Nobody really liked the original Capcom vs SNK. Although it had style, the unnecessary ratio system was confusing, and the cast of characters was more than questionable. But everything was set right with Capcom vs SNK 2, which filled out the roster and turned into a respectable fighting game. On the same note, SNK vs Capcom: Chaos was met with a similarly cold reception when first released. Sure, seeing all of the Capcom characters drawn SNK style was pretty cool, but it was still lacking in more than a few areas. Neo Geo Battle Coliseum is, for all intents and purposes, the sequel to SvC Chaos. It ditches all of the Capcom characters, but greatly expands the character selection and fine tunes the fighting, resulting in a far more complete experience.
Neo Geo Battle Coliseum expands the concept behind King of Fighters and grabs nearly all of its characters from various titles in SNK’s history. All of the SNK characters from SvC Chaos are here – KoF mainstays Terry, Mai, Kim, Kyo and Iori. Also included are other favorites like K’, Shermie and Robert, who is once again dressed in a completely new outfit. Rock and Hotaba from Garou: Mark of the Wolves make appearances, as well as Jin Chonshuu, Jin Chonrei and Tung Fu Rue from some of the older Fatal Fury titles. Washizuka, Akari, Kaede and Moriya represent the Last Blade characters, while Haohmaru, Genjuro and Nakoruru appear from Samurai Shodown. Two characters from the 3D Samurai Shodown games are here, and while Shiki was in SvC Chaos, this is the first time outside of the Neo Geo Pocket Color games that we see a 2D rendition of Asura. Hanzo, Fuuma, and Mudman show up from the forgotten ADK semi-classic World Heroes, and Mr. Big, Mr. Karate and Lee Pai Long fill out the Art of Fighting roster.
There are also a handful of obscure characters, or at least faces we haven’t seen in fighting games before – these include Cyber Woo, from King of Monsters, who is a gigantic mecha ape controlled by a little kid; Marco, from Metal Slug, who commands tanks and can turn into a zombie at will; and Kisarah from Aggressors of Dark Kombat. There are also two completely new characters – Yuki, who wields a powerful blue flame that would put KoF 2003’s Ash to shame, and Ai, a cutesy gamer chick who attacks with VR decides and Tetris blocks. With over thirty five characters, it’s an extremely well rounded roster. While most of new faces aren’t really "new" persay, it’s cool to be able to mix things up from the standard KoF roster, and gives long time fans some new characters to master. Some of the characters do feel a bit redundant – do we really need BOTH Hanzo and Fuuma? – but otherwise there really aren’t many complaints. I mean, this is the first time Geese Howard and Rock Howard can finally fight on the same team. How awesome is that?
Taking a note from King of Fighters 2003 (which in turn was inspired by the Capcom Versus games), Neo Geo Battle Coliseum lets you pick two characters, which you can switch between anytime during battle. Characters in backup rejuvenate their health and don’t lose any when brought back into combat, which encourages constant tag teaming. There are also combo attacks called Double Assaults, which calls out your partner for a super attack.
Since the arcade version originally ran on the Atomiswave board, most of the 2D backgrounds are high res and look far better than your standard Neo Geo game. Like KoF 2002, there are plenty of cameos for fans to pick up (why do they taunt me with Rosa from Kizuna Encounter?), including a level based off the Dreamcast rhythm game Cool Cool Toon. The characters sprites are still the same ones SNK has been using for years, but they’ve held up fairly well, and there are a few focus options that let you adjust their sharpness. A few 3D backgrounds have also been added to the PS2 port, although arguably the 2D arenas are a bit nicer. You can choose between Arrange and Original soundtracks, although neither are particularly outstanding. The style is very similar to KoF 2003, featuring techno beats and some heavily synthesized guitar, which doesn’t stand up to the music from SNK’s heyday.
The only real problem with the PS2 port are the load times. The first time you begin a match, it takes approximately twenty seconds to begin. Later matches are quicker, but they still take at least ten seconds to load. And these only seem to affect the Arcade and Versus modes – the Survival mode is fairly quick. This is a late generation PS2 game, and it’s almost intolerable, especially compared to the lightning quick King of Fighters ports.
There are the other usual complaints that one could level at 2D fighting games – the single player game modes are pretty standard, and only a few unlockable characters. The final boss, Mizuchi, is ridiculously cheap, who regains health after being hit and assaults the screen with lighting bolts. He’s really only beatable via the continue service, which reduces his life meter to a quarter. And even then, you’ll need to really cheese it up to beat him. There’s a nice gallery which shows off the artwork (including some overly cutesy renditions of the bunch), but otherwise the options are fairly scant. There is a mode for online play, but like all other PS2 SNK titles, you need to sign up for a Japanese matching service. In other words, if you’re not in the country, you’re pretty much out of luck.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1
The character quotes and endings are all in Japanese, but everything else is in English.
Doubtful. SCEA rarely lets SNK brings their 2D fighters out in America unless they’re bundled together, and that doesn’t seem likely at this point. With third parties ditching support for the original Xbox, a port to Microsoft’s old system also seems unlikely.
+ Pros: An excellent selection of characters and a quality combat system that draws upon the best qualities of many 2D fighters.
– Cons: Long loading times for a late generation game.
Overall: Things have not been great for 2D fighting fans – Guilty Gear Isuka was a lame attempt to rejuvenate the genre, and Capcom Fighting Evolution was pretty embarrassing all around. SNK seemed to be in a bit of a slump after SNK vs Capcom: Chaos. But the excellent KoF 2003 showed they still had what it took to create a quality fighting game, and Neo Geo Battle Coliseum is just as outstanding, if not more so. If you’re a 2D fighter fan and you’re patient enough to deal with the loading, you’ll love it.
Written by Kurt Kalata.
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