Saturday, 8 June 2019

Battle Arena Toshinden Remix - Crack that Whip!

It’s no secret that the Sega Saturn’s collection is ripe with fighting games. Anywhere from mainstream to more obscure titles can be seen. Not all of them are perfect, but Battle Arena Toshinden Remix is definitely no slouch when it comes to two siblings competing for who can perform the most special flashy moves. A far cry different than Virtua Fighter, you not only use a vast array of weapons, but you also have very fast moving and powerful energy projectiles. This game is nothing if not somewhat pretty to look at.

It's interesting to note that this was originally going to be a Playstation exclusive. Why it was later ported onto the Saturn as "Remix", it's not exactly clear. However, ported it was and it stood up on its own legs, sporting new features in the game. This made its original intent of derailing Virtua Fighter  completely null and void, and created quite the puzzling turn of events.

Though the graphics have not aged well, they're still better than that swampfest of an anime movie compliments of 90’s cliches (Not kidding, do not watch the movie). It still works just fine with its controls, and the glitches are somewhat few and far in between so long as you don’t whip the camera around too fast too many times. The Sega Saturn’s framerates can get somewhat testy, especially with games that show this amount of scenery along with their polygon figures known as characters.

The characters of Battle Arena Toshinden are quite diverse, and their fighting styles are fun to play around with, however if you play with one such as Gaia, do not expect a fair challenge. Once you unlock the big brute in the appendaged armor, your chances of winning increase around ten fold. He was definitely not meant to appeal to the competitive nature within us all. Beyond him, there are the normal chaps. We have our Ryu and Ken clones that do have an impressively broad backstory to them. The game pinpointed every fighting game archetype and it’s fun to meet them all and see what they can do.

That’s not to say the story is all that interesting, though. Once you’ve passed through the story mode, you get the idea that these people honestly don’t want to be there for the most part. Those who do want to be there are on the wrong side of crazy. However, further down the line for this franchise, after a bit of reading, you’ll find that to be par for the course. After the installments wrap up storylines, the producers kept wanting them to further it more, and it was clear that their writers ran out of ideas. It more or less ends up going nowhere.

The ending drives this point home pretty hard. There is no ending, this is what we nerds call the “Empire Strikes Back” of Toshinden games, as we are left on a very poorly planned cliffhanger. I say poorly planned in that the Sega Saturn’s version of the sequel took a very very bad turn. While Playstation got one version of the sequel that met with critical acclaim, the Saturn got Battle Arena Toshinden URA, which was dragged through the mud before being drooled onto a CD.

If you would like a happy ending to this story, there is one. We not only got URA, but there was also Fighters Megamix, which pit these characters against those of the Virtua Fighter. Again, giving question as to how this was once a PS1 Exclusive. Megamix is immensely better and exclusive to the Sega Saturn. Total win.

The gameplay is not greatly balanced, and the fighting is not especially deep, as you would find in the Virtua Fighters 1 and 2. It’s far more reliant on the aspect of having pretty moves that do brunt force damage or standing still and letting the laser light show take control. If you were looking for a solid fighting game, this one is hit or miss with people. It’s quirky and fun for all of its entertainment value. However, when you start talking official sanctions with competitions, that may be a bit of a stretch. Characters can do endless strings of cheap moves that made you want to turn around and punch the other player in the arm. With no real challenge when it comes to skill, and no real complicated move system, it’s fun to look at.

As said, the graphics ain’t great, but the voice acting is a far cry worse. Despite there being a good number of decent voice actors in the anime, the English dub for the game sounded like they found the janitor, his three cousins along with a couple of their other roommates and had them talk into a mic to say words in funny accents. If there was a proper accent within it, it’s almost impossible to tell with the cartoonish way they talk, it’s honestly hilarious. Surprisingly, though, from footage I've seen from the MS-DOS version, it was surprisingly ported well by the devs at Digital Dialect.

Pop it in and beat the story mode within about ten minutes, and feel good about unlocking a few character. Beyond that, it’s just fun to wail on some friends and make fun of the squeaky voices they make when they fall. This title is another one that should never be taken seriously. Nor should you ever look into the later sequels. The Playstation port game after this one was a superior game, as well as the Saturn’s Megamix. Trek that far with it, and then move on to Soul Calibur. Virtua Slice!

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