An arcade remake I never expected to see.
I never thought I’d be talking about a remake of the seemingly forgotten arcade game Toki in 2018, but here we are! Yes, Toki on Nintendo Switch is a remaster of the 1989 arcade title of the same name. Toki has enhanced visuals, updated music, and a new difficulty system. The original Toki is a game I wrote about having some fond memories of in a recent editorial, but does this remake hold up?
The story starts as Toki, a muscular caveman-like human, watches as a sorcerer kidnaps his love interest. Then this sorcerer turns Toki into a small ape before running off. It’s then up to Toki to make it through six levels in order to save his girl and to hopefully get his body back to normal.
Toki is definitely an arcade game and reminds me of a strange mix of Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Super Mario Bros., and Contra. That’s because Toki is a 2D platformer where the main character can spit projectiles, jump on enemies to damage them, and get different power-ups. All the power-ups only last a limited time, but they do more damage than the normal spit projectile. Toki can get close-range flamethrower breath, long-range fire spit that can charge up, a Wave Beam like spit, larger single spit, and a Contra like spreader spit. There are other helpful items as well like a football helmet that blocks attacks and sneakers that help Toki jump higher. The main reason I’m explaining all of this is because it adds to the utter ridiculousness that is Toki.
Toki can only survive one hit before having to go back to a checkpoint, but there do seem to be a fair number of them. That said, there are some cheap deaths that were likely set up to try and kill players intentionally so they would be forced to drop more quarters into the old arcade cabinet. This can be frustrating, but like many old games there is an element of gaining experience through failure and needing to learn to succeed. There is also a time limit for each stage.
The enemies in Toki are fun. There are a variety of apes, zombies, ghosts, spiders, eyeball monsters, bats, fish in the underwater sections, and more. The bosses are crazy but it feels like trying to brute force them is the best way to go. My favorite boss in the game is a walking pile of intestines that burps and kicks at Toki. It’s really bizarre in a good way.
The updated graphics do make the game widescreen and have a hand-drawn style to them. They aren’t bad, but sometimes it can be difficult to tell what’s actually on the screen. There were a few spots where I wasn’t sure what was in the foreground or background and that caused some confusion and deaths.
The rearranged music is catchy and I instantly remembered the old boss music when the new version of it started to play. The music isn’t jaw-dropping by any means, but old school Toki fans will likely be pleased with what’s been done in this department as it remains faithful to the original tracks.
Since Toki is an arcade game you may be wondering how they handled the difficulty this time around. It’s always a challenge to bring arcade games to consoles as one of the draws was trying to get far or beat the game without having to spend money. In the past, many home versions of arcade games lost some of that when they offered unlimited credits. Toki, however, does this in an interesting way. It gives the option of four difficulty levels from the start. There is Easy, Medium, Hard, and Hardest. These each give the player a limited number of continues, or credits, and a set number of lives per credit. Easy gives the most by offering nine continues and nine lives per continue. If you’re just looking to see everything Toki has to offer, I recommend this setting. Once you get better it may be worth trying a more difficult mode, but be warned, if you run out of credits you will start from the first stage.
For research purposes I went and watched a playthrough of the original Toki for the sake of comparison. While the graphics may not be modern, they definitely do make it a bit easier to tell what’s going on compared to this remake. Honestly, I prefer the retro graphics, but that is likely a personal preference. I also think it’s a bit of a shame there is no way, that I know of, to unlock the original Toki in this 2018 version. Hopefully we will get Arcade Archives Toki or something on Switch down the road.
Toki isn’t a very long title, as you would probably imagine. I beat it on the Easy setting in around an hour. The game does track your personal top score, but the leaderboard that I saw in the arcade version is removed. I wouldn’t recommend this as a high-score game, but you could play it that way.
Toki is fun and wacky, but a flawed game in many regards. While I enjoy the world and basic gameplay elements there are cheap deaths and the new graphics can make it hard to tell what’s on the same plane as the character at times. The different difficulty settings allow players to tailor the experience, which is good, but I don’t see myself often trying something other than Easy since this is an updated arcade title. Some of the general flaws can be attributed to the original game, so the developers actually did nail it when they made this updated version. That said, Toki fans will get a kick out of this remaster and if you like weird, old arcade games you probably will, too.