGeo universe would be fighting.
This resulting game most resembles the Capcom vs. SNK series, where characters from all of the SNK (NeoGeo) games fight each other. The games represented here are King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown, King of the Monsters, Metal Slug, World Heroes, Athena, Garou: Mark of the Wolves, Art of Fighting, The Last Blade, Aggressors of Dark Kombat, Buriki One and Kizuna Encounter. In total there are 40 playable characters with five of them that are only available once you've unlocked them.
The game emulates the system from Capcom vs. SNK where players form teams of three characters (or in this game's case, two) and fight their opponent's force of the same size. There are three modes to play: Arcade, Tag-Team, and Survival.
Arcade is your typical fighting game where you fight your way to the top and fight an uber-powerful (and cheap) boss. In the arcade mode, if either member of your team dies then you lose the battle. The same goes for your opponent. There is also a two-player versus option with the same rules.
Tag-team mode plays out the same, but a team loses only after both members of the team have died. As stated before, boss battles are often impossible. That's common for SNK fighters, though, and fans of other SNK games should be pleased with the challenge. If you suck, the game does at least offer a bonus for continuing the game. For example, one benefit might include having all of your power gauges filled at the beginning of the fight, or seeing your opponent's life reduced to one fourth of its standard size (which may be imperative for taking down bosses).
Finally, there's Survival mode where you basically play until you lose. Essentially, this is the most difficult mode because unlike the other modes where you can continue from where you left off, if you lose in this mode you have to restart from the beginning.
Battle Coliseum plays out like your typical fighter, where button mashing is often a valid method of obtaining both victory and blisters. Since the game does utilize tag teams, you can switch out characters whenever you please. Doing so will allow the initial fighter to recover health and gives you a fresh fighter to finish the fight. Also, when enough energy has been built up from dealing or blocking blows, you can perform a powerful D-Assault where both characters attack simultaneously for massive damage. With the large cast of characters it should take you quite awhile to master each character's combos and moves.
Battle Coliseum utilizes cartoony sprites similar to Street Fighter, which really bring those characters to life. Everything looks great if you're a fan of this art style and all of the characters from different games feel right at home here, even though Marco from Metal Slug looks a little weird now that he's so much taller than his original short and constrained form. Animations are great and hilarious and Mai's trademark boobie physics are still present. Backgrounds, which range from the typical crowds cheering in alleyways to the battlefield taking place on a rolling cart that's being pursued by a drilling robot, are varied and interesting. The music is simplistic but not that memorable. Character voices can be annoying at times, but they work. It should all be enough to satisfy you if you're a fan of classic fighting games.
All in all, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum is a fun fighting game for people who like classic fighters. Whether you like Marvel vs. Capcom or dream of seeing all your favorite NeoGeo characters duke it out, there's something here for you. While the game's difficulty may scare off newcomers to the genre, it should be quite welcome to veterans of the King of Fighters series.
Freelance review by Matt Olsen (January 05, 2008)
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