Toshinden 4 attempts to return to the series roots after Toshinden 3's radical departure. As a result Toshinden 4 was "old school" for its time.
While Toshinden 4 models it's game play more off Toshinden 1 and Toshinden 2 than 3, it makes what is perhaps the biggest change in the series; it does away with nearly all of the 40+ characters that the series has built up and replaces them with 13 almost completely new characters; only 3 of Toshinden 4's cast have appeared in previous games.
But even they are notably different as Toshinden 4 takes place sometime after Toshinden 3 story wise, hence they have aged. The new cast has some pretty big links to the old cast however and many of their stories and bio's reference the old cast even though most aren't named directly (for instance Lancelot was sent to a certain French noble man to be toughened up, while Fen met a certain spear wielding warrior that his own fighting style is conveniently similar to).
Graphically, Toshinden 4 sacrifices detail for fluid animation and speed, to the point where the original Toshinden arguably looks better overall.
The combo system is once again redone; now the player can make a combo out of any combination of light and hard attacks (high, low and jumping) with the limits that they can only enter each attack once (i.e only one high light slash, one low hard kick etc) and once a hard attack has been inputted, no further light attacks can be entered into the combo.
Special attacks have also become more special, generally being considerably more dramatic and requiring more complex button combinations that the past games.
Toshinden 4 also tweaks the series overdrive attacks; now each character has at least two and the bar is split into three segments; one block is used per overdrive attack, though all three can be saved up to activate the new Kishin Kourin attack which bestows a considerable ability increase at the cost of health.
A simple parrying system has been added to Toshinden 4; the player can attempt to repel any weapon based attack or they can use a special counter attack that can counter almost anything, but uses up an overdrive block.
Toshinden 4 introduces multiple arena types to the series; for the first time there are arenas with no edges as well as the standard square and round arenas one can be knocked off for a ring out. Toshinden 4 also introduces a third type of arena to the series; collapsing arenas. As the match goes on holes randomly form in the arena (though warning is given as to where they are about to form). As if to compensate for this new arena type, it is no longer possible to fall off an edge of the ring unless you are hit off or accidently perform a move that takes you over the edge.
As well as the standard fighting aspect, Toshinden 4 also has seven time unlocked themed "mini games", that include breakout, air hockey and a dancing game.
There is also a comprehensive database mode to unlock that includes detailed information about every character, sound bites, a jute box and character design sketches including some rejected costumes.
As well as all these extras, Toshinden 4 has pretty much every fighting game mode out there.
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