If the characters in Tobal No. 1 look familiar, it's with good reason: They're the work of Akira Torayama, the artist responsible for those wacky Dragonball Z characters. And under the fantastic visuals lies the solid programming muscle from Square - the Japanese firm responsible for the Final Fantasy series. So do these factors mean that Tobal No. 1 is a role-playing game? Yes and no.
Tobal No. 1 is actually a combination of RPG and fighter that uses the Playstation's polygon shifting strength to good effect. This game doesn't feature too much in the way of complex texture mapping, but it has plenty of sharp, smooth polygons. Running at between 30 and 60 frames per second, (depending on the screen content), this is one of the smoothest video games around, looking just as sharp as Mario 64 in some ways.
As a straightforward beat-'em-up, Tobal No. 1 is more than adequate, differing enough from Virtua Fighter and Tekken to retain some individuality. The controls may not be quite as responsive as these fighting games', but Tobal No. 1 nonetheless holds its own. Characters with great variety, both in appearance and fighting style, lend plenty of depth to the beat-'em-up portion of the game.
Tobal No. 1 strays from the rest of the fighting game pack with Quest mode, a psuedo-RPG mode complete with dungeons and various traps. Though a nice twist, the game unfortunately looses steam in its role-playing mode. This mode is shown from a behind-the-back view, switching to the standard side view when the player encounters an enemy. Items along the way replenish health, add strength and defense, and level up the character, raising the maximum amount of hit points. The controls work great when fighting, but applying the same functions to an RPG just doesn't work. Walking is mind-numbingly slow, but running is impossible to control. Also, there isn't much variety in the different dungeons, which are sure to keep players running around in circles.
Although Tobal No. 1 is simplistic, the combination of action and role-playing is at times absorbing and intense. For those who can handle the sluggish control, this game makes for a good value.