Standard but enjoyable 3D brawler
While lacking in the depth and complexity of the best fighters, like Street Fighter IV, Battle Arena Toshinden makes for an enjoyably action-packed entry into the genre. The game was one of the first to introduce 3D to this style of beat 'em up, standing alongside Virtua Fighter, and it scores some points by simply being well done and by offering fighting fans what they want. There is the barest element of narrative to the game and which describes how the various characters have all been invited into a mysterious tournament and who each have their own motivations in their quest for victory, but it's all pretty insubstantial stuff and can easily be ignored. The fighting itself however, is much more interesting. There are eight characters initially playable, with more unlockable and which provide the usual variety of fighting styles to try out, but one of the game's interesting additions is that of weapons, similar to later games like Soul Edge and which gives it an extra degree of strategy. Apart from this, Battle Arena is a pretty standard fighter, simply requiring players engage in a series of bouts, making use of a variety of moves to knock merry hell out their opponents. The desperation move is a curious element, a special attack that can only be used when you're down to your last health and which also helps to give the game a little personality. Visually, this stands up a little better than Virtua Fighter, as it is less stylised, and the sprites and environments are chunky and well detailed, with a good sense of fluid movement. If you're a fighting fan, this is definitely worth spending some time with, thanks to its fast action but there are better example out there, so if you are new to the genre, consider checking something like Street Fighter IV out first.