Neo Geo Battle Coliseum PS2 Review

Here we are again. Another month, another SNK themed released from Ignition Entertainment, who are clearly getting their money’s worth out of their acquisition of SNK’s publishing rights. This one, however, is a bit of a curio. Rather than being the latest update in one of the NeoGeo’s many fighting game franchises, Battle Coliseum throws fighters from all over the place into the fight, including some surprise additions, á la the lovely Marvel vs. Capcom or the woeful Capcom Fighting Jam.

On paper, this is one of the most star-studded scrum in the history of video games. Combatants from King of the Fighters, Fatal Fury and Samurai Showdown all throw down for a fight, alongside a few more obscure fighters from King of the Monsters, the ultra-rare Kizuna Encounter: Super Tag Battle and the one I haven’t heard of – Aggressors of Dark Kombat – making up an impressive roster of 40 fighters. Hell, you can even play as Marco from Metal Slug, with full use of the tank as a special move.

The main game is a tag-based fighter; you pick two characters and can swap them in and out of the battle when you wish. However, only one of them needs to take the fall for you to lose the match, so strategic management of health is the key to survival. You have a remarkable amount of offence at your fingertips, from the standard punches and kicks right through to fantastical tag-team special move. You’ve played a King of the Fighters game before, right? Right?

Brilliant – because it is exactly the frigging same as all of the others. Another game created on the Atomiswave arcade board, allowing for some ultra-detailed backgrounds (and some 3D settings on this PS2 port) but, with the exception of the new fighters, another game FULL of reused sprites from games years old now. What have you actually done here, SNK? Have you simply taken a handful of popular fighters, thrown them together with some rudimentary tag-system stolen wholesale from KoF2003 (which in turn was ‘borrowed’ from the ‘Capcom vs.’ series), chucked a couple of fanboy services into the mix, like the inclusion of Metal Slug characters, boxed it up and thrown it out to a bunch of rabid “hardcore gamers”, who will pick up ANYTHING with the SNK name scrawled upon it assuming it will give them some kind of credibility amongst their mouth-breathing peers.

It’s got everything you expect – a solid, if unspectacular fight system? Check. A last boss so unbelievably cheap it could cost you a few control pads, due to his health regeneration and traditional fighting style of “spam the whole bloody screen with lightning bolts”? Check. A woeful lack of any kind of self identity? Check.

…but, SNK fans, you can be Marco from Metal Slug.

Even the port to the PS2 feels lazy. You’ve got a few 3D backdrops, some ugly front-ends and some horrific loading times – longer than most 3D fighting games – this seems to want to take its time booting what is essentially a glorified emulator and ROM. I mean, what more do you need to hear? What modes does the game feature? Arcade, 2 Player Versus, Survival… the standards. Nothing new, heaven forbid, just a bunch of modes from a bunch of other games. Upon completion of arcade mode you unlock the endings to watch at your luxury, so you can revel in the nonsensical plot whenever you wish. Throw in a few unlockable characters and an artwork gallery and that is all there is to this game. I suppose you could always try ‘Colour Edit’ mode and customize a character to your tastes, but personally, I’d rather carve out my kneecaps with a rusty trowel.

Evolve or die. The fighting game genre is in desperate need of an evolution – something to push the envelope a little further. Like Street Fighter 2 did. Like Virtua Fighter did. Like Tekken 3 and Soul Calibur did. Like Marvel vs. Capcom 2 did. One of those games that, once released, every game afterwards will want to be just like it. Fighting games need their Halo; screw it – their Resident Evil 4.

What we have here is another game developed for a niche market who would probably buy it even if it came in a box, daubed with excrement, with ‘SNK/NEOGEO’ smeared on the front. Two names that used to signify beat ’em up quality, now are almost synonymous with beat ’em up mediocrity. So I say to you, SNK fans, is this all you want? Another lazy fighter, or do you want another game worthy of their pedigree? To all you “hardcore” gamers, who will no doubt feel that this mauling of SNK is blasphemy, I ask you this – What is the difference between this game and the FIFA/Madden games you point the finger of laziness towards year in, year out?

If it has anything going in it’s favour, it is being launched here in Europe at a budget price of £20, but then, so is a copy of Soulcalibur 3 – and that is PS2 fighting at its best. Even 2D diehards will be best suited going to the nearest arcade and having 20 goes on Guilty Gear XX.

About the most average fighter from the SNK stable and a poster-game for lazy development.

4.0 out of 10
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