What is the price that we pay for nostalgia? It seems like an honest question: it’s one of the reasons that my treasured Super Mario telephone will stay in my possession forever. However, it’s pretty to look at and hold: I would never plug it in and use it because, well, I haven’t had a landline since I was in high school and it seems silly to get one just so no one will call. Hamster, Konami, and several other groups have done a fine job bringing arcade classics from decades before to the Switch with a good price tag and solid emulation. This might have been the inspiration for Microids, the publishers behind the Syberia series, to dig through the past and come up with a cult-classic for modern release. However, they didn’t just want to make a port and be done with it: this is a painstaking recreation of the arcade platformer, Toki, with brand new music, art and even some minor tweaking on the level design. The question, then, becomes: is it worth it?
Toki is the name of our main character, who was just some kind of caveman-type dude that liked to hang out with his half dressed girlfriend, Miho, and generally have a good kind of life. There’s this evil witch doctor though, and evil magicians seem to have the worst time meeting women or communicating with anyone, really, so he kidnaps Miho and, to make sure Toki can’t get him easily, turns Toki into a monkey. There’s so many weird issues with this that I can’t even begin to fully extrapolate it, but the monkey can shoot an unlimited number of energy balls from his mouth. I’m guessing that Toki the human couldn’t, so what the hell was the witch doctor thinking? Also, when you have the power to transmogrify living creatures between species, why wouldn’t you just make a companion from some other animal? Or maybe the witch doctor doesn’t even want Miho, but he is bored and wants to see how many times Toki gets his ass handed to him trying to get her back. The last one is the most plausible, but there has to be an easier way.
Toki plays out as a one-hit kills arcade platformer that takes place over several levels. Toki is able to jump on enemies Mario style, and, as we mentioned before, hit them with energy shots from his mouth. As he moves through the level, Toki can find any number of power ups that are always temporary, from changing what kind of blast he exhibits to giving him invincibility to projectiles. As we want the playing field mostly level, a good majority of the baddies that you fight can shoot something at you, so Toki has to be somewhat agile. Which is hard, because he’s still a good sized monkey: ducking does almost nothing, and he’s never exactly running at top speed anywhere. At the conclusion of each stage, there’s a boss that has a visible hit meter and several ways to hurt you, and you blast him in the face until the stage is done. Lather and repeat until you get Miho back. Replay on harder difficulties if you want to try and get a new experience from the game wherein you have fewer lives and continues, thus upping the difficulty factor. Oh, and enemies take more hits, so that makes the hardest difficulty (2 lives, three continues) significantly more daunting than the easiest (nine lives, nine continues).
The appeal of Toki is going to be a difficult one to pin down, simply because it lives in the hearts and minds of those who created this version. To be perfectly fair, the Microids people went above and beyond to make this game for modern audiences. The redrawn animation is delightful, and pulled in some big talent in order to bring Toki into the 21st century. The artist was also one of the original designers for Toki, so this is a cool moment of knowing that this updated version does actually match with the original intentions of the creators. For the most part, it’s a good upgrade from the 199X arcade version: everything has a lot of bounce and absurd cartoonishness to it, and the bosses in particular look fantastic. Toki went from a very stereotypical “monkey” to a refined and exquisite ape, who really has a lot of emotion come through in his different gestures and outfits, and even looks different spitting out different projectiles. The level map has gone from a linear trek to a sprawling and fantastic world, showcasing how far and wide Toki has to travel to free Miho. The only thing I didn’t care for with this new animation was the loading icon, which looks, well, positively disturbing. I’m not one to sew crass into my reviews unnecessarily, but it evokes certain ideas that are rather unsavory from the simian NPCs that represent the loading icon.
Additionally, the re-orchestrated soundtrack for Toki is magnificent. While the original arcade version was pretty cutting edge and strong for the time, having the technology available today with a full re-rendition gives the game a proper sense of wonder and majesty. You have to remember, at the core of everything, Toki is a traditional title about saving your girlfriend and defeating an evil whatever, so having something that captures that slightly predictable but ultimately iconic idea is no simple feat. Microids was able to get Raphael Gesqua (who is best known for his work with the Flashback soundtrack) to compose a whole sweeping arrangement that allows Toki to have his adventure properly enhanced as he jumps, climbs and smashes his way to Miho’s rescue. It’s very apparent, through both the music and the graphics, that this wasn’t just meant to be some quick-and-dirty port: Microids and the people behind this idea wanted to do real justice to the game and create something wonderful and powerful, a strong, new version while still retaining the original game.
Those last few words, however, might be the nail in the coffin for a lot of would-be players. Toki is, shot for shot (with some small variations), a remake of the original arcade game. A game that clocks in at roughly 45 minutes worth of gameplay, potentially less with practice (or a bit more with multiple flubs and deaths). The game itself is a grand experience and performs well, but the stages are shockingly short, and, like a lot of great arcade games, you can simply memorize the when and where of what you need to do. Eliminating enemies before they appear on screen, knowing when to shoot and when to bounce to get powerups, where is the best place to stand to deal with bosses…it’s all the same formula. After you play through once and get a chance to admire how good the game looks (and how good Miho looks, amirite?), you’re left with…Toki. So it becomes a razor thin line of value versus investment, and it can be hard, especially for newer players who have become accustomed to mindless entertainment being free on all fronts. Considering the Toki remake comes in at three times the asking price from other arcade classics and ports, this can be a tough sell.
What it comes down to is appreciation for the why that Toki is, and not the what. It’s clear that this is a labor of love, with some of the original talent working to make Toki a modern variation of it’s classic form, and I do appreciate that. I love the way the overall aesthetic has been improved, and it does perform marvelously on the Switch. Tragically, the larger price tag is going to severely put people off from simply diving into it without a bit of research, and only those who lived through Toki’s glory days or arcade aficionados will be grabbing it without a sale attached. However, if you’re a fan of fun and well designed platformers, and can enjoy a good remasterization, then you might be in for a real treat with Toki.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
User Review( votes)
Microids does justice to this arcade classic with a fresh coat of paint, a brand new soundtrack, and careful re-creation of Toki’s timeless gameplay.