Much like the great Capcom vs. SNK 2 and other compilations like Marvel vs. Capcom, and even Mugen, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum offers a fairly straightforward 2D fighting engine that is a culmination of the series' evolving battle system. The focus is on the sheer number of characters: a diverse rainbow of different styles and personalities. Coliseum is a two-on-two tag-team game featuring 40 characters from tons of NeoGeo classics, including Samurai Showdown, Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, King of Fighters, and even other random games like Metal Slug. Simply put, this is a NeoGeo fan's dream.
The combat engine is a general version of the four-button system from SNK's fighters. There are a few differences though. Attack dodging via dashing (previously rolling) consumes part of your super gouge, meaning dodge-abuse won't be possible. Tag-team attacks, which consume none of your super gauge and can only be activated if both of your characters are alive, add an interesting new dynamic to the mix. Outside of these changes, the play will be familiar to SNK fans.
In addition to the bevy of expected modes including arcade play, survival, team battles, and versus, there are some nice higher-end features including some unlockable characters, color customization, and a command edit that lets you customize your characters moves and supers.
Like most great 2D fighters, Coliseum features excellent hand-drawn art and fantastic animation. Though Guilty Gear may remain the pinnacle of the genre presentation-wise, Coliseum definitely holds up: the sprites have been polished to a sheen, and you won't find any that feel as distinctly out of place as, say, Morrigan in Capcom vs. SNK 2. Just make sure that if you're playing on the PlayStation 3, you turn off the graphics enhancement; it makes the sprites a tad muddy.
The only real downside to the title is that it suffers from some pretty long load times. I'm not sure what SNK did with the sprite-caching on the PS2—as there are numerous other 2D fighting games on the system that have nowhere near the lengthy loading that this one does, including some of SNK's own games—but you can expect to wait a good bit of time before finally getting into a match.
If you're a fan of the long and rich history of NeoGeo, in particular the fighting games bred by SNK, then you need look no further for the ultimate culmination of 20 years of 2D fighting glory. Though hardcore purists may debate some of the gameplay changes, the nostalgia runs deep in this title and the unique take on the series is a nice change of pace from the standard practice of compilation rereleasing. All that and a bargain basement price makes this a hard fighter to pass up.
Developer: Crave Entertainment
Publisher: SNK Playmore
ESRB Rating: Teen
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