|Platform Reviewed||Sony Playstation|
|Genre||3D One-On-One Polygon Fighter|
|Number of Players||1 - 2|
|Skills Required||Hand-Eye Coordination|
|Interface Devices||Playstation Joypad|
|Game Design and Playability||Excellent|
|Type Of Fun||Beat-Em-Up|
|The Best||Beautiful graphics, interesting characters, magical powers and techniques, variety of camera views. Inclusion of side rolls for true use of 3D arena.|
|The Worst||Somewhat toned down from the Japanese version (the Dominatrix aspect of Sophia has been downplayed, believe it or not, and the voices are not as unique).|
|How much would I be willing to pay for this||65 Bucks|
Battle Arena Toshinden was the response to the ground breaking Virtua Fighter, it improves upon the basic 3D fighter design with smoother graphics, and adds the feel of Street Fighter II by the inclusion of 'magical' talents and moves (fireballs, anyone?). The biggest departure is the use of a sidestepping, or roll-around move, which allows the fighters to make true use of their three dimensional environment. Rather than just being a 2D fighter with 3D graphics, Battle Arena Toshinden comes closer to a more full 3D experience.
For once there actually is no pretentious attempt at some ridiculous plot as to why the player is slapping the tar out of anyone in their way. Battle Arena Toshinden seemingly dispenses with this, the player is here to fight, there does not need to be a reason - it IS a fighting game, after all - so get in there and crush some skulls. Short, sweet, and brutally to the point. Kinda refreshing, actually. Don't get me wrong - a well crafted excuse for mayhem can help identification with the characters. Blanka, from Street Fighter II was made endearing by virtue of his background story, for instance, and Mortal Kombat's plot made a fantastic motion picture. I do not object to excellent fighting game background stories at all, I encourage it. But if a good, original plot cannot be thought of, I say, don't even try. They didn't, and I'm happy.
After a while, the endless parade of fighting games becomes one long seamless blur of boring repetition. Sure, it's fun to fight. Sure, each game tries to add some little thing to make it stand out from the rest. But basically, what you end up with is two improbable characters standing toe to toe and hammering away at each other. The fighters move near to each other, or far away from each other, as though attached to a little straight groove in the floor. Sometimes they jump over each other, but always on that straight line. 2D or 3D, the effect is ultimately the same.
Battle Arena Toshinden was the first to actually attempt to exploit the unique nature of true 3D fighting by allowing the player to do something new, to sidestep, by rolling, around an opponent. This one alteration is by some blessed and by others cursed, but it is nonetheless an inventive idea. Since copied, much less effectively by fighters such as Vic Tokai's Criticom, the Rolling Sidestep adds a true three dimensional flair to the 3D polygon genre.
Essentially a Street Fighter II 'Magical Warrior' contest done in 3D, with all the requisite fireballs, energy waves, glowing blasts, and plasma torched super attacks one could imagine, Battle Arena Toshinden provides a more fantastic alternative to the relative realism of Virtua Fighter, or Tekken. It is a fun fight, and the special effects are rather beautiful to watch.
On the down side, it is hard to feel for or identify with the characters in the same way it is possible in games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. The characters are interesting looking, even beautiful, but some mysterious soul seems to be missing. Perhaps a superior story might have helped.
Toshinden is a very worthwhile purchase, and is the best of the 'sidestepper' fighters. It is in the class of Virtua Fighter and Tekken, and is definitely a good fight. But some ineffable essence seems to be paled in the game, perhaps because of the tinkering to make it more 'Americanized' by those poor misguided souls at Sony of America. Nearly great but just not absolutely perfect.
Jennifer Diane Reitz is a Game Designer and Computer Artist, and one of the founders of Happy Puppy. She is the creator of numerous games and software products, including Boppin' , Shark Chums, Elsewhere, and many others. She has worked for such companies as Activision, Sculptured Software, Epyx, SRI, and Electronic Arts, and founded Accursed Toys. She has been active in the computer gaming industry since it's earliest days. She considers games to be works of artistic merit and achievement, and views computer entertainment as the most important media of our era.