Toshinden S (闘神伝S): Sega Saturn

Toshinden S (闘神伝S): Sega Saturn
Toshinden S (闘神伝S): Sega Saturn

Insert Disk collects Toshinden S (バトルアリーナ闘 神伝) (闘神伝S) for the Sega Saturn.

Today’s retro game review is Toshinden S (闘神伝S) for the Sega Saturn. This retro gaming classic is also known as Toshinden Remix in western nations. This early 3D retro fighting game pit itself against the likes of Tekken and Virtua Fighter on the Playstation and Sega Saturn. Whilst managing to survive long enough to provide a set of sequels this early entry in the Toshinden series had a difficult tiime establishing itself as a real contender in the fighting game genre. A forgotten classic or just another shelf filler? I’ll let you decide.

Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Today we’re heading back over to Japan to take a look at Toshinden-S for the Sega Saturn. When it comes to 3D fighting games we’re spoilt for choice but this wasn’t always the case. Early successes such as Virtua Fighter and Tekken undoubtedly caught the interest of 32-bit gamers. Many tried to follow in their footsteps and some even tried to compete with them head on. Toshinden was one such fighting game series. Today we are looking at Toshinden-S for the Japanese Sega Saturn. It’s essentially a remixed version of the original Toshinden formula. English language versions are available but I wanted that authentic Japanese experience for my play through.

I’ve played numerous 3D fighting games and it’s a prospect that always fills me with dread. After such monstrosities such as FIST it’s easy to be put off by the genre altogether. Unfortunately I’m in the same mind when it comes to Toshinden-S. As you can see the game is graphically a bit of a mess. The 3D wireframes are a little bare and quite a few of the arenas are also lacking in detail. The game is definitely a product of its time where developers had big ambitions but the craft of 3D fighting hadn’t quite yet been mastered. Toshinden-S starts well as there is a nice introduction sequence and there is a good range of playable characters. The overall appearance of the game has dated quite badly in places. Even at the time Toshinden wasn’t the best looking 3D fighter on the system.

Sadly the gameplay is also a little lacklustre compared to its contemporaries. Attacks can feel a bit slow and overall there just isn’t the feel of a well finished game here. Considering that this is the remixed version of the game, it’s difficult to excuse some of the shortcomings here. It’s a shame as I feel that there was potential for this game. You only have to look at other weapons based fighters such as the Soulcalibur series to find really great execution of the concept. Each character has a range of kicks, punches, grapples and special moves. All of the right elements are here for a weapons based fighter. The actual combat just left me a little underwhelmed though. Especially as earlier games were well on the way to perfecting these elements. The gameplay certainly isn’t as bad as FIST but it is bordering on being very mundane at times.

Between rounds there are some nice cut scenes as the characters trade insults. The novelty will wear off after a while though. This is especially true if you are playing this original Japanese release. The Western dubbed edition of the game did manage to improve things a little here by injecting a little comedy in to the voice overs. In terms of packaging the artwork is acceptable as are the CD artwork and manual presentation. There’s really nothing to set Toshinden-S apart from the crowd though in the presentation department. Sadly it’s a theme that just seems to envelop the game. It can be satisfying to take an enemy down or land that special move. Overall though once you’ve been through the arcade mode once, there’s little to make you want to do the same thing over again. There’s just a much greater pull away to other games such as Virtual fighter or even its rival Tekken on the PlayStation. Usually I try to find the positives in my retro game collection. Toshinden-S just leaves me with an empty feeling though. No matter how you look at the game it just seems to fall short in the departments that really matter when it comes to enjoying a retro game.

Thankfully the game was able to ride out some of its earlier miss-fires and generate several sequels which I’m pleased to say are far more fun to play. If you are in mind to put Toshinden-S in your collection though pay no more than £5 in the UK. For a US edition of the remix you should look to pay under a $7 mark. Whilst Toshinden-S might not be the worst fighting game on the system it was certainly one of the most forgettable. Until I reminded us all right now, so, sorry about that. Now, I know I’ve been quite negative about Toshinden today and I also know that there are many gamers out there that really enjoy this one. Whilst I’m not personally a fan I can see the appeal if you have a certain nostalgia connected to playing this game. I’m sure I’ve reviewed many games positively on the channel already that many viewers just can’t connect with due to the time gap. It may be a bit clunky and the environments rather flat but it did provide a stepping stone to the superior later games in the series and for that Toshinden-S gives us an important lesson on how a series can evolve.

Partly how I relate to retro games is how they stand up today. This truth of the matter is that even if you re-skinned Toshinden with next-gen graphics and audio there still wouldn’t be enough gameplay to hold many gamers attention. Toshinden-S is definitely worth a look for those interested in the earlier 3D fighting series. If you are a budding game designer yourself it’s also a great place to start to pick apart the basic elements of building your own first 3D fighting game.

Outside of the enthusiasts and collectors though this tittle is a bit of a hard sell. It’s worth a look but for the curious but no more than that for most.

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