Here's the Toshinden game you'll probably never play, and trust me, that's really for the best. It's Takara's Nitoshinden (or, as the gaming press has dubbed it, Toshinden Kids), a super-deformed version of the 3-D fighting game that launched the Sony PlayStation.
In a darkly lit, hard rockin' live action cinematic opening, Nitoshinden introduces each of its fighters through a quick display of their moves and an English-text tag-line rife with cultural differences. Several well-known characters from the Toshinden series make an appearance: the green-haired circus performer, Ellis; Russian whipcrack Sofia; the policewoman Tracy; and Ryu-clone Eiji. Each is given such inexplicable handles as Princess of Slight Fever, Melt Down Lover, Justice of Lightning, and the simply brilliant Flying Lunch Boy. There are several new additions to the series cast as well, like Dr. Strange-meets-a-drama-major Syu (Marvelous Summoner); Baifu, the man in the iron mask (Ultimate Steel Heart); the blade-wielding Ryuji (Silent Storm); and Rika, a schoolgirl with a mallet (Mystical Heroine). Once the fighters are shown, the guitar-laden intro comes screeching to a halt, only to be replaced by a brightly-colored pastel select screen, backed by an intensely happy little number. It's an experience probably best described as a saccharine version of the bends, and it's easily the best part of the game.
Unlike Sega's similarly-themed Virtua Fighter Kids, this title doesn't play at all like the original game it parodies. Retaining only the basic moves of its predecessor, Nitoshinden has given up all pretense of speed and playability in exchange for strange and pulsating cartoony graphics. Even characters like Eiji have not escaped the conversion unscathed; instead of using his trademark fireball move, he now has a projectile carrot. It's worth noting that the title does have probably the coolest training mode ever seen in a fighting game (where a Japanese girl and a rendered Rika explain all of the fighting moves), but unfortunately there's just really not much there to learn about. It's simple - unlike Bushido Blade's strategic simple, Nitoshinden is Sling Blade simple.
Those blessed with the temerity, or plain thick-headed stubbornness, to play the game through are offered scant reward. Once all of the other fighters and an alternate version of your own character (a fighting game convention I admit to have never understood) are beaten, you will be disappointed - there's not even a boss character to fight. From there on out, you are provided with a handful of still cartoon shots and some text. Your character gets to date one of the other fighters. Then, after the credits, the game finishes with a blurb reading The End? - which can't help but bring to mind the final moments of films like Day of the Triffids or The Blob where the viewer learns the danger may, in fact, not yet be over.
In short, Nitoshinden fails on both of the levels it shoots for; it's a sub-par version of a fighting game series that's fairly basic to start with, and it's about as adorable as the Olsen Twins from TV's Full House. (One can almost imagine Kids' characters' speech translating as, I'm the cute one! No! I'm the cute one!) There's a standard tag that's found on all games released in Nippon, and never has a title warranted it more: For Japan Only. Kudos to PlayMates Interactive for NOT releasing it in the States.