Battle Arena Toshinden (simply titled Toshinden in Japan) is the first 3D fighting game franchise where every character toted a weapon of some sort (the first series to do it in 2D was Samurai Shodown). It was considered a killer app when it was released as a PlayStation launch title, and Sony promoted it heavily. However, as the years passed by, it got left in the dust, as it was upstaged by other 3D fighting game franchises such as the Virtua Fighter, Tekken, and the Soul series, who continued to innovate and refine their gameplay while Toshinden remained stagnant. Not quite as fondly remembered as it was back then, but still worth a look.
The story of Battle Arena Toshinden revolves around a secret fighting tournament known only as the Toshindaibukai and that those who are deemed worthy of participating in it are handed invites by a secret group known only as the Himitsu Kessha (Secret Society in the English version).
The first game in the series has eight participants competiting in the battle, each of them having their own reasons for heading into the tournament. The second game would be much like the first, except that two new challengers would enter into the fray and that the tournament itself would be nothing more than a mere ruse in order to lure out a specific target named Gaia, who happens to be a former member of the Himitsu Kessha, marked for immediate death after illegally holding the first tournament without the consent of the Himitsu Kessha and that he had tried to start a rebellion against the organization.
The third game in the series would center around a new antagonist group known as the Soshiki (Organization in the English version) and their leader, a power-hungry megalomaniac named Abel. In order to bring a destructive fighting god named Agon Teos into the world, Abel and his minions must gather the blood of the strongest warriors and targets the Toshinden fighters as their sacrifices. Hunting them down mercilessly with underhanded ways, and hiring assassins and enemies that could bring them in, he then gives the fighters an ultimatum: Participation in the third tournament to corner them and settle things face to face in the ring, or forever find themselves and their loved ones chased down and victimized until they surrender or die trying to escape their grasp.
The fourth and final game in the original series would take place a few years after the events of Toshinden 3 and that it would center around a young man named Subaru Shinjo (the son of Sho Shinjo and Cupido), who sought to find his missing uncle Eiji while participating in a new Toshindaibukai tournament.
The series also has a 2D Game Boy port. Unlike other fighting game ports was released on the Game Boy, it's actually quite good and entertaining. It includes all the 8 playable characters from the first game and 4 bosses (Gaia, Gaia II, Sho, and Uranus). The background music is also outstanding to say the least. One weird fact that distinguish it from other 2D fighting games is that keeps its Ring Out feature from the 3D games, but it's made in such a way it doesn't break the game balance (you've a 3 points Ring Out meter; until it gets emptied you don't fall). If you have time in your hands, give it a look, it's worth it.
In 2009, the series had gotten a spiritual successor for the Wii in the form of War Budokai (simply titled Toshinden in Japan, but spelled with different kanji charactersnote ), a weapons-based arena fighter with heavy anime influences which also incorporate skills such as summon magic.
The original games were also adapted into a 2-part OVA anime in 1996, directed by Masami Obari (who also directed the Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture). It was the first anime DVD released by Central Park Media in the Western market (and possibly the first Western market anime DVD period).
There is also evidence of a long deserted plan for a Toshinden prequel, through the pictures found in Toshinden Card Quest, now long known as Toshinden Next. As it stands, Next was supposed to have delved deeper into the affairs of the four executives of the Toshinden games, being Gaia, Cupido, Uranus, and Chaos, before what would lead into Gaia's mutiny, and as well into supporting characters mentioned and hinted to in the main series, with the Secret Society's own influences affecting them all as well.
Has a character sheet now.
Battle Arena Toshinden contains the following tropes:
- Adaptational Heroism: Fo Fai in The Anime of the Game, in which in the games themselves, he is a seemingly friendly old man and traveling magician who is actually a Serial Killer who would gladly kill anyone For the Evulz. While the OVA did follow the first part of Fo Fai's personality, it had downplayed the second part as he is seen with the other Toshinden fighters in the big fight against the Secret Society. Though granted, it was highly implied that he had only did it just to get back at the Secret Society for trying to attack him earlier in the OVA.
- Eiji and Kayin are technically this as well, since while Eiji is the franchise's main protagonist and Kayin is his best friend and rival, the two of them do have their own personality flaws from within the games themselves (Eiji being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold and Kayin being a Knight In Sour Armor), thus both Eiji and Kayin are substantially nicer and more heroic in the OVA. And the second part of the OVA did state that the reason of why the other Toshinden fighters had pulled a Big Damn Heroes and help aided Eiji, Kayin, Sofia, and Tracy out was because they had just wanted to get back at the Secret Society. Namely the OVA did try to point out that the Toshinden fighters are for the most part good acquaintances to each other rather than being allies to one another. Though that being said, Eiji did help Rungo (getting his battered body back to his family to take care of him) and Sofia (seeking her out to warn her about the Secret Society that is coming after the Toshinden fighters) out from within their own personal situations.
- Adaptational Modesty: Sofia seems to play this trope really straight at first in The Anime of the Game, when we first see her greeting Eiji in her debut scene wearing a rather large shirt that covers most of her body. Though this gets subverted later on when she gets a brief full-frontal nudity scene in the shower, then when she gets mind-controlled by Uranus and tries to attack Eiji, she is seen in her usual Ms. Fanservice attire.
- Ellis on the other hand plays this trope straight in the OVA as she looks even younger and is flat-chested unlike how she was in the games themselves.
- All There in the Manual: Concerning the series' own world and information, much of it is hugely contained in the many Japanese only development books and strategy guides.
- The Anime of the Game: A two episode OVA, which was dubbed by U.S. Manga Corps and edited into a single movie.
- Bottomless Magazines: Played straight with Vermilion in Toshinden 2, which did not have any ammunition meters to the point that he was a literal game breaker. However, this was subverted in Toshinden 3. Nagisa, Adam, and Vermilion all use firearms, but have to reload them occasionally. Vermilion has to do so constantly, because his regular weapon attacks rely exclusively on them. David has six shots in his pistol, but he can't reload it at all.
- Catharsis Factor: Invoked with the easiest difficulty setting in Toshinden 2, which is called "Stress Relief".
- Captain Ersatz: Judgment (Jason Voorhees), Zola (Catwoman) and Ten Count (Michael Jackson).
- Darker and Edgier: Toshinden 3 in particular, dealing with the antagonistic Organization and their interests into the occult and Blood Magic for their ends.
- Defeat Means Playable: Everyone's evil counterparts in Toshinden 3.
- Dressed Like a Dominatrix: In the first game, Sofia wears a black leather leotard, thigh-high high-heeled boots, opera gloves, a choker, and a ponytail. She wields a whip. The Soul Series is a spiritual successor to Battle Arena Toshinden, so the similarities aren't coincidental.
- Dual Wielding: Several characters (Tracy and Rachael with their tonfas, Ellis with her daggers, and Vermilion with his Peacemaker and a shotgun).
- Evil Counterpart: All of the main characters had one, and they were introduced as sub bosses in Toshinden 3. Look closer, and you'll see that they all share special themes in relation to each other.
- Gaiden Game: Battle Arena Toshinden URA for the Sega Saturn.
- Guest Fighter: Earthworm Jim in the PC version of the first game, overlapping with Joke Character. Rather than having his own attacks, though, he's just a skin swap of Rungo.
- Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Numbered difficulties in Toshinden 2, the "Stress Relief" and "Impossible" levels in Toshinden 3.
- Irony: The original Toshinden was marketed by Sony as a "Saturn killer" on its release at the start of 1995. Eleven months later, it was ported to the Sega Saturn.
- Moveset Clone: Eiji and Kayin have the same basic moveset (Rekku Zan/Sonic Slash and Hishouzan/Deadly Raise) although with a few differences. Sho functions as the "Akuma" character, with more powerful versions of all of both characters' moves.
- Basically half of the third game's cast was this to the other half, discounting Sho and Naru.
- Multiple Endings: Depending on the game, and the alignment of who you play.....
- Toshinden 2:
- Uranus wins the tournament, having slain all of her opposition. As she kills off Master, she takes over as the next "Master", and moves in on planning on taking over the everyday world.
- Toshinden 3:
- Leon becomes satisfied upon murdering every one of the protagonists. He then sets his sights on Sho to become the strongest in the world.
- The world becomes Ten Count's, Balga's, Schultz's, Judgement's, and Vermillion's lawless playground of headhunting and murder.
- Zola's stardom rockets as she makes use of the blood magic of Agon Theos to give herself irresistible charisma and beauty.
- Adam loses all faith in the hopes of attaining a human body, realizing he was lied to by Abel. He turns into a nihilistic and emotionless tool of death for the Organization.
- Atahua and Tau leave the Organization as they are given their bounties. This act potentially leaves them open for the Organization to turn on them.
- Bayhou proves himself as the successor of Fo Fai's martial arts, but awaits for more to kill in the wilderness, taking Fo Fai's legacy into obscurity and infamy.
- Toujin's wife dies all because he is too late. He turns to attaining the secrets of immortality for himself.
- Rachael succeeds in murdering Tracy, but this act ultimately seals her fate down a path of evil and desolate loneliness.
- Miss Til foretells the end of the world, seeing nothing but darkness in the future.
- Whomever wins on the side of the Organization, Abel succeeds in hunting down every one of the protagonists, and begins to attain the dark blessings of Agon Teos. Judgement Day happens and a new world is born under his power.
- Veil gains the powers of Agon Theos, and begins the end of the world.
- Toshinden 2:
- Nebulous Evil Organisation: The Himitsu Kessha (literal translation: "secret society") in the first two games and the Soshiki (literal translation: "organization") in the third game.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Ten Count, one of the "evil" characters in Toshinden 3, looks, sounds and moves suspiciously like a certain gloved pop singer... His taunt (the infamous "crotch grab" part of you-know-who's dance routine) will instantly max out the opponent's Overdrive gauge when performed.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Surprisingly flat out averted in the English voice work in Battle Arena Toshinden Remix's story mode in which all Asian & European characters have their respective region's accents. Granted the accents were generally not well received but still.
- The English Dub of The Anime of the Game did play this straight for the most part aside from Mondo who did have a Japanese accent there but a tad bit lighter than the one he had in Remix's story mode.
- Scoring Points: Only the first game had this; the others used a timer.
- Shotoclone: Eiji and his brother Sho; Kayin; Mondo; and their clones.
- Eiji and Kayin even do look like Ryu and Ken with swords, to boot.
- In Toshinden 2, Chaos had some secret moves via some dexterity required commands that are blatant references to other fighting games, usually something made by SNK (the specific special moves that Chaos does includes Terry Bogard's Power Geyser, Ryo Sakazaki's Haoh Shoko Ken, Kyo Kusanagi's Serpent Wave, and Iori Yagami's Dark Thrust).
- Selecting one of Adam's alternate costumes in Toshinden 3 gives him a human, Zangief-like head.
- In some offical artwork, Abel looks a lot like Dio.
- Spin-off Game: Toshinden Card Quest and Puzzle Arena Toshinden.
- Spiritual Successor: War Budokai for the Wii.
- Surprisingly Good English: In the first game.
- Updated Re-release:
- The Sega Saturn received a port of the first game titled Battle Arena Toshinden Remix (Toshinden S in Japan), which added an extra character named Cupido to the roster and a story mode which had helped fleshed out a few details about the fighters' own character backgrounds. It was so graphically worse then the PS1 version, that it virtually proved the Saturn was the weaker machine overnight — a really bad move for Sega (as better looking 3D fighting games, such as Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers were later released).
- Toshinden URA is often mistaken for a port of Toshinden 2, but it's actually a different game with a different fighting system and roster (Gaia, Chaos, Uranus, and Master were replaced by Replicant, Wolf, Ronron, and Ripper). It also had a different story from Toshinden 2's own, which revolved around a mysterious traveling fighter named Ripper, seeking out his missing sister (who happens to be Cupido) while dealing with a conspiracy that had involved the theft of an advanced fighting robot.