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Review By: Chris Lee
Developer:   Square
Publisher:   Sony
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Fighting

Tobal No. 1, in my opinion, was one of the most underrated and overlooked games in the history of the Playstation. There were a couple of reasons for this. The first is that it was released aorund the same time as Tekken 2, I can understand that. The second reason is the saddest thing I'd seen to that point as a game buyer. At that time there was a lot of hype surrounding the release of Final Fantasy 7 and it just so happened that there was a short demo of the game packaged in with Tobal No.1.  Unforetunately for many that was reason enough to buy the game. For this reason and translation costs Square of Japan opted to only release Tobal 2 in Japan. This decision was the greatest blow to american fighting fans in a very long time.

One of the most important things in a fighting game today is it's graphic quality, how it looks and how it moves. Tobal 2 still and will be for a long time the most organic, vibrant and smooth fighting game I've ever seen. Designed by Dragonball Z character designer Akira Toriyama the characters have an anime and human quality to them. Not that they look like your friend Bill from next door but the details and nuances in the character design is so..... as I said, organic. The way in which the characters move really brings them to life more than any other fighter I've experienced.

Although some of the attacks are humanly impossible I'm sure that if humans could do them then that's the way they'd look. The colors bring the whole screen to life when you fight. They are used in a way that makes the game colorful without going over the edge to cartoony. Some of the graphical details go above and beyond any game released before or after it. Each punch and kick have a different feel to them. Each fighter blocks differently, moves differently, and feels different from one another. That's a feat that not many game designers have been able to accomplish without having off balance characters. The backgrounds in Tobal 2 are a combination of 3D objects in the foreground and 2D backdrops in the back. They range from beautiful to dreary and mysterious but each background fits in perfectly with the game and in fact I wouldn't want it any other way. As with the rest of the game these things have to be seen to be appreciated.

The game plays more beautifully than it looks. The control is so quick and responsive that you won't ever have to get angry because you couldn't do the move you wanted to do. The button layout consists of triangle, square, X, L1, and R1. Which translate to High, Mid, Low, Jump, and Block respectively. They become second nature very quickly. Tobal 1 and 2 were the first real 3D fighting games. Not 3D characters on a 2D plane. You can actually move about freely all the while still addressing your opponent. Ergheiz has the problem of 3D freedom to the point of too much freedom while Tobal 2 has the perfect balance of fight and freedom. You can dash towards, jump around, and circle around your opponent with complete fluidity and confidence. In another great detail, the characters block differently for each incoming attack. After all who can really block every kick and punch with the same motion? If you can do that please teach me. With each punch and kick you can see your character adjust to the attackers position and attack location. It's VERY realistic and adds greatly to the game and the genre. I can only hope all 3D fighting games do this in the future.There are so many moves and throws that I feel sorry for whoever was in charge of thinking them all up. The moves match the style and disposition of each fighter. The sheer number of them will stagger you. Also the style in which they are executed will have your jaw drop at the detail and frames of animation. The throw and counter systems are awesome. You press and Hold R1 and square to grab. You can grab from front, back, left, or right and they all have different throws for each character. You can do punch combinations, punch combinations into throws or just a plain and simple throw. Imagine an opponent about to bodyslam you but to counter it you trip them and do a throw of your own but instead they counter you into a DDT that you slip out of right before you hit the ground and then the two of you roll around punching each other until one of you comes out on top. These reversals can go on for a nice amount of time creating movie quality sequences. It's just another area that the game shines in . A few of the fighters have strike counters. They are activated by pressing back, R1, and square. And each of the counters is different depending on character and situation. The most diverese is "Big Mama" as I call her, she's a wrestler and can counter any stirke into a wrestling move, she also has a move where she knocks you in the air, catches you , and can do a wide variety of wrestling moves from a DDT to a backbreaker.

As I said earlier, each of the game characters has their own style and abilities. There are 10 immediately playable and oh I'd say around 200 in all. Haha I'll get to that a bit later. Each of them has a "fireball" type move where you charge it using your own health and if you miss then you''ve just lost health equal to the amount that you chargd it with, a great non-cheese move on the part of square. The similarities between them all stop there, for example you've got a new character to the series, Doctor V.  He uses a kickboxing style but with a double tap and hold of R1 he goes into a....uh...well...different style where he can literally bob and weave away from any attack while taunting and provoking his opponent. It's a very amusing yet very effective fighting style but essentially he has two seperate and complete styles and you can use one without having to use the other which adds depth to the character. In another example my favorite is a chicken using what I think they call "kentukian" which is a joke meaning of course Kentucky Style. He uses a FAST and furious punch combo system that noone can defeat!!! Bwahahah the power!!! Oops well anyway, about the 200 characters. In probably the most difficult and ridiculous challenges in a game ever, to earn all these characters you have to defeat them in quest mode. That normally would be a great way to do it except that even an expert at the game can never ever beat this mode. The enemies range from cheesy to outright unfair. I would go into more description but there really is no point to it. It's a well thought out and long mode but it's just too darned cheesy. If any of you out there beat it fair and square let me know cause I want to shake your hand and give you some money. In reality though it's not really worth it because only a few of the 200 are worth having. I have no shame in saying that I used a Gameshark to get them all and you will too!

The sound oddly enough is good too. It's one area of the game though that not every one will agree on. The pucnhes, kicks, and ground collisons all sound well enough but the music is where people will butt heads. The music in some levels is cool and has guitar and bass in it and sounds like your normal fighting game fare. Other levels however have a more relaxed sound to them, kind of like an anime or something. I love it but I know that some people think it takes away from the atmosphere. In general though the sound is adequate and at times great.

The game is a must buy for fighting and non fighting fans alike. With the most original, intuitive and engrossing fighting system around. It shows that a fighting game doesn't have to be about blood and fatalities to be good. Akira Toryiama's character designs also prove that you can have anime characters that are just as real as Jimmy from next door. From the fantastic CG intro to each characters own CG endings Tobal 2 just says "play me, I'm the greatest 3D fighter ever made". Ok I said that but if you play Tobal 2 I think you'll agree. Get it today (or however long it take to get from the importer to your door)!!!

Overall: 10
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