Toki (NES) – Retro Game Review

Toki (NES) – Retro Game Review

February 7, 2020 86 By Sebastian Fry


Hi I’m Pam and I’m here to talk about
retro video games. Today I’m talking about a game about a man
who gets transformed into an ape and has to save a princess. It’s Toki.
Toki was originally developed by TAD Corporation and released on arcades in Japan in 1989.
It was later ported to a multitude of other systems like the Amiga, Atari and Commodore
64. I played the NES version which was ported by Taito and came out in ‘91.
For an early run-and-gun style platformer, Toki includes a lot of text to explain the
story. One day while they’re out for a walk an evil sorcerer captures Toki’s girlfriend
Miho and turns Toki into an ape. As you start each level, you’ll see an overworld map
and a block of text that describes Toki’s journey.
Toki has a good range of moves. He can fire horizontally, diagonally or vertically depending
on what terrain he’s on, he can crouch to avoid damage or hit foes that appear low to
the ground. Through the levels he’ll be climbing vines, swimming and launching himself
to greater heights using a see-saw and large weight. He can also defeat enemies by jumping
on their heads, which is something I didn’t realize until a few levels in. Usually when
characters rely on shooting any contact with enemies will cause damage but that’s not
the case here. Jumping on enemies will damage them as well as give extra height to collect
otherwise out of reach items. There are a lot of different items to collect.
Various weapon upgrades will make your shots more powerful or fire in multiple directions.
Others will let you shoot fireballs or a stream of flames. If you get a helmet, you’ll be
impervious to enemy damage for a while, and shoes will let you jump higher. There are
also coins and various food items like bananas and strawberries which will give you bonus
points for your score. Usually arcade games are designed to be somewhat
unfair so you’ll pump them full of as many quarters as possible. So I was surprised by
how forgiving Toki was in terms of challenge. Unlike the arcade game where a single hit
will make Toki lose a life, here he can take two hits. You can also gain more heart containers
throughout the game to increase your life even more. You start with 3 lives but there’s
at least one extra life item to pick up in each level and you can gain more by collecting
50 coins or scoring 50,000 points. But the most forgiving and surprising thing was the
checkpoints. If you die, you’ll always start again very close to where you were. No going
back to the start of the level, or even a halfway point. Even if you lose all your lives
and have to use one of your four continues, you’ll start up again right where you left
off. Dying hardly sets you back at all. In this aspect, Toki was ahead of its time. I
loved this. However, though I enjoy not being punished
too much for dying, the overall platforming and shooting difficulty could have been higher.
Enemies rarely pose much of a threat and their attacks are fairly easy to avoid. The only
time I found a real platforming challenge was in the final level where you ride a fast-moving
mine car. The speed and momentum took a bit to get used to there.
The bosses at the end of each level are all quite simple and though they are visually
distinct, all can be beaten with the same strategy. I just stayed at max range and shot
continuously while jumping up and down. Some have shields which block damage from certain
heights or throw projectiles at you that need to be avoided, but there’s not much challenge
here. Visually, Toki looks okay but the NES version
obviously doesn’t match up to the arcade version.
Whereas the arcade version has quite detailed sprites and backgrounds with weather effects
and flowing waterfalls, the backgrounds in the NES version are all static and all of
the boss fights take place against a blank black background.
I do like a lot of the sprites though. Toki is pretty cute, even more so in the manual,
and the enemies he fights are things like penguins, lizards and baby dinosaurs. The
one thing I found impressive was how Toki and Miho look in the game’s opening. The
NES isn’t great at making characters that look human, but these two look pretty good,
for the few seconds they’re on screen. As for the bosses… the first boss is an
extremely racist caricature, which kind of puts a damper on the rest of the game for
me. It’s too bad they started out like this, because some of the other boss designs are
quite interesting. I liked the jade elephant at the end of stage 4, and the stage 5 boss
– the semi-invisible giant Bashtar is very cool looking. All that’s visible of him
is his hands, feet and heart and you need to hit his heart to defeat him. The bosses
all have a health meter which will let you know how you’re doing in the fight.
The music is not very impressive. While there are different tracks for the bosses and map
screens, each stage has the same music and I found myself getting pretty tired of it.
There is a 2-player mode in Toki but it’s very basic. You just take turns playing through
the game and things look exactly the same for both players.
Toki is a mediocre NES game. I really liked the forgiving checkpoints but overall the
game was a little too easy and very short. If you’re looking for a quick one, give
it a shot, but there are much better games out there.
If you’re looking for more pre-historic platforming, check out my reviews of Adventure
Island or Bonk’s Adventure. I have a Patreon if you want to support what I’m doing. Thanks
for watching and I’ll see you next time.