Battle Arena Toshinden
Battle Arena Toshinden blew me away when I first saw it on the PlayStation. Having grown up playing cartridge based systems I was completely amazed that I could play an arcade-style 3D fighter in the comfort of my own home. These characters were actually made up of polygons, not pixilated 2D sprites that hurt the eyes during close inspection. Of course I immediately bought the game after snatching up a launch PlayStation and enjoyed countless hours battling it out with my friends in the game’s versus mode. But, now that I have a chance to look back on the game and compare it to the many great fighting titles available, I’m not so sure it actually deserved all the play time it got from me.
Of course the thing the sucked me in during those first few months of CD based console gaming was the game’s graphics. All the characters were well designed and modeled completely in polygons. They animated relatively smoothly and duked it out in impressive (for the time) 3D arenas. Looking now at Battle Arena Toshinden I feel confident in saying that the game does still look quite good. When compared to other 3D fighters on the PlayStation it still stands as one of the most colorful and crisp visual offerings to be released.
Like the visuals, the audio presentation is still very potent. The numerous music tracks can still get my foot tapping today and the sound effects are also clean and clear. Most of the voices are bit over-the-top, but I a feel that they fit each character quite well. Actually, one of my friends used to wow and amaze people at parties by busting out his flawless impression of Fo Fai’s “Kikikikikikikoooooo!” battle cry (no joke).
So if the visual and audio presentation is still good quality, then what is it that is giving me second thoughts about this game’s then perceived greatness? As always seems to be the case in videogaming, we must focus on the gameplay. Back in 1995, I was so enthralled with the novelty of 3D gaming that I chose to overlook some fairly serious gameplay shallowness on Toshinden’s part. The game pretty much plays like a 2D fighter, with five or six typical Street Fighter-esque special moves making up the entirety of each fighter’s move set. There are throws available to the fighters, but they never seem like they can be used effectively in the matches. The Desperation and secret attacks are nice additions, but they simply can’t make up for the lack of combos, juggles or other advanced fighting techniques.
On top of that, the game controls quite sluggishly. It often seems that there is a delay between what you are pressing on the controller and what is occurring on-screen. I was a relative novice to 3D fighting games back in those days, but now I know that such poor responsiveness can kill a fighting game. The lack of advanced techniques and sluggish control make this game ideal for novices to take on and whoop experts, because an advanced Toshinden player (if there can be such a thing) is hampered by the previously mentioned issues.
Despite its gameplay flaws, I still view Toshinden as somewhat of a breakthrough game on the PlayStation. It introduced the wonders of 3D fighting to the console gaming world and that in itself is something I look back fondly on. But, as a fighting game compared to the many great brawlers available today it just doesn’t have the gameplay depth to compete. Go out and pick up a used copy of Battle Arena Toshinden if you want to experience a little piece of videogaming history, but don’t expect much more than that or you’re bound to be disappointed.