Battle Arena Toshinden
It's Slap 'Em Up Time. Toshinden's premise is the usual one of the world's greatest martial artists gathering together in secret to see who's the hardest - except it's not that much of a secret or we wouldn't be watching. There are all the usual ways to play - traditional arcade style one-against-the-world; a practice mode; and options for two-player action on one machine or over a network. There are five levels of difficulty, plus ways to further customise a game - relative strengths can be adjusted in two-player games and you can even switch an auto-defence mode on.
PlayStation game alert
It looks nice enough, among pretty backgrounds in small playing areas set on high, which are easy to fall off of. But you should bear in mind that it's slightly jerky at its maximum 640x400 definition on a P90, with i6mb ram, and still not smooth at 320x200. You can adjust detail settings to smooth things out, but given that part of the game's appeal lies with its graphics, this isn't a satisfactory solution. Buying a P133 just to play it also seems a tad excessive.
There are the usual control problems of all psx-to-pc conversions - after all, going from an eight-button controller to one with considerably fewer is never ideal. In practice, it works reasonably well with a six-button pad or a keyboard, but a two-button joystick is a non-starter and of course, even using keyboard controls makes some of the fireball facilities difficult to activate.
Yup. Firstly, Toshinden differs from most beat 'em ups in that it's more of a sword and sorcery special effects movie: these 'unarmed' combatants seem to carry an awful lot of pointy weaponry around with them, ranging from gigantic two-handed swords, to a couple of titchy knives. It's also jammed to bursting with special moves, including rapid-fire hits, a huge range of combos, and the ability to leap small buildings in a single bound - when you jump in Toshinden, you come down with snow on your shoulders (despite that antidandruff shampoo you paid so much cash for). Combine all this with the aforementioned fireballs, and you have fights that stop being fights pretty quickly, and become something more akin to ooh... let's see... a Royal Ballet production of the Gulf War.
I want a real fight!
At first, this is all very spectacular and impressive, but after a while you long for a bit of simple hand-to-hand violence, instead of people stabbing each other with 70-foot pikes and shooting exocet missiles from their arse. It's a bit too easy to hit people from miles away and the fireballs are relatively easy to set off, and a bit too effective. This might be just fine and dandy as far as you're concerned, but really they might just as well carry guns and be done with it.
This is true to the original game, of course, but it still leaves something to be desired as a beat 'em up. If they'd just left it as a no-frills sword-fighting game, it would have been a lot better. As far as pure 3D beat 'em ups go, the superior Virtua Fighter is already available, and the excellent Tekken is on its way from the PlayStation.
One point to bear in mind though. is that both of these need some kind of 3D graphics accelerator card - and the price of one of these marvels of modern technology isn't actually much less than that of a PlayStation. And I suppose that while we're banging on about the psx, it's also worth mentioning that far superior sequels have already been released for all three games. It makes you think, doesn't it?
There are the usual range of hunks, along with two female caricatures for younger gameplayers to fiddle with themselves in front of. Each character has two outfits -presumably one's for everyday fights to the death and the other's for more formal occasions.
Cute heroic one who's fighting for charidee (Save The Late Seventies Hairstyle Fund, if you must know). Has a thin poncey sword, thick poncey tights and - crime of crimes - a headband and back-combed hair. But boy, when he gets in his GTi, can he pull the chicks.
Pocket sex-pot, for onanists who like their women small and unthreatening. Fights in a see-through bridesmaid's dress, so that her opponent will be put off by sight of her big pants. Worryingly for male foes, her weapon of choice is a set of circumcision knives.
Archetypal good-looking hero (and therefore, like Cary Grant, James Dean and Russell Grant, probably gay). Insists on shouting "Deadly ray!" at you when he fires his... well, deadly ray. Which has all sorts of potential for embarrassment when he misses, or you don't die.
Notorious beachball smuggler and official record-holder of World's Narrowest Bikini-line (0.35mm). Fights in black leather; can write her name in the snow with that whip. Alternative outfit seems to be a green suede tiger-stripe number, which some people quite like.
Armour-clad muscle-bound fantasy figure, with a sword the size of a drill-bit from a North Sea oil-rig. Has a neat line in leaping into the air and landing on you sword-first and - get this, girls - size 15 shoes. Has never used Sun-In in his life. Or a condom, for that matter.
Perhaps because he looks like a gardener out of a PG Wodehouse novel, Fo insists on fighting with a three-foot long rake strapped to each wrist. But don't fall for his ploy of hopping about on one leg as if his bunions are playing him up; it's a trick. Old bastard.
Mondo has an enormous pole. (Just ask anyone who's showered with him after the match - (Clary, 1991.) It's a 50 foot pike, with which he picks you up from the other side of the screen and waves you about like he's drying tea towels. This is very humiliating.
Download Battle Arena Toshinden
Sony are screaming about the global success of their new 32-bit Super Console, the PlayStation.
In fact a recent press release containing quotes from senior Sony executives stated that the PlayStation's success was comparable to the launch of the Walkman. Hmmm, sounds a bit like John Lennon claiming that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Anyway, I digress. Bven if you've been living in a cave for the last 12 months you'd have to have tried pretty damn hard to miss the hype. Well, PC succumbed to the might and excellence of the latest in the new breed of Japanese super consoles and everyone, yes everyone, on the editorial team now owns one. The beauty of this new machine, from a PC owner's point of view, is that most game developers working on the PC are also producing titles for the PlayStation and vice versa; this means that we all get the best of both worlds, a fact that's become even more of an issue recently with the introduction of 3D cards such as the 3D Blaster and Diamond Edge.
The first batch of titles to hit the PlayStation (and ironically the accelerator boards on the PC) were 3D beat 'em ups. Sony and Sega have had an immediate head start with pixel-perfect conversions of their arcade flagship titles - Tekken and Virtua Fighter - but the PC has proved once again that it can come pretty close to matching whatever these machines can do, and in a year's time should even surpass the strongest console efforts. Especially with cards like the PowerVR on the horizon.
Battle Arena Toshinden was the first title to be released in Japan, Europe and the US for the PlayStation and at all the trade shows prior to the console's official launch it was used to demonstrate the sound, power and graphical excellence of the new machine. Everyone stood around, mouths agape, crying: "Blimey, I've never seen the likes of this before, looks kinda spunky!" Well, we were in America at the time, and those screaming yank pundits were right, it is kinda spunky; although at first the PC version doesn't appear to quite live up to the power of the PlayStation, it will be the first fully 3D beat 'em up on the PC.
The game will basically follow the same structure as most fighting titles: using an array of combo and special moves plus magical weaponry you have to despatch each character in turn, all of which increase in strength as you progress. The PC conversion is very near completion but you can try it for yourself thanks to the demo on this month's cover disc. Of course the final version will have far more detail, plus a couple of new features and characters that don't appear in the PlayStation format.
Probably the most important point to make at this stage is the inclusion of code in the finished product that will support a number of 3D accelerators (which ones has yet to be confirmed), but nevertheless this means that it will look and play with much more fluidity than a standard PC 3D game. This seems to be the way forward for many developers, and under the Windows 95 desktop this 3D code will be supported regardless of the make of the accelerator in your machine; the upshot of this is that thankfully there's unlikely to be the sort of VHS versus Betamax type of format war that the PC is desperately hoping to avoid.
Toshinden will be the only tournament-style fighting game that supports full 360 degree rotation - Virtua Fighter on the Diamond Edge is true 3D, but it doesn't run on a standard PC and the rotation during combat falls i short of a complete turn. Obviously, comparisons will be drawn between FX Fighter and I Toshinden, but again FX Fighter's 3D engine is limited. During combat in the Toshinden arena it will be possible to alter the viewpoint from 'eye in the sky' down to a very close and in your face angle.
All the PlayStation characters are here with their special moves, but it is still unclear how the eight-button PlayStation pad control method will be translated to the PC - it still seems to have problems with four-button pads! Needless to say, all the moves will be included and Digital Dialect have gone to great lengths to recreate the impressive lighting and magical effects in the PlayStation version. Choose from the whip-lashing Sofia, the ultra quick, sword wielding Eeiji or the botty wielding, fart releasing Fo, the old man with a digestion problem.
Toshinden is primarily a two-player game but the single-player one will contain extra features over the original version, including an extra level and secret hidden characters. Another advantage over the PlayStation will be the ability to play via serial cable, modem and IPX network - the word Tournament will really mean something when there are eight players involved.
Toshinden will run on most machines, although a Pentium is recommended. Options to reduce shading effects and detail levels in the characters and impressive backdrops will be incorporated, so there's no need for 486 owners to panic at the sight of these screenshots.
Having played the incredible PlayStation version on more than a few occasions, the PC team is probably more critical than most, but examining this early version with an open mind and without bias, it's looking absolutely incredible, especially when compared to some of the current fighting games. Battle Arena Toshinden looks like it should hit PC owners in all the right places -and hit them hard, like a good fighter should.