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Battle Arena Toshinden

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Reviewed by Diane Cote I don't know how Takara manages to do it, but they play the Game Boy like it's a Stradivarius. Battle Arena Toshinden is at least as successful as their stellar port of Samurai Shodown was a couple of seasons ago, if not better. BAT features all ten fighters from the Takara original, all of their moves and a nice handful of special secret surprises. Even the music is a satisfying reflection of the tunes you'll hear on your PlayStation disc. Porting a beautiful 32-bit 3-D polygonal fighter down to the 8-bit, 2-D, 2-color world of the Game Boy is no easy task. Especially if you're intent on maintaining a certain level of quality. Well heads up fighting fans, because Takara's achieved the impossible once again. What Do You Mean, "No Polygons?" First thing you're going to have to do is rid yourself of rose colored memories of 32-bit Toshinden. Although this game features the same characters and their fighting moves, this is, for all intents and purposes, a completely unique experience unto itself. The characters are no longer the colorful, detailed, slightly blocky polygon warriors you've grown to love. Now they're the size of weebles, sport enormous heads and have eyes that you would have major problems finding proper fitting contacts for. In other words, Eiji and Co. have become a group of tough little cutey-pies. Even Gaia, who's all done up in his original garb, looks like a sweet little cherub as opposed to the fantastical monster he is on the PSX. No matter; as you'll quickly discover, these fighters look tame but they still pack all of the fighting ferocity you remember. "Call Me Queen", And All That Jazz Sofia has to be one of the most insidious fighters ever created. She embodies a major flash point in our society: a female character with an incredible amount of power. Guaranteed to make misogynists and female activists mad in one fell swoop. Rest assured, Sofia's still one of the toughest characters in the game. Here's a brief look at each of Battle Arena Toshinden's fighters: Eiji The "hero" character in the game, this is the fighter that newbies gravitate toward. A straight sword and standard rotational special moves make him the easiest character to learn. Kayin Similar to Eiji, Kayin is both quicker and flashier than his rival. He sports a long blade and some really cool, but tough to perform, moves like his patented "Leg Crush". Rungo The big guy in Toshinden, Rungo, uses an enormous club as his chosen weapon of devastation. Duke Duke is a Bizarro-world reflection of the rough and tumble Rungo. He is a cultivated, honor bound knight, who sports a gigantic long sword that his opponents would be wise to stay well away from. Fo The crafty old master in Toshinden is also the fighter with the most tricks up his sleeves. Fo is a difficult fighter to perfect but once you have a degree of mastery down, Fo's blades and magic attacks are hard to defeat. Mondo My personal favorite of all of the Toshinden fighters, Mondo, carries a very effective long spear that he can utilize in a number of creative ways. Ellis Ellis is the quickest scrapper in the group. She has a number of whiz bang maneuvers. Once a player masters control of Ellis, you can pretty much forget about any easy victories. Sofia Skimpy dresses and a whip not withstanding, this femme fatale is lethal because of her long reach, projectile attacks and speed. Gaia Gaia, the first boss in the game, is loaded with special moves, but he belongs in the "big-slow-tough" guy category. Sho The most balanced fighter in the game is Sho, the second boss character. He has speed and a vast number of special moves. It's easy to remain unbeaten when you gain control of this fighter. How's that for a portable fighting game? Not too shabby, I'd say. Well, beyond the fact that all of the fighters made it into the compact world of the Toshinden tournament, there are also a number of surprises in the game. Gaia and Sho are playable but you have to beat the game first (or learn the secret codes - which I don't have yet, sorry). There's also a guest appearance by the boss with wings, Uranus. I don't know if Uranus is playable yet but I suspect he is. (We'll let you know.) The moves that you remember are intact, so you'll be able to pull off anything you want, right out of the box - all of the rotational and button combination moves you spent hours memorizing at home will serve you well in this port. And despite the fact that you can't rotate 360 degrees around your opponent, like you can on the big brother version of this game, you can still perform dodge moves. The Perfect Stocking Stuffer Once you get past the first 10 opponents that stand in your way, a whole heap of surprises start revealing themselves to you. There are four difficulty levels and a bunch of new options that alter the way you play the game, so don't think that beating the game once with your favorite character is all that you're going to get out of this baby. Trust me, you get more than your money's worth in this cart. My only complaint with this game is the absolutely horrendous English translation of the Story Mode. Sentences and plot lines that make no sense whatsoever, only serve to tarnish the polished shine the developers have worked so hard to obtain. The cut scene pictures are cool, just don't read the captions. Takara's managed to snake past the hardware limitations imposed on them and once again delivered a great Game Boy fighter. Battle Arena Toshinden on the Game Boy is not only extremely accurate to the feel of the original game but it also has a great deal of its own charm. Expect to be impressed.

Battle Arena Toshinden 9 out of 10

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