Budokan: The Martial Spirit has a very simple control system. While it may seem like the simplicity of the controls would limit the game's enjoyment value, it nonetheless manages to be a lot of fun.
You have one action and eight directional buttons along with a stamina bar and a ki bar. The game's fighting system is very simple. After all, how much can you do with one action button when, for example, Street Fighter 2 needs four to be at least decently playable? But, the simplicity of the game's fighting interface belies the depth of strategy in its fighting system.
The ki bar adds a level of strategy since you need to conserve and build your ki for a more devastating strike. Meanwhile, your opponent is also building his ki and you may want to strike him, even if it's not going to do much damage, in order to disrupt his ki. The idea of a stamina bar, though, could be the game's most interesting contribution to the fighter genre.
Similar to most regular fighting-game health bars, when your stamina is depleted you lose, thus, you want to deplete your opponent's stamina bar by beating it out of him. On the other hand, your ability to beat your opponent to a pulp is dependent on your stamina and being too active can actually make it decrease. In fact, if you really go overboard in attacking, you could lose the match without ever being hit by your opponent. Budokan: The Martial Spirit's fighting system is an interesting study in balance between stillness and movement and that's part of the reason the game is fun to play.
The downside to having one action button is that your range of techniques is fairly limited. Each martial art has three blocking techniques, one for each level. You have about ten general offensive techniques to work with and some of these have multiple levels of attack. A front kick, for example, can be targeted at the upper, middle or lower levels while a foot sweep can only be targeted at the lower level.
For martial arts purists, this isn't necessarily bad as it's closer to the reality of fighting than Street Fighter 2's exaggerated fighting system. But, if you're used to Street Fighter 2, Budokan: The Martial Spirit's fighting system can feel restrictive. However, the game does offer you four very different martial arts to work with and, when you enter the tournament, you'll face even more styles.
The graphics are generally good. Like the Arcade classic Karate Champ, Budokan: The Martial Spirit employs a step-by-step animation look rather than the smoother Street Fighter 2 animation style. Gameplay is actually enhanced by this aspect by allowing you to cancel moves in mid-animation or turn them into other techniques instead. The character sprites are well drawn and show a reasonable understanding of the body mechanics behind most of the techniques.
The game's sound and music, on the other hand, are disappointing. The terms lame, stupid or annoying come to mind in describing these aspects. The songs are of poor composition and, besides sounding vaguely Japanese, have no redeeming value whatsoever. The game's sound effects are even worse than the music. In fact, there is basically only one sound effect -- the white noise sound emitted by the internal PC speaker that is played whenever something happens on screen that might warrant a one.
Fighting games have not done particularly well on the PC and, in my experience, PC gamers are generally more inclined towards strategy and simulation games. Fighting games, being action oriented in nature, have typically been more at home in Arcades and on consoles.
Budokan: The Martial Spirit, however, shows that it is possible to make a good fighting game for the PC.
Graphics: Good clean graphics that look fairly smooth despite the step-by-step animation.
Sound: Awful music and it would have been better to have no sound effects at all.
Enjoyment: The fighting gameplay is a lot of fun by itself, and the strategy aspect in trying to match your martial arts against new styles in the Budokan is also enjoyable.
Replay Value: Despite sharing the same control system, the four martial arts at Tobiko-Ryu are fairly different.
Budokan is a martial arts game covering Karate (unarmed combat), Kendo (using a wooden sword), Nunchaku (using piercing chain weapons) and Bo (using a staff). The player has a realistic range of moves and must use them wisely, as Ki (life-force) is drained for every move made, whether successful or not, and both this and your stamina level must be kept high.
You can practice your skills alone, or spar against the instructors or your friends. Finally, when you feel you are ready, you can travel to the martial arts world championship tournament at Budokan.
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