People primarily know SNK for two things - their massive library of excellent 2D fighting games, and the hardware that powered many of these titles, the venerable Neo-Geo arcade/home system. It’s rather surprising that it took them this long to hop on the happy nostalgia bandwagon and create - what else? - a fighting game celebrating the storied history of the hardware that made them famous. Even though it’s far from perfect, this console celebration is a good deal of fun.
NeoGeo Battle Coliseum is a game based on a now common concept: stick a bunch of franchises all together in a single game and have them beat each other up. While SNK might be mostly known for its fighting game franchises, NGBC opts to take the entire history of SNK into account, bringing in characters from shooting and action stalwarts like Metal Slug and King of the Monsters. There are even a few faces from some less-well-regarded NeoGeo and SNK titles, which are a rather unexpected surprise. (Anyone here think highly of World Heroes? Didn’t think so.) The roster definitely ups the game’s appeal factor, and will make anyone who regularly visited arcades in the 1990s nostalgic.
But unlike Smash Bros. or Marvel vs. Capcom, NGBC’s craziness is relatively controlled. It’s a purebred, one-on-one technical 2D fighter of a similar vein to SNK’s past offerings - albeit with a tag-team twist. While you’re sure to see some off-the-wall super team combination moves and animations, you’re not going to have insanely frenzied air combos or massive, arena-destroying carnage other crossover games offer. While this may prove disappointing to people coming off the Versus or Guilty Gear series, it’s the sort of combat system that will appeal more to the game’s core audience - longtime, devoted SNK fans.
There are a few other quibbles with the game’s presentation, too. Much like King of Fighters XI before it, the visuals are very schizophrenic. The backgrounds look fine, but the character sprites themselves are blocky and low-res, making for a distracting visual juxtaposition. The animations on the characters look fantastic, though, making you wonder why they couldn’t have put in a bit of extra effort to make things more consistent. (The blockiness can be remedied somewhat with a fix in the options menu, but it still doesn’t look as nice as we’d hoped.) The single-player game modes are also rather sparse and generic, and to make it worse, there’s little in-game story to speak of. While some players won’t care at all, others who play versus the CPU to see all the characters’ quotes and endings will be rather let down. But perhaps most distracting are the amazingly long load times - what on earth could be causing that DVD drive to grind so long in-between bouts?
NGBC is a solid fighter overall. Unfortunately, its dated visuals and more low-key fighting engine might turn off newcomers, and the game doesn’t quite have the depth of more specialized SNK series like King of Fighters. Still, at a $20 MSRP, it’s an attractive purchase. If you’re an SNK fan, NGBC is a must-buy - but it still might be worth consideration even if you’re just a casual 2D fighter.
Jan 22, 2008