Think Capcom Fighting Jam but instead of battering each other with the finest that Street Fighter, Darkstalkers and Red Earth have to offer, picture a brawler packed full of SNK characters, specifically those that appeared on the NeoGeo console. There are 33 initial combatants with a further seven to unlock hailing from classic fighting franchises such as The King of Fighters, Art of Fighting, World Heroes, Samurai Shodown etc.
So it all looks very promising and there is a certainly a huge and diverse roster to play with but is it all fighting fun in SNK's coliseum? Unfortunately, no. I'll start off with what is good about the game to begin with.
Pleasingly, the fighting itself is very solid and enjoyable. Battles are tag-team style affairs with the ability to switch fighters at will and execute special attacks whereby both of your team members gang up on an enemy for a lightning fast attack. The fighting will satisfy seasoned fighters while simultaneously being accesible enough for newbie's thanks to the single uniform super system and lesser focus on combo centered gameplay. As earlier mentioned, the roster is also one of NeoGeo Battle Coliseum's main strengths; there are plenty of characters to use with different fighting styles so that everyone is sure to find somebody they are good as. The line-up includes classics such as Terry Bogard, Iori, Haomaru, Mai and Geese Howard while also throwing in some oddities such as Athena from Psycho Soldier as well as Marco and Mars People from the Metal Slug series.
Sadly, this is where the good points end. There is just as much wrong with NBC as there is right with it. To start off with, the ground gained by the decent fighting gameplay isn't enough to make up for the fact that horrendously unbalanced bosses wait at the end of the various modes. It is easy to get so frustrated with this and just give up which cancels out any fun had in the rounds leading up to these final bouts.
Then there's the scrappy presentation of the whole package. The menu's are horribly presented with a distinct lack of consistency on show and even show signs of juttery frame rates at times which is unacceptable. The music is bland and forgettable as well with techno beats that sound as if they have been composed by an ameteur. Even the instruction manual manages to feel rushed with frequent errors present as well as screenshots that have obviously been carried over from other versions of the game. Example being the screen full of Japanese text and the menu screen that shows the option for network play when the option in question isn't even there on the PAL version.
An equally distinct lack of options also holds the game back with only arcade, survival, tag-play and practice available. All of these modes are pretty similar and make the title ironically feel like something that really could have been released on the NeoGeo about ten years ago. There's also the obligatory options mode (although you can't switch off the 'character change at continue' feature which quickly becomes grating) and an art gallery. The art gallery is pretty sizeable to it's credit (though most of the pictures look like fan art from the web) but the controls are bizzarely reversed so that 'X' becomes the cancel button and 'O' becomes select. This is very confusing and leads to much exiting of the gallery when you forget that 'X' is cancel and not select.
Overall then, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum is far from what it could have been if more effort had been put into it's creation. One for newbies although fans of fighters might gain some enjoyment from the package if they can overlook the gaping flaws and rushed/scrappy presentation that mark the game down as average at best.
6 / 10