Like an old pair of gloves.
Summer, 2005. Flushing, New York. Main Street, Chinatown.
I look over my shoulder before stepping past the taped glass door into the underground mall. The hustle and bustle of the crowded streets, festering in the smells of car exhaust, sweat, and Chinese take-out, settles behind me as I scan the stores: A dimly lit shop lined in rows of black-wired shelves along the wall, all full of CDs and DVDs - and all bootleg, of course. Another shop - vacant - dark and dank, murky and dry, whose only remains are two floorboards and dust. Then finally, the hole-in-the-wall video game store - my destination - where every title cost at least four dollars below retail.
But this certainly is no place for the casual bargain shopper. Packed in the corner near the entrance of this shop, which was no larger than twenty-feet long and five-feet wide, are two King of Fighters
NeoGeo arcade machines with players standing, sitting, waiting in line for a chance to defeat the winner. These are the kind of players who got up all in your face if they won, punched the arcade cabinet if they lost, and who garnered rumors of a gang member having shot a person who got a Perfect on him.
These are the kind of people, albeit less vicious (at least I hope so), that NeoGeo Battle Coliseum
targets. If you’re someone who has never heard of the NeoGeo, let alone most of the fighting franchises that are represented here - Fatal Fury
, King of Fighters
, Samurai Showdown
, Garou: Mark of the Wolves
, Art of Fighting
, Aggressors of Dark Kombat
, World Heroes
, and even Metal Slug
- then this is probably a hard sell. But if you’re a hardcore 2D fighting machine that dreams of crossover match-ups (and likely has the fan-made M.U.G.E.N.
program on their computer… like I do), then this should be safely nesting in your collection.
As expected, bringing characters all across the NeoGeo landscape into the same arena needs an insane, bizarre, what-were-they-inhaling
explanation. In February 2017 by the Japanese calendar (that
specific, huh?), some unnecessarily overpowered, effeminate man with long white hair
who happens to be the head of the WAREZ foundation (beware the substitute ‘Z’!) is trying to take control of the NeoGeo World. For some reason, instead of just massacring every person one by one when they’re off-guard, he orders a fighting competition in the Battle Coliseum. Unbeknownst to him, the Japanese federal government
has ordered their top agents, Yuki and Ai, to… yeah, I don’t really care either.
NeoGeo Battle Coliseum
appears to be the usual tag-team crossover fighter, similar in design to Capcom’s “Vs.” titles, and that assumption is mostly right. The graphics are simple and somewhat dated, even for 2D sprites, and the music contains the run-of-the-mill boom-pa-boom-pa beats.
The only modes offered are Arcade mode, Tag Play mode (which is just Arcade mode except both your characters must be knocked out to lose), and Survival Challenge. Not much, is it? Most of the hidden characters and the Gallery - where you can view concept artwork, character illustrations, and game endings - can all be unlocked by winning twenty-one matches in survival, which actually isn’t too difficult given the deliberately lower health of your opponents in the mode.
But unlike most crossover mash-ups, such as the flimsily designed Capcom Fighting Evolution
, SNK Playmore gets two fundamental mechanics right. Even with the incredible mix of characters from an equally incredible number of franchises, it has a balanced and approachable system. After you select your tag team and which character appears first, the ensuing battle becomes a sword-slinging, character-switching, fireball-throwing beatdown.
Despite fighters who wield swords that clear more than half the screen or who fling silly Tetris blocks
, no one is too powerful; that is, if you discount some of the bosses. Goodman, as most bosses of crossover titles, will just manhandle you any chance he can get. Sure, he can’t jump or crouch, but when he can summon what can only be described as purple monkey fire flames from the sky onto your sorry ass, he doesn’t really need to.
No matter how unfair some bosses are, though, the difficulty is curved to your exact skill level. Newcomers can turn down the difficulty level as well as the defense strength of your characters and the opponent’s characters, to a point where a one-star difficulty actually is
a piece of cake. Veterans, however, will appreciate the additional challenge of using double assault attacks, which reduce the red healable health of an opponent but is only enabled after one of your characters stays in the ring for about eight seconds. So players are rewarded for not constantly swapping left and right. This coupled with the standard arsenal of techniques, such as super and special moves, dashes, high jumps, tactical steps, fallbreakers, guard cancel frontsteps - and the ever-important understanding of priority and range - all about ensures that hardcore players can slaughter each other
, as well as any unsuspecting n00b, from just one mistake.
NeoGeo Battle Coliseum
looks old and sounds old and plays in 2D - all things that will deter most modern-day gamers, but old-school fans of NeoGeo fighters and newbies interested in discovering where 3D fighters originated will not be disappointed. It may be daunting to step off the main road and walk into lost, unfamiliar, and dangerous territory. It may not feel like the smartest, safest thing to do. But in the end, it always leads to the experiences that are worth remembering