Back in the day, there was only one way to inexpensively import games available to a 13 year old. Piracy. This wasn’t the modern, run of the mill, easy as pie, download off the Pirate Bay torrent piracy of today. This is the find a guy from China on an "internet message board" and hope he doesn’t rip you off when he burns you stolen games and mails them to you kind of piracy. Very similar to the story Xenoblade of today(minus the happy ending), the reason I pirated might sound a bit familiar.
As a note, I do not condone or endorse piracy. I think it is the wrong thing to do and have not done it since I’ve been able to have a job. You can make your own choices regarding this matter.
There was a game company called Squaresoft who recently formed a studio called Game Factory. Game Factory was a combination of developers with experience on the Tekken and Virtua Fighter franchises as well as some Square/Enix mainstays like Akira Toriyama. There first game out was a little one on one fighter called “Tobal No.1.”
Tobal had a very unique Toriyama art style, solid combat mechanics and grapple/throwing mechanics which are still unmatched today. Forgoing the use of texture maps allowed the creators to use very high polycount (for the time) models and the game ran at a constant 60 FPS at a time when developers were reaching for 30. It threw in a very robust RPG mode where you could fight unique monsters, explore and unlock secret characters. Also it came with the demo for 3 of Squares most memorable games: Final Fantasy Tactics, Bushido Blade and one of the biggest games of all: Final Fantasy VII.
I really enjoyed Tobal No. 1. Me and my friends put hundreds of hours into it. My Hom was unmatched. My Brother would execute Chuji’s punch combos flawlessly. My friend Moe (Not his real name) had a cheap-ass Ill-Goga (to be fair, we considered every character Moe played to be cheap…). Right in the middle of all this, Square announced the sequel. The greatest sequel I had ever heard of.
Best of all? It was coming out in America.
I couldn’t read about it enough. Diehard GameFan, EGM, GamePro, GamePlayers. Every one of them put out previews. I read them all. I bought them all. Bigger RPG, new graphics (Gouaraud Shading! I don’t even know what that is!), projectile attacks, no more “No.” and holy crap, the coup de grace bullet point:
• Over 200 Playable Fighters!
I was hyped as hell, couldn’t wait. Then next month’s issue came out.
My heart dropped to the floor. I was mad. So mad we quit playing Tobal No. 1. So mad I didn’t finish reading the rest of the magazine. I was depressed for days. What news could possibly ruin my happiness for this new series? Tobal No. 2 was cancelled in North America.
Months later my older brother found a website. This website promised us 20 PS1 games for $20. They offered to sell you a “Mod Chip” for $40, with “easy" instructions on how to do it yourself. We opted for the swap trick instead. We split the cost, $11 a piece ($22 total for the Money Order, envelope and stamp). Soon we’d see Tobal 2, ChoroQ, Parodius, Vib Ribbon, one of many Sailor Moon Fighting games (my Brothers, I swear), Tail of the Sun. All the sharpie labelled games of our dreams, right to our door.
2 Months later, no games. No email reply. No pen top jammed in the back of my PS1. No shitty illegal games. Worst of all. I still was not going to be able to play Tobal 2. I wasn’t going to get to try out over 200 playable fighters. I wasn’t going to get to punch a Chocobo in the face. I really wanted to punch a Chocobo in the face.
About a year passed and my buddy Moe got the same hair-brained scheme. Order pirate games over the internet from China. I warned him he was going to get ripped off. He still asked me to pick one. Scrolling down that huge alphabetical list, I realized my heart still yearned for the game that got away: Tobal 2 was sitting there. I pointed at it and walked away, hoping to never have to read that game’s name again and suffer the heartbreak. I was not going to ever play it and I would always want to. I knew this in my heart.
Four weeks pass. I went to Moe’s house after school and a large Manilla envelope full of hard cases was waiting for him. Opening it up, some of the most professional Piracy I will ever see fell from it. Full CD cases, artwork on the disc. Moe’s Chinese pirate had come through. In the package was the game I thought I’d never play all gussied up like it was the real deal: Thrill Kill! (True, but also and much more important, Tobal 2!).
Pop the lid. Jam a pen top in the back against the “closed” button. Pop in a legit disc. Let it change speeds and slow down. Switch in pirate disc. Let it spin up to speed. Watch carefully for speed to drop, switch in legit disc. Let it spin about 3 times. Switch in Pirate disc. That is all I had to do to play Tobal 2. And I did it. I freaking did it!
Tobal 2 was everything I hoped it would be. It was a wonderful fighter. It has some of the best graphics and gameplay of any fighter of that generation. It had further improved and deepened the originals grappling mechanics. It had a quite fun amazing Diablo clone for the quest mode. It had cheap, overpowered projectiles. It had over 200 fighters, most of which were palette swaps which didn’t bother me because
Also, I was finally going to live my dream for the year. I was going to punch a Chocobo in the face:
*Images are Copyright to their respective owners. All composite images were composed by me for satirical purposes. I don't remember where I got all of them, sorry :\