Arcade Archives TOUKI DENSHOU ANGEL EYES
The year is 1996 and a small gaming developer known as Tecmo would release a game to contend with other popular fighters at the time. Featuring a predominant woman cast of various archetypes and no stranger to fan service, the game would find success in the arcades. Its success would be well enough to issue a port on the PlayStation that following year, combining 3D graphics on a 2D background. If your initial thought was Dead or Alive then you are sorely mistaken, for I am of course talking about Touki Denshou Angel Eyes, quite possibly one of the most interesting fighting games I've ever played.
What I said was half true however, for Dead or Alive did release in the arcades later that year in November. It's the Summer of 1996 and Tecmo needed something to whet the appetite of arcade goers until their blockbuster title. As Team Ninja began work on creating a legacy (that had seen better days sadly), some of its staff worked on Angel Eyes on the side. The producer, Nuehima, is actually credited as one of the programmers for Dead or Alive, bringing this full circle.
While Touki Denshou Angel Eyes is considered one of the first games to feature an all-women cast, it's predated by games in the Variable Geo series and Asuka 120% Burning Fist. I mentioned before that it has a combination of "3D graphics" along with "2D elements." That's because, for some reason, half of the roster is created with polygons. Cycling through the character select screen you can't help but feel that something is...off. It's not until you pair a polygonal character with a sprite character do you notice the jarring differences.
Yet somehow, this isn't the most bizarre feature of Touki Denshou Angel Eyes. The game is a four-button fighter featuring two punches and two kicks, much like other SNK titles at the time. Like other similar titles, it features a "Gatling" combo system as lights link into other lights, which link into heavy attacks. The timing window for light attacks is wider than linking heavies into each other, so some execution is required.
Every character has access to a super jump, an air dash, and a homing dash by pressing two kick buttons. Think "Super Dash" from Dragon Ball FighterZ, but predated by twenty-two years. You can even fast fall directly to the ground when you're in the air as if you were Sonic the Hedgehog, instantly halting your jumping trajectory. If that wasn't enough, you can manually time how long you're in the air by pressing two punch buttons. Suddenly, a simple ground-based fighter turns into an aerial combat game that reminds me of Cyberbots.
Already this is shaping up to be an insane fighter, but it gets even better as I have yet to discuss the main feature of Touki Denshou Angel Eyes. In most competitive fighting games, especially recent ones, there are mechanics within the in-game engine that prevents players from finding infinities to the best of the developer's ability. The universal way of doing this is by adding damage scaling to a combo. The longer the combo extends, the less damage each consecutive attack does up to a certain point.
It's a reason why the most impressive Street Fighter 4 combo deals as much damage as a simple 1 > 2 > 3 combo ending in an Ultra. The system is set up this way to encourage players to find the optimal way to end a round without feeling like they're watching a movie. I praised Them's Fightin' Herds for their tutorial system as they go into detail about this as well as implementing an "anti-juggle" system that achieves the same effect.
What if I told you that in this game, it's encouraged to use long combos because the longer your combo is, the more damage you do to your opponent? Damage scaling? Nah, reverse damage scaling! As you can probably guess, this means that "touch of death" combos are greatly possible meaning that "first hit wins" is less of an understatement, but a promise. There's a saying I like to bring up where "If everything is broken, it's perfectly balanced." Every character in the game has a way to put an opponent in this situation, making the skill floor low. However, in high-level play, things like this tend to happen more often than you'd think.
Touki Denshou Angel Eyes is a part of the "Arcade Archives" for a reason as it's a fairly niche title even among the FGC. In Japan, it's incredibly popular to this day but up until today, it was never released outside of Japan. The game received a PSN port on the PS3 and was exclusive to Sony consoles for decades.
Its appearance on the Switch, in the West nonetheless, makes it the first time many will experience this gem of a fighter (no pun intended). Just be warned that playing this game like a traditional fighter will lead to your downfall quicker than the timer can move past a second.
Arcade Archives TOUKI DENSHOU ANGEL EYES is now available on the Switch and the PlayStation 4.