Fighting games like Samurai Shodown, Street Fighter, and Fatal Fury, while exciting in the arcade, seem to lose something in the translation when converted to home systems. Battle Arena Toshinden 2 is strikingly similar to Samurai Shodown and countless others, not only in the characters but also style. However, fans of the genre will find some redeemable qualities, but the idea of shelling out money for a clone of a game released years previously is questionable.
Battle Arena Toshinden 2 includes a typically wide range of characters (11), from a sword-wielding knight to a wily old man who keeps you entertained. Unfortunately, their moves aren't mastered easily since there is no list of controls contained in the 4-page "manual." Fighting gets very fierce, as in most decent games of this kind, and you can use the keyboard (required when playing against a human opponent) as well as a joystick or gamepad.
The difficulty begins when you reach the third character while fighting in full battle mode, if you don't select Sofia as your fighter. She normally fills that slot in the rotation and beating her is extremely tough. Her whip stretches longer than most of the weapons in the game, and she's fast with fierce kicks. Most of the larger and slower characters are at a disadvantage against her, and smaller, quicker characters like Ellis seem to fare better, even with less strength. The game offers unlimited chances to fight, though, so through perseverance you can eventually win.
As with Samurai Shodown, the game is limited to a small window on the computer. If you enlarge it to full-screen, the graphics stay the same, but action gets incredibly sluggish and never recovers. It's no fun to play a fighting game when you maneuver like a turtle, especially when you don't know any special moves -- you simply watch yourself get beat up in slow motion.
Most characters lack a sufficient number and variety of special moves, though they're difficult to assess due to the lack of documentation. Usually, you discover moves by accident and have to experiment to figure out how you did them. Playing solo in two-player mode is a good way to learn moves since you won't continually die while trying them out. Eiji has the most special moves (e.g., fireball and sliding kick), and is comparable to Ryu and Ken in Street Fighter II, except with a sword.
After defeating all characters, two hidden opponents, Uranus and the aptly named Master, become available. Both are much easier to defeat than other opponents, but Master does have some very flashy moves. Winning rewards you with a short story that's unique to each character, so apparently there is a purpose to the fighting after all.
Battle Arena Toshinden 2's lack of documentation and exasperating full-screen slowdown hurts gameplay. Even with those shortcomings corrected, it would still be a generic fighting game that doesn't quite match up to classics with better features. This PC edition has several bugs, including an annoying penchant to freeze in mid-play (with a two-minute startup time), but requires no installation.
For those savvy in the world of PC fighting genre games, picking up moves in Battle Arena Toshinden 2 may be easier than for novices. However, the truly savvy will spend their bucks on the original games or convert the money to quarters and stick with the arcade version.
Graphics: Typical graphics that have been used countless times since Virtua Fighter. Arenas are always in a cube shape and the only variable aspect is the color and motif. Enlarging to full screen doesn't lose quality.
Sound: Japanese voices add a certain flavor to the fighting, and the story at the end of the game is read aloud in Japanese. The music is standard fare and resembles that of Final Fantasy games.
Enjoyment: The game can be every bit as fun as Samurai Shodown or Street Fighter, but offers nothing new. Figuring out the special moves is a challenge for any gamer but can be frustrating. The 11 characters (plus two hidden) offer short-term entertainment.
Replay Value: The Japanese read story isn't much incentive to finish the game. Playing against human opponents is the core attraction of the game, but figuring out the moves takes quite a time investment, thus, ensuring replay.
Battle Arena: Toshinden 2 features graphics, sound, music, and action that makes its predecessor seem ancient! With updated moves and defense, the original cast launches back into battle! Newcomers join the fight as well. Gaia, the boss from the previous game, is now selectable. The camera angles in this game give a realistic feel to the gameplay. The only drawback is that the controls are terrible and unable to be configured.
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