Welcome to this week’s, “Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?” Each week we’re going to look at a dormant franchise that was once pretty popular, but for some reason has disappeared into the sands of time. Diehard GameFAN staffers will have four options for what they want to have happen to the series and you can see them in the title of this piece. For a little more detailed description see below:
Sequel – A direct sequel to the franchise. This means if it used sprites and was in 2-D, that’s how you want the next game to be as well. This might involve putting the game on a handheld system instead of a console, but it keeps the nostalgia and classic feel alive.
Spin Off – This is where you take the characters or a specific character is a totally different direction from the established franchise. Examples include Luigi’s Mansion, Hey You, Pikachu!, Shadow Hearts (From Koudelka), and so on.
Start Over – This is a reimagining of the series from the ground up. Perhaps it’s time to bring the series into 3-D. Perhaps you want a totally different control scheme or to throw away the old continuity. In a nutshell, this is taking the brand name from the old series and that’s about it. Everything else is new and re-envisioned.
Stay Dead – This is pretty obvious. This is a toxic franchise that you don’t want to see return in any way shape or form. Let the dead rest.
This week we are looking at the first 3-D weapon based fighting game series. Sony marketed the hell out of it, which is amusing because the game wasn’t a system exclusive and remixed version on the Sega Saturn and/or the PC contained more characters and stages. Still, a brand new shiny system combined with the massive amount of cash for advertising that Sony had helped the first game in this series to become a huge success. The PC version of the game even included Earthworm Jim (who was at his peak of popularity) as a hidden character. However, each successive game in the series failed to win the hearts of critics and gamers, and it is one of the few series where each game is thought to be worse than the previous one. Still there is name recognition and even nostalgia for some gamers when they hear the name Battle Arena Toshinden. This week for Diehard GameFAN staffers discuss what, if any, future the franchise still possesses.
Alexander Lucard – Stay Dead
I never liked Battle Arena Toshinden when it came out. I thought it was ugly and played like crap. Now granted, when this came out, I was knee deep in Street Fighter, Eternal Champions and Fatal Fury, so I personally thought this thing was the incarnation of everything that could possibly go wrong with a fighting game. It’s also why I am probably predisposed to pessimism towards any 3-D fighting series. Well, that and Eternal Champions 3 being cancelled, so Sega could sell more copies of the inferior Virtua Fighter.
I was shocked when people were raving about this game and this was probably my first experience with the realization that for most gamers, if it is shiny and new with a lot of marketing behind it, they will eat it up like the sheep they are without a thought for actual gameplay quality. As usual, when I tend to hate a game that many other gamers love, time proved I was simply ahead of the pack as not only did each successive game suck, but people started to realized they hadn’t been very objective when the first Battle Arena Toshinden came out. Much to their surprise and my schadenfreude, they realize the game sucked, that it had always sucked and so they moved on to loving some other awful game that they were told to like instead of thinking for themselves. Meanwhile I had been playing The King of Fighters and Darkstalkers. Ho ho ho. Like I said, schadenfreude.
Look, Battle Arena Toshinden has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. None. It makes things like Time Killers look good because there at least you can get the visual stimulation of limb-lopping. This is a series that is best left forgotten, but alas, Takara has announced that it is eventually coming to the Wii, but they said that in early 2008 and here we are in early 2010 without any further news, so perhaps Takara realized that the only thing to be gained from reviving this stink bomb was bad reviews and abject humilation.
Dave Olvera – Stay Dead
Battle Arena Toshinden needs to stay dead. In fact, time machines need to be invented and perfected because BAT is a god awful insult to fighting games and having it purged from history would be doing everyone a favor.
Battle Arena Toshinden was a hot property during the very early Playstation days (I will now abbreviate Playstation PSX, tipping off my age). The PSX had just been released and the platform needed an eye popping game to really start moving hardware and Battle Arena Toshinden was that game. While, by today’s standards, BAT looks like a regurgitated pile of pig feces, back in the middle 1990s, BAT was eye ball pokingly amazing in the looks department. BAT was that gold digging, bottled blond that you married for looks and then, after awhile through hindsight, turns into a decomposing Crypt Keeper looker that makes you question your own sanity and possible over indulgence in drinking.
Featuring 3-D polygons, anime hair and ring outs, BAT’s controls were stiff, characters lackluster and contribution to the fighting game genre was more puff over substance. BAT’s main gift to the world was to sell more PSXs, because I remember working retail and having people coo’ing and ahh’ing over the PSX BAT kiosk. I will admit, even I was impressed because I saw, in BAT, some of the future. Thankfully I also held onto my Genesis and SNES so I could play games that were better than the early PSX line up.
Toshinden is not a series that could be fixed with a simple face lift (the other games in the series showed this to be true). No, Toshinden has no heart or soul – just looks. What can Battle Arena Tonshinden offer to contemporary gamers? A few may recognize the name but, seriously, does it mean anything to those not in their late 20s/early 30s? Did Toshinden offer any new fighting game mechanics? Did it have any groundbreaking combination systems? Did it actually become a beautiful series all of the sudden? Is the cast memorable? Was Toshinden actually a good game, despite its flaws? No, not even remotely in the ballpark for any of these right now. BAT is a nostalgia trip for those who paint everything with the brush of beauty. Hindsight is most likely right: BAT is really a worthless piece of video game history. A game like BAT should remain dead and left in a sack in an unmarked grave. Its contribution to video gaming noted, but not celebrated.
Chris Bowen -Stay Dead
I remember how good Toshinden 1 was at the time. We thought the graphics were so amazing, that we forgot the fact that the gameplay really didn’t stand up well. Granted, that might be 2010 Bus speaking, because 1995 Bus was addicted. Then again, maybe it isn’t 2010 Bus speaking, because 1996 Bus wasn’t really impressed with Toshinden 2, and 1997 Bus hated 3′s guts. I grew so ambivalent on the series that I didn’t even know there was a Toshinden 4 until I looked up the name in Wikipedia for fact checking. Needless to say, I’m not exactly running to eBay for an import copy. Looking back, two things destroyed my love of Toshinden: getting over the fact that I was playing a 3-D arcade fighter on my Playstation, and the release of Tekken.
But this isn’t about the 90s, is it? This is about modern day, and how these games transfer over to a new release in 2010. So let’s look at what Toshinden can give us…
* A crappy fighting engine that was outdated on its second release, and blown out of the freaking water by Soul Calibur.
* Character designs that are Killer Instinct-level terrible.
* A franchise “name” that is regarded as overrated at best and reviled at worst
* A set, solid 3-D fighting game market. Face it: this is Tekken and Soul Calibur‘s turf. The more diehard 3-D fighting fans among us hang out with Virtua Fighter, whereas the otaku and those who like to mix their fighting with repressed sexual fantasies have Dead or Alive, if Tecmo can ever remember that it’s supposed to be a fighting game. Therefore, that’s four series that are on multiple installments and either active in the past couple of years or literally on vacation at the beach, all of whom are more successful, better regarded, and simply *better* than Toshinden.
Mark B. – Stay Dead
Okay, let’s be honest with each other here. There are exactly two reasons people remember Toshinden as a franchise: it was one of the first 3-D fighting game franchises on the market, and Sophia. The former means it will forever have a place in fighting game history, as in the beginning, it was really Virtua Fighter, Tekken, and Battle Arena Toshinden, and the latter means it will forever have a place in the boobie hall of fame because WOW Sophia was pandering to young boys everywhere. Leather body suit, huge knockers, and a WHIP as her weapon of choice. Yep. For its time, the first game wasn’t horrendous, as it kind of felt like what one would expect a 3-D Street Fighter clone would feel like, and weapon combat was a fairly new thing until Soul Calibur came out and showed us how much better such a concept could be. Bushido Blade kind of tried that too, though all it accomplished was showing me how much fun it is to be one-shot killed by a final boss fifteen times in a row, which is to say, not at all.
(Note: Bushido Blade can stay dead, too. Just so you know.)
However, it’s been over a decade since the franchise has seen a US release, largely because people stopped caring, and you know what? They were right to do so. Fighting games have evolved past what Toshinden was, and even when the game was popular it wasn’t anything exciting. The graphics were unimpressive, the gameplay was derivative, and the game has nothing AND I MEAN NOTHING to distinguish itself from the hundreds of other franchises on the market. Soul Calibur has weapon-based combat down to a science, Street Fighter has made its own playable 3-D comeback, and I’ve seen more huge chested females in fighting games in the past ten years than a chiropractor in California. Nostalgia can only go so far for any franchise, and Toshinden offers nothing to be nostalgic about in the first place.
I’d like to make one final observation before we wrap this up, however. Takara, the folks behind the original Toshinden series, are actually looking at re-launching the brand, though it may not be affiliated with the original games in any way. As of this point the project is strictly TBA as far as any sort of release details are concerned, but this isn’t why the project bears mentioning. No, the project bears mentioning because Takara has nothing to do with the actual development this time around. No, they’ve handed off the development duties to DreamFactory. DreamFactory, for those who are scratching their heads in confusion, is responsible for some fighting and action games that are all over the place as far as quality is concerned, including Kakuto Chojin, Crimson Tears, The Bouncer and >Ehrgeiz.
They also developed Tobal.
So, in conclusion, I don’t like this game anymore, and I’m going to go drink until I forget I read that.
End Result -
Stay Dead: 4
Start Over: 0
Wow, when we hate something we really hate something. I think this actually achieved more rancor than Bubsy. I think it’s pretty safe to say that no one hear wants to see this series resurface and if it ever does, you can bet the staff forums will be filled with posts of, “Not it!.”
Join us next week as we look at the red headed stepchild of the Square-Enix’s “World of Ivalice.” It’s the only one without the words Final Fantasy in the title and plays so different from S-E’s most prominent series that it’s often considered a brand name of one. We’ll see if there’s any life in this series. See you then!