Neo Geo Battle Coliseum is one of SNK Playmore's newer projects, hailed by many as the spiritual successor to the notorious SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom. Although the mix of Capcom and SNK characters in a KOF style game was attractive to die hard SNK vs. Capcom fans, it failed to generate a strong fan base presence in the US on account of overpowered characters and dated graphics.
However, SNK Playmore hopes to make up for their previous failures and deliver a solid, competitive gaming experience with Neo Geo Battle Coliseum. Sporting characters from many beloved (and ancient) SNK fighting series, including The Last Blade, Samurai Showdown, and World Heroes, the game consists of a 2-on-2 tag battle featuring a system that's very similar to the Namco's 3D fighter Tekken Tag Tournament.
After choosing 2 characters, you're thrown into the ring with your opponent. The game uses the standard King of Fighters setup, with strong and weak punches and kicks, however a new fifth button allows you to tag out your character, perform a double assault combo with your teammate, and even knock back your opponent after guarding an attack (at the expense of some of your power meter). The system has many elements of Chaos, including the dash cancel system (allowing you to counter a blocked move), and the throw/throw escape system, performed with the two kick buttons. A new defensive technique, called the ‘tactical step', is similar to KOF roll but takes power meter to perform.
The game seems to favor players who manage their characters well, and tag them out when they are taking too much damage. Your life bar consists of a green bar, which depletes when you're attacked, but a red bar also remains. This red bar will replenish when you tag the damaged character out. It's possible to tag out a character that is almost completely defeated, and tag them back in at half health. The only way to make a significant dent in the red bar is to perform the double assault attack; thankfully a delay prevents players from using this attack repeatedly.
Graphically, the game is a breath of fresh air after the dated look of Chaos. Fireballs, blocking and hit effects are all very well done. The character art, especially after winning a match, is superb. Although most returning characters don't seem to have much in terms of new frames of animation, many of the characters from older series are completely redrawn, and with excellent results. The backgrounds are done in high resolution, but are basically void of any animation. However, they look nice and don't get in the way of the action. The games quick pace is refreshing, and much faster than Capcom's recent effort, Capcom Fighting Evolution.
The game is still undergoing testing, and isn't slated for release until the end of this year, but it looks like Neo Geo Battle Coliseum is shaping up to be a winner. Balancing the diverse roster will be difficult, but hopefully we can expect this game stateside early next year.
Kyo and Mr. Karate face off against a Last Blade duo, Washizuka and Akari (9.55MB, .wmv format)
Genyjuro and Jin Chonrei take on another Last Blade team, Kaede and Moriya (6.88MB, .wmv format)