What happens when you port an impressive polygonal fighting game over from console machines to the PC?
In the case of Battle Arena Toshinden, sh . . . Well, let's just say that nothing much worth raving about happens. Battle ArenaToshinden, the flagship fighting game that spawned the Playstation craze, has finally been converted into a PC format for play on your computer.
Battle ArenaToshinden, by Playmates, broke new ground on the Sony machine with its entirely 3-D fighting arena, complete with rotating camera views and the ability to roll from side to side. This completely eliminated the fixed view and singular fighting direction that hampers other games in the fighting genre. The most outstanding feature of this game is the fact that the players can roll from side to side, circling their opponent and completely changing the angle of combat. This move allows for many new techniques and adds immense depth to the game. Rolling around your opponent while he attempts a move and then hitting from behind is a solid and devious maneuver that you could never hope to do in a game like Street Fighter. Another aspect of Toshinden is the limited battle field that allows for ring-outs(A complete rip off of Virtua Fighter) and again allows for more varied matches.
The story behind Toshinden is that the best martial artists in the world are assembled for the ultimate tournament. (Where have I heard this before? Oh, just about every other fighting game on the market!) The characters are largely original and their moves unique, but there is some overlap from previous games. For instance, Fo is almost entirely ripped from Gen-An of Samurai Showdown fame.(Even the laugh is the same!) The final boss, Gaia, complete with laser beams and claws on his shoulders, is very cool. The rest of the bunch are quite novel, which is something you don't see often in new fighting games.
Enough talking about the plot line . . . let's talk about how the game plays on the PC. The first thing I noticed was the lack of sound. The signature voices and fun sound effects that characterized the Playstation and Saturn versions are almost entirely removed or are rerecorded. The upbeat music, however, is still on the CD, though you must have your sound card cabled to your drive to hear it (If not, it's only an $8 investment to get the cable). The most disappointing revision I noticed was that the playing boards and backgrounds are very low resolution and grainy. On the other hand, the players themselves are well detailed and high resolution. In fact, I believe the characters look better on the PC than on the home systems. A word of caution though - make sure you have a Pentium with a good video card if you want to play the game in high resolution and with all the shading and modeling present. I would recommend a video card with at least 1 megabyte of VRAM or 2 megabytes of DRAM. Otherwise you will not be able to fully enjoy the visuals in this game. Running the game in 300x200 is hardly worth it, so make sure you have the hardware to play it in 600x400. Even with the good detail of the characters, the movements and moves are disappointingly choppy. In fact, many of the basic attacks are impossible to follow and often you will wonder what just happened when you get knocked over. The special moves are more visible, but the smoothness of the game does not nearly rival its Saturn or Playstation counterpart.
The most unsatisfactory and frustrating aspect of Battle Arena Toshinden for the PC is the play control. To be blunt, don't even dream of pulling off a super combo on the keyboard, and even special moves are highly unreliable. Unless you are going to buy a game pad, you will be hitting the preset special move button VERY frequently. This takes a lot of skill out of the game, since fighting games are meant to be won by agility with the controls and strategy rather than just one button kills.
All in all, Battle Arena Toshinden is a fun and mostly original fighting game that should have stayed where it was born- on the console systems. Though the designers fooled around and put Earth Worm Jim(just Rungo with different graphics) as the final boss and as a secret character, they really didn't do anything else novel. Unfortunately the PC programmers did not take care to really make the game shine, and a lot of the excitement of the game was lost in the conversion. The programmers did not fully exploit the capabilities of a Pentium with a good video card, and therefore a lot of resources are wasted when playing this game on a good computer. If you are looking for an excellent fighting game for your PC, you will have to look somewhere else (or go buy a Saturn or a Playstation and a copy of Toshinden).