Toki USA 188x266 Toki NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotDeveloper: TAD
Publisher: Taito

Released: December 1991
US Cartridge ID: NES-5J-USA

Players: 2/Alternating
Genre: Action Platform
Supported Peripherals: Controller

ROM Size: 3 megabit
Mapper: MMC3 (128k PRG, 256k CHR)

Requires Flash10

Despite a box that prominently features some of the worst box art to ever grace the shelves of video game retailers, Toki is an excellent port of the underrated 1988 arcade classic of the same name. As is the case with many of Taito’s 8-bit releases, Toki’s late 1991 release buried it beneath the massive shadow cast by Nintendo’s aggressive promotion of their newly launched 16-bit successor to the NES. Though a quality title, the Toki USA 001 Toki NES Nintendo Review Screenshotlack of media coverage and retail shelf real estate provided players few reasons to ever consider it.

Toki was originally the brainchild of Japanese gaming Renaissance man Akira Sakuma, responsible for the excellent Momotaro Densetsu games (released in Japan on the Famicom),in addition to numerous contributions to various manga, television, and musical productions throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The impact of the widened perspective provided by his various pursuits is evident in the creative aspects of Toki, highlighting the confluence of comic-style graphics with lively music in addition to its cast of unique characters that pay homage to the Hollywood classic Tarzan.

The warrior Toki’s adventure begins during a leisurely stroll through the jungle. Beset upon by a wicked sorcerer and an invisible giant, Toki is transformed into a defenseless monkey. Without the ability to fight, he can do nothing but gape in horror as they abscond with his beautiful girlfriend Miho. The jungle spirit, bearing witness and taking exception to the ambush, grants Toki the ability to spit fireballs. Sufficiently armed, Toki sets off toward the Golden Palace seeking revenge and the returned of his woman.

The story is absolutely nonsensical, but the silliness of Toki‘s gameplay more than justifies it. Fighting through the six distinct levels feels familiar due to the game’s strict adherence Toki USA 037 Toki NES Nintendo Review Screenshotto platforming’s dogmatic approach to level design: the necessary inclusion of levels featuring water, ice, fire, and cave areas, is fully present and accounted for, and capped by an “enemy stronghold.” In spite of this hackneyed setup, the items that can be collected in order to augment Toki’s abilities add a fair amount of variety to the gameplay. Picking up a helmet renders the simian hero temporarily invincible, while a pair of shoes will allow him to jump much higher than usual. He can further upgrade his fireball’s shot, incrementally increasing the effectiveness of Toki’s attack through the double shot, the three-way shot, and the fireball. Controlling Toki is simple and painless, responding immediately to any input from the player. The timing and jump momentum are well tuned, and Toki can aim diagonally to aid in the attacking of enemies at awkward angles, leaving most deaths a result of the player’s mistakes rather than unintuitive or unwieldy mechanics. These upgrades do tend to imbalance the game’s difficulty, as the level of skill needed varies dramatically based on Toki’s current abilities; this is, however, fairly counteracted by the variety that these power-ups introduce to the otherwise bog-standard mechanics.

Toki‘s graphics and sound do an amazing job approximating those found in the 1988 original. Though the characters are much smaller and less detailed, they are still Toki USA 010 Toki NES Nintendo Review Screenshotrecognizable and retain much of their personality in their understandably scaled back 8-bit renditions. The enemies are wholly bizarre, and the creativity (and hilarity of racially-charged caricatures) particularly apparent in the boss sprites give the game a unique flavor, as does the goofy animation of Toki himself. This relatively faithful recreation of the game does come at the cost of the occasional bout of flicker and jumpy screen scrolling, but the general feel of the arcade edition is capably retained. The sound fares similarly: though the NES’ sound chip does not afford the same level of fidelity as the coin-op’s sound hardware provides, the simplified tunes are just as catchy and memorable as they ever were.

Though unfairly marginalized at the time of its release, the colorful atmosphere, quirky characters, cheery music, and simple fun all serve to make Toki a tragically overlooked gem in the NES library.

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flag us Toki NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotToki
Taito, 12/1991
flag jpn Toki NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotJuJu伝説 (JuJu Densetsu)
The Juju Legend
Taito, 7/1991