I’ve played plenty of 3D fighting games in my time, but no other title has made the impression on me that Tobal No. 1 has. Tobal was a sleeper hit that somehow fell deep into the cracks of gaming history, even with its astounding take on the fighter genre. Not only was Tobal the first true 3D fighting game, it also had a fighting/quest mode that added a whole new gaming experience.
Along with the new concepts, Tobal had a fair amount of big names and games connected to it. Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, was the mastermind behind the character design and art. Tobal No. 1 was Squaresoft’s—now Square Enix’s—first title on the PlayStation. Tobal was also packaged with a demo disc that included video footage of Bushido Blade, Saga Frontier, and Final Fantasy Tactics, in addition to a playable demo of Final Fantasy VII. Even with these connections, Tobal didn’t make as big of a splash as it should have in the United States.
Now that we’re done this little history lesson, let’s get on to the damn game. Starting with the story…er…there isn’t much to say except that you’re a fighter who has entered a tournament to win Emperor Udan’s cash prize, along with the reputation of being the strongest fighter in the galaxy. Enough said. It shouldn’t be of any major concern that the story is marginally crappy since the game is a FIGHTER!
The fighters’ background information and motives, just like the story, don’t matter one bit. Don’t worry about the variety in characters; you have the usual well-rounded assortment to accommodate anyone’s fighting style of choice.
The heart of the game is its fighting engine (duh!), which is more than meets the eye. Dream Factory really makes the full 3D environment count with its usage of combos, grabs, and dodge tactics in general. The combos in Tobal are as fluid as can be. It’s possible to chain a character’s moves without adjusting your position, because there are plenty of them that can be done regardless of where you are on the field. These moves are done simply with three buttons: high, medium, and low. The grapple system is just as simple and keeps the game moving quickly.
The quest mode is the coolest damn thing to be in a fighter. There are four levels to conquer. In order to do this, you have to run around the levels picking up various power-ups, fighting plenty of baddies, and dodging traps. It sounds like a formula for being monotonous and über-lame, but the quest mode is as equally fast-paced and fulfilling as the regular fighting modes. All of your effort is rewarded well for conquering each dungeon.
For being one of PlayStation’s early titles, Tobal No. 1 is graphically impressive. There aren’t a lot of textures in Tobal, but it still looks great without them. Its simple polygon look gives off a great colorful, cartoony feel. With this in mind, Tobal runs at 60 frames per second, allowing for beautiful fluid motion that compliments the game immensely.
I am an audio person, and it is hard to really please me in this category, because I believe that if a game comes out on CD, its audio should be great. While Tobal No. 1 doesn’t have annoying sounds or music, it is all too damn mediocre sounding. However, it doesn’t detract from the overall game. Just don’t expect to be jamming out while kicking your friend’s ass.
It is really hard for me to say anything negative about Tobal. I feel once anyone gets acquainted with it, they will unquestioningly enjoy it. Tobal No. 1 is essential for everyone who enjoys fighting games, or just likes the Final Fantasy series (referring to the bundled demo). Tobal is A-OK in my book.