19In the early days of video games, the purpose of arcade games was to provide enough entertainment to get people hooked in addition to having a difficulty curve that meant plenty of coins would be dropped into the machines by players seeking ‘just one more go’. Toki was a title in the 1980s that embraced this purpose, from its original arcade incarnation to its ports on Amiga, Mega Drive, and NES. Toki’s newly released remake that seeks to do the same on the Nintendo Switch.
The game begins with the titular protagonist, a lantern-jawed loincloth-wearing barbarian type who lives in the jungle. He sees his love interest kidnapped by an evil sorcerer, who turns Our Hero into a small ape-like creature before vanishing with the love interest.
Toki then discovers that the magic spell that turned him into an ape has also bizarrely given him the ability to spit powerful fireballs. Using his newly-found powers, Toki sets out to traverse several levels populated with the minions of the sorcerer in order to free his love interest and end the reign of the sorcerer—exactly the sort of nonsensical premise early arcade games were famous for.
The first and most noticeable thing about Toki is how beautifully drawn it is. Everything seems full of colour and life. The detail in the backgrounds is amazing, and one may quite easily become distracted admiring the artwork. The sprites are large and chunky and move with an incredibly fluid animation. The character designs go for an exaggerated, cartoonish feel which suits the action perfectly, with plenty of ‘ugly-cute’ style designs for the enemy characters, though some of the boss designs are genuinely unsettling, like the walking amalgamation of intestines.
In common with many arcade-style platformers, learning the layout of each level is crucial. Many of the levels require precision jumps in order to traverse them, and some areas are set up to make the player suffer what feels like a very unfair death, which can be extremely frustrating, especially with the time limit in place for each stage.
Along with Toki’s standard fireball attack, the game also has various power-ups to be found, providing an assortment of special abilities, such as a close-range flamethrower, a wave beam attack, and a Contra-style spread beam. These abilities make the game feel like a hybrid of shoot-em-up and platformer, but some more wacky power are also available, such as an American football helmet that blocks damage, adding to the absurdist, cartoonish theme.
The game has variable difficulty levels, covering Easy, Medium, Hard, and Hardest. These levels do not change the difficulties of the levels as such, but instead provide a differing number of credits and continues. The Easy difficulty gives the player nine continues and nine lives per continue, with harder difficulty settings progressively lowering the amount. These levels are a curious choice but work for this type of game.
The music is remixed from the original arcade release and sounds great. The game has some very catchy tunes, of particular note in the boss music, which manages to balance staying true to the original theme while bringing it up-to-date.
Playing the game through to completion does not take very long, even accounting for the difficulty. The game only has six levels, which are not particularly long, and once players have learned how to avoid the death traps and mastered the level layout, even upping the difficulty fails to offer much challenge.
Disappointingly, the game has no extra modes to try out, and no artwork or sound test to unlock. Even unlocking the original Toki arcade game is impossible, which seems like a huge oversight for a retro remake.
For fans of the original, or those who like collecting physical editions, the Toki Retrocollector Edition is worth looking into, as it comes with a mini comic book, art prints, a sticker sheet, and a mini arcade cabinet that will hold a Nintendo Switch. Further information on this can be found on the OnlySP YouTube unboxing video.
Toki is a fun way to kill some time, and will certainly appear to retro arcade fans. The artwork, animation, and music are all amazing, but the sometimes unfair difficulty and lack of extra game modes means the game is an unfortunately brief experience that probably is not worth revisiting once completed. The Retrocollector Edition redeems the game somewhat with some great extras, particularly the mini arcade cabinet, but unfortunately the game itself does not have quite enough substance.