Let’s NEVER Talk About Battle Arena Toshinden 3

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Honestly, I have to wonder what developers think when they decide to continue a series of games, particularly fighting games. Surely when you see a series on a system doing SO much better than yours, you have to… you know… wonder why it’s doing so much better than yours. Take the Toshinden series of games.

Actually… please just take them.

They’re fucking terrible.

I went for the jugular REALLY early this time. There’s no way of saying this but when there’s Tekken and Soul Blade on the same system as your game, you are going to have to do something REALLY good to make your game stand out. However, I say that but to be fair, it DOES stand out… because it’s REALLY bad.

It is an exceptional achievement to actually make a game series WORSE with each iteration (and I am NEVER even touching Toshinden 4 again) but somehow, Toshinden manages it. Toshinden 2 wasn’t a HUGE downgrade but 3 just cut the game into small chunks, got rid of some of the better parts and then just hoped for the best. Or worst. Either way.

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K.O.-ing itself without even trying, let’s find out what this gubbins is all about, eh? I mean… it sort of has a story. Fighting games invariably do. Mostly. It usually involves fighting. So this time around, there’s a man/twat/evil dickhead/megalomaniac who wants to bring about an evil fighting god into the world. Because of course you do. Because apparently bringing about the death and destruction of the world, you included, is a BRILLIANT idea. Of COURSE this evil god won’t kill you. You brought them into the world so why would they want to kill you?

Genius.

In order to do this, they want to find a decent enough sacrifice/vessel for the god and choose a man named David. Surprisingly, this is not my dad but he is a British character. Who fights with a chainsaw. You heard me. A chainsaw. CORRECTION. A CHAINSAW GUN.

Anyway, obviously everyone else is slightly pissed about this, maybe because they’re not seen as ‘good enough’ to be the vessel for this god or because they’re not that arrogant and actually don’t want to see the world burn at the hands of a possessed, chainsaw-wielding – CORRECTION, CHAINSAW GUN-WIELDING – British guy who looks really mardy at the best of times. He ain’t exactly the most sparklingly personality-laden character you ever came across but then again, personality isn’t really one of this game’s strongest points. Not that much else is.

Bobbins story aside, let’s delve further into why this is a really, really, REALLY poor attempt at a fighting game. Be prepared for plenty of ‘for fuck’s sake’-ing and ‘why was this even allowed?’-ing.

HOW EXCITING.

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Now here’s one of the reasons as to why this game is abysmal: the presentation. You get THIS thrown at you as you enter the game and it is monumentally underwhelming to the point where it’s not even MEH. It sullies the good name of MEH. It’s atrocious to think that the THIRD game in a series of fighting games finds this ACCEPTABLE. It is not. It is nothing short of lazy design and, even worse, it’s low-res and bland. The character art isn’t AWFUL but it’s so pixelated, you can barely see it. There are 2D fighting games that are WORSE than this that have better character art. In fact, Street Fighter 2’s is better than this and that game is at least six/seven years older than this. And it’s 2D. Toshinden 2’s 3D character select was shoddy looking but it did at least TRY. It’s as if they couldn’t be bothered with this. I mean… I’m looking at it from a design point of view and I am seething at how shoddy it is. The original game had better artwork. IT’S THREE YEARS OLDER THAN THIS GAME. No excuses. At all. 100 lines: I will not produce crappy character select screens for any game I develop in the future.

And then what happens when you play the game? You get this thrust in your faces:

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AAAAAAAAAAAND it’s not much better, is it? It’s nothing short of woeful, considering the level of graphics we SHOULD be getting now. Tekken 3 managed to do it. Soul Blade ALMOST managed to do it. Toshinden was originally trying to do it with the first game. I mean, they were trying to include see-through skirts and backgrounds that at least ATTEMPTED to be interesting.

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SEE? they COULD do it before! Toshinden 1 was clunky and slow but at the very least, it felt like they were trying to accomplish something here. It was attempting to be technically good with these kinds of ideas. Yeah, those backgrounds are a bit wonky and blocky but at least they TRIED.

What we have now is a downgraded version of that. It’s as if they were attempted to shove in more characters to make it sound more impressive than it actually i-

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. THAT’S WHAT THEY DID. Yeah. So there are more characters than ever before (28 playable in fact, doubling the number from the previous game) and CLEARLY that’s had such an effect on the game that it fucks everything up completely. What’s off-putting about it is that the number of characters actually ISN’T that big when you consider the new characters are actually clones of current characters with different skins. If that isn’t frustratingly CHEAP, I don’t know what is. I mean, let’s think about this seriously for a moment. What they have done is downgrade the graphics to a level that should be unacceptable for the time and place in the series so that they can shove in more characters to look as though they’ve done more with the game itself. They haven’t. They’ve given us replicas of the initially playable cast with bizarre makeovers. Certain characters don’t look THAT different, which is inexcusable, while other characters do at least look COMPLETELY different. In a couple of cases, they’ve been inspired by real people. Ten Count (that is his name…) is inspired in looks, and in some movements, by Michael Jackson. Judgement is inspired by Jason Voorhees. There is at least some semblance of trying to do something else.

But it means that the game looks like arse.

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Also… what the FUCK is with the game screen? I mean… come on. Shoving VS COMPUTER MODE in that place in the screen? Whatever mode you’re using, they shove the name right there. Not somewhere useful like the bottom of the screen or the very top. No. Shove it in the middle. The same thing happens with the timer in arcade mode – it’s a MASSIVE timer counter on your side of the screen that just looks ridiculous. Why does it even need to be there? Why the hell is the lfe bar at the bottom of the screen? What’s the bar above it? What are the little blue bits above that? WHAT’S GOING ON?! WHAT WAS THE POINT OF CHANGING WAS ALREADY FINE?! Why did they decide to put things in random places? I just… I’m dying over the LAMENESS of the design behind this game. What went wrong?

The fact that I’m asking so many questions about this whole thing is actually pretty wearisome. I should not be questioning the design aspects of a game like this. It’s silly. It shouldn’t be making silly design decisions like this.

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Another crappy design decision highlights just how dreadfully lazy the developers felt in creating this game: arenas are enclosed. This is actually makes the shoddy level of graphics even LAZIER looking as backgrounds, which are pretty shite to begin with, are either completely obscured by bland metallic cages or panelling, or are flat, pixelated garbage, a far cry from the attempted 3D of the first two games. If you suggested this to me as a member of my development team, you’d be fired on the spot. Harsh? Maybe. But what good is it to obscure graphics that you’re supposed to be PROUD OF by encasing them or hiding them?

Yeah, it does make a difference to the fighting itself and it changes the mechanics of a series that previously didn’t enclose you in (unless you include Nitoshinden, a game that… er… what even is it? A kids version? It’s Virtua Fighter Kids in Toshinden form? Something like that?) Certain moves send your fighters flying across the screen into walls and ceilings. If an attack sends your opponent up to the ceiling and bounces back down on top of you, you take damage too. The problem is that sometimes that can seem entirely random. It depends on the attack. You MIGHT need to move away from it or you might need to NOT move away from it. It’ll hit you. Don’t worry. IT WILL HIT YOU. You don’t need to worry at all. I’m so pleased that such a mechanic exists. Yeah, it SHOULD happen because of course it should. If it wasn’t so random, it’d actually feel fairer.

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Also, what the fuck is going on with the camera? It ends up all over the place most of the time and ends up behind your character. It’s so random that it ends up all over the shop. It’s like it’s free-roaming around. They probably stuck the camera on a rat and let them run loose in the arena. It’s not THAT bad but it floats about the place and catches itself on parts of the arena enough times to obscure your opponent or even you and you have to move yourself out of the way… but how? Which direction do you go in? It makes no sense. It is essentially a 2D game with a bit of sidestepping. And OH the sidestepping. It’s not really sidestepping… is it? Characters flip, roll and cartwheel out of the way and some do it so vigorously that if you do it, you’ll end up on the other side of the screen. Just… what? Ugh. Fuck it. I’m done with this whole thing.

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No game, ESPECIALLY, the third in a series of games, should be allowed to get away with thinking this is acceptable. Hell, if you gave us Toshinden 2 again with maybe an extra character, that would have been MORE acceptable than this garbage. In terms of gameplay, it’s clunky as hell, slow-moving, a button-mashing mess of very little skill and it looks like someone chucked you into a dump and made you fight your way out of it.

And that’s how it feels to play. You’ve basically been thrown into a dump and have to get out of it.

It’s called turning the game off and playing someone else instead.

See? Problem solving at its finest. I’m dead good, me.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Great review! You really nailed it, I enjoyed reading this and there were some pretty funny moments as well. I’ve always been a fan of Toshinden, I still play the second installment even today, I even have the Japan only redux version just so I could save the bosses! The character designs were interesting for their time though by todays standards, for an anime cast, they age pretty badly. 90’s capsules for sure. I loved the character designs, and was a fan of how interesting some of the characters backstories was (though some of them could have used more fleshing out) and loved how dark the series leaned towards, I hated how that tended to get overlooked by many, at least by those who even remember it. But come this third installment…A FUCKING NIGHTMARE!!! I despised everything about it! I despised the new characters (why does Tracy even need a twin sister who looks like she’s on steroids and wtf is up with Michael Jackson?! I can appreciate the creativity but still…WHAT THE FUCK!), I hated the downgrade of graphics and the music just wasn’t as amazing as it was before (say what you will about Toshinden, but the music was awesome!). It was like the creators just lost interest and stopped caring. Toshindens 1&2 weren’t perfect, they were far from it ( Toshinden 1 could sometimes be painful to look at), but they were enjoyable and 2 is my personal favorite. As far as I’m concerned, Toshinden ended at 2 and everyone rode into the sunset with Sofia having killed Chaos, Ellis reuniting with her father, Eiji coming face to face with Sho and Vermillion keeping his haunting badass appearance as a true final boss with endless bullets to his pistol and rifle. 3 & 4 NEVER HAPPENED!! My god Toshinden 4…can’t even talk about that crap. That should be renamed “Toshinden: Death”. It left a very bitter taste in my mouth, especially when looking at the new characters and finding out the fate of old ones (Chaos and Fo Fai for starters). Toshinden I believed always was just a series full of wasted potential but when looking at how tragically downhill it went from this installment, its painful to accept. Why didn’t they just improve on the graphics (or change completely and go all KOF/SF because that’s what we were ALL expecting when we saw manga drawn Sofia and the “made from Capcom” sign), include better characters even if it was just the ones released only on the Sega Saturn release, ressurect Uranus as the new boss but this time, she’s like Orochi Iori or Ultimate Rugal, totally fucked up and overpowered from her time in Hell alongside Master and she starts her own organization, because let’s face it, Master was a flat character and an anti-climatic final boss (and yet I liked her a lot honestly but she was the one character whose wasted potential urked me up to no end. Her sheer mysterious nature made her appear more flat and dull then dark and dangerous. When I was younger, I imagined all sorts of dark stories about Master because she was my favorite but being older now, I see things differently and I possess a new favorite character but that doesn’t mean my imagination still doesn’t tend to run wild although it pisses me off). There’s a reason Sho and Vermillion don’t fight her at the very end. Although I always thought of Master as Ellis’s enstranged mother since she suspiciously looked a lot like Ellis and Gaia being one of her bodyguards…mmmm but that’s just my imagination talking. XD Anyways, I really loved your review and thanks for sharing. Sorry for oversharing though but its really nice to come across something modern about an old classic game like this, as crap as Toshinden 3 was (and still is). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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