SNK is bangin' out the arcade hits on Atomiswave these days, and one of their big ones makes it to the PS2. As with their other recent ports, this one gets lavish treatment, with progressive scan support, character color edit mode, survival mode, several battle modes, art and character galleries, and network play--in Japan, anyway.
Battle Coliseum takes characters from all kinds of wacky old SNK franchises and crams 'em all into a tag-battle fighting game. Pick two characters--how about Marco from Metal Slug paired with Kaede from Last Blade?--and throw down against another duo of fighters. The sprites are still old MVS-style low-res affairs, paired here with high-res 2D/3D backgrounds. SNK has been doing an impressive job with backgrounds lately, and these are no exception, with lots of detail, character cameos, animation, and multiple times of day. The character sprites themselves animate about as well as the usual KOF game, I guess, and there are maybe a few flashier effects or transparencies to show that we've graduated up to mightier hardware--but not many.
SNK seems compelled to support all of Atomiswave's five buttons in their games, and so you've got the usual four-button MVS LP/LK/SP/SK layout here, plus a "Change" button that switches between your two fighters. There are a few additional tricks you can do with the Change button, like a team up attack that uses some power meter, but other than that, the fighting system is pretty standard KOF style, with a few small tricks for experts that I'm not good enough to worry about, and character-specific exceptions (Haomaru from Samurai Spirits can do his "Rage" thing, for instance).
In Arcade mode, your pairs fight until one fighter from a pair loses all their health. That's round one, and winner is the one who gets two out of three. Switched-out characters can regenerate some of their lost health, so there's definite strategy in managing your character switching effectively. I like that. In the other main mode, Tag Battle or something like that, both characters have to go down. The timer should be longer in this mode, it seems--at any rate, I timed out a bunch of times.
The music here is vibrant and varied, and I actually like it, whereas usually I just find SNK's KOF music only tolerable. On the other hand, the character portraits in this game are very bland, and the two new characters, some kind of misconceived futuristic hip-hop kids, are pretty annoying.
But for the most part I'm grooving right along in this game. Then I come to the ever-dreaded part of fighting games: the boss. Or maybe he's just a mid-boss. Anyway, he's suddenly incredibly difficult, and just no real fun for a relatively casual player like me. Heck, he seems to heal faster than I can even hurt him; for instance, I hit him with a multi-hit Super move, and he had just a bit of health left, so I thought sure this would get him, but by the time the Super was done, he'd already healed almost right back to where he was before it started! I wouldn't mind this so much, but you only get five fights or so until you run into him.
*goes and reads FAQ*
Okay, I guess you hit the boss once some kind of timer runs out as you play through the game. Well, that's just weird. It isn't even very hard up to that point, on the default difficulty anyway, then they just kind of slam you into this brick wall. I don't really get it. It's like they're saying "Okay, we don't really care how good you are, if you're anything less than a real expert you're going to get to play the game for x seconds before we pwn your butt, and then you have to use another quarter. Hah."
What makes this worse are the substantial load times between rounds in Arcade and Tag Battle modes. They're really not good. So if you lose to the boss, you have to sit through the game over / continue screens, then the load to the character select screen, then the load to the "pick your team order" screen, then the load back into the boss level. Ugh. There really should have been a quick continue option. Ironically, in Practice and Survival modes, there is no load time between stages--so I guess the load time is due to having to insert the victory/defeat and character selection screens in between stages. Silly, and not a good thing.
I'll probably stick with Survival for the most part, then. Except even there you encounter that stupid boss. Damn.
That boss still sucks, and those rounded glassy-eyed techno kids are as annoying as the bejeezus--characters like that popped up with alarming frequency around these confusing years for SNK; seems to me they have a Korean style to them, maybe related to the Eolith thing?
Some of the sprites are freakin' great designs, though, like Marco (from the Metal Slug series) and Kisarah (a redhead in a short schoolgirl outfit with crazy book and leg-swinging moves, from the old NeoGeo game "Aggressors of Dark Kombat" by ADK, apparently).
And I like the character portraits more, now; they have a really nice painted look with subtle colors and expressions, and flowing poses.
You can play full matches via Practice mode; you can set it as a great Endless mode, even, with--if you want--random stages, and a new random team replacing yours or the AIs when they get beat. This is pretty much my favorite way to play fighting games these days, and it was something SNK were doing in their later PS2-era games--can also do it in KOF 2003 and King of Fighters XI (tip: it's basically limited to their games with mid-round character switching; games without that had separate "rounds," and the stage resets between rounds in those training modes--KOF 2002, for instance--so you couldn't play a full match).
Unfortunately, at least against the AI in practice mode, the game is too easy. Whereas AI level 4 kicks my buns in KOF XI, for instance, at the top AI level setting in NGBC--which only goes up to 7 : o--even I can beat the AI in practice mode pretty handily. So uh dang, guess I'm pretty much done with this game unless I find some actual person to come over and play it with me, because that would probably be a lot of fun.
I got a lot of things wrong here! NeoGeo Battle Coliseum on PS2 *doesn't* have an AI problem (unless you're trying to play it entirely in Practice mode, as I was for a while back in the day :p); I at least finally figured that out in the course of this video, but I also, in the course of this video, put my foot in my mouth about *other* things, and didn't realize it until I looked them up afterward:
- Kisarah is not Kyo's girlfriend; she's a character from the one-on-one isometric beat-em-up (often mistakenly called a fighting game :ppp) Aggressors of Dark Kombat by ADK--who also made World Heroes - The game whose name I couldn't think of, that Shishioh (aka King Lion) is from--he's a boss character here in NGBC, well actually two of them I think--is Kizuna Encounter (or its predecessor, Savage Reign, if you must, but that one has platforms and eh); Rosa is the name of the other character from that game whose name I couldn't think of, she's in the background of that ugly brownish giant skeleton stage (57'38) - Now that I'm not going to play using [?] random select anymore, I might as well save after unlocking bosses in Survival Challenge; I'm actually rather interested in trying out King Lion, since he might not be too overpowered - The first boss, Mizuchi, is supposedly a *clone* of Orochi from KOF '97 :p) - The evil corporation in the game is "WAREZ," which even in this Japanese version (the game *did* come out in the States later, but I already had this imported version) is spelled out in English characters, is of course a play on pirated software, which SNK felt was partly responsible for their recent bankruptcy - "Mr. Karate" *was* originally an alias used by Takuma Sakazaki in the first Art of Fighting, but the Mr. Karate in this game is actually his son, Ryo, which explains his different look and moves (trivia: Ryo's Wikipedia page says he was modeled after Patrick Swayze :P) - Hanzo and Fuma (whose name is sometimes spelled elsewhere as "Fuuma"), from World Heroes, are sort of the Ryu and Ken from that series, having similar move sets, which may explain (partly :p) why I was getting them mixed up - "Genjyuro's" name is usually spelled "Genjuro" :P - My old, un-commentated video in which I spent a lot of time trying to unlock bosses in Survival challenge was played using the downloaded Japanese PS2 Classics version on PS3, which explains why I didn't have any bosses unlocked here in the actual PS2 version :P - I think I *will* only go through three of these previously un-commentated SNK PS2 games that I dug up when left in the lurch after my awaited mystery game fell into USPS shipping limbo; the fourth I was mulling over a bit was KOF XI, but upon review I'm reminded that in addition to its serious balance issues and mostly horribly dull backgrounds, it also has a vicious double white screen flash on KO, fairly ugly presentation, and some annoying and unnecessary mechanics, and eh I just really don't like that game anymore
Probably a lot of other stuff I got wrong that I'm not remembering right now. :ppp
The character portraits are by Eisuke Ogura, in a looser style than, say, his later work on such games as KOF XIV. A few of them (Terry :o) are maybe a bit iffy, but a lot of them are really good, fresh takes on the characters.
So "Arcade Play" mode with its timer is awful, and vs CPU that you can set up in Practice is too easy, but Tag Play and Survival Challenge are fairly workable, so far; Tag Play feels a bit short--6 tag matches, then boss--and you *do* have to face Mizuchi after 5 matches, I guess, in Survival, but it's a much less powerful version of that darn boss, so maybe I can be okay with that--and then I gather the other three bosses come along at some later point as well, and beating them unlocks them.
Anyway for now it seems I can add NGBC to my big huge fighting game play rotation! = oo I'll have to make random select script to pick characters for me though, there are too many I don't like that [?] insists on giving me. ; )