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SummaryCould have been a contender
The GoodThe graphics hold up pretty well, considering the game is 20 years old. The character model are better than Virtua Fighter and arguably as good, if not better than those in Tekken 1. The arenas are also fully 3D and feature ring outs, which was a fairly rare feature in 1995.
The characters are pretty good. The English version has cheesy accents dubbed on, Duke speaks with a French accent, Rungo sounds like a caveman. All good fun. Sofia has a long whip and reminds me of Poison from the Capcom games. Eiji is the generic "Ryu" of the game. There's an old man called Fo who has claws, he lacks the charm of Shun from Virtua Fighter or the coolness of clawed Voldo from Soul Edge. And that's one of the games' shortfalls the characters are cool, but forgettable.
The BadThe game's special moves are more complicated than they should be, often quarter circle forward and an attack button. While you would expect this in Mortal Kombat, the moves are hard to pull off consistently, due to the games below average collision detection. If playing against the computer AI, the game will often allow the AI the first hit, even if you executed it first. The final boss is also incredibly strong with the ability to pull off multiple fireballs which do 50% damage if all of them hit. The characters are unbalanced in terms of difficulty, one character has an incredibly long staff weapon that can reach across the arena. For whatever reason games like Tekken seemed balanced, even hard bosses like Hitachi seemed beatable. The weapons were evenly balanced in Soul Edge, even if some were long or short-ranged, they all seemed fairly matched.
Stage music is J-Pop techno, think Ridge Racer music, but nowhere near as good or memorable. Mainly corny tunes. There's a few rock tracks, these are also generic and forgettable.
The Bottom LineBattle Arena Toshinden was a very early game in what turned out to be Playstation's massive library. It is forgettable and often frustrating. It has some unique features for the time, such as real 3D arenas and a roll the player can use to dodge fireballs or other attacks. Compared to Virtua Fighter or Tekken it lacks the polish and indefinable X-Factor that made them classics.
I would recommend it to beat 'em up fans or serious Playstation collectors that want to explore the system's early games. The game has a cult following, but there are loads of much better fighters on the PS1.