Tobal No.1 is yet another original idea from Squaresoft back when they were at their prime. I'm pretty sure it was their first fighting game, and while flawed, it would set up the foundation for the superior Tobal No.2 as well as some elements which were borrowed by Ergheiz.
The game offers a Tournament Mode, which is actually the game's Arcade Ladder, a VS Player mode, as well as a Practice mode hidden underneath the Options menu. There's another mode, Quest Mode, which you must tackle in order to unlock the 4 bonus fighters. This mode... is not good. It's played in third person while retain the same control from the main fighting mode, which means that it controls like garbage. Turning around is clunky and tedious, the platforming is all kinds of annoying and moving around is imprecise and very, very wonky. It makes for a very vexing time. Bonus points for at least trying, but don't feel too bad, Square would get it right with Tobal No.2 and Ergheiz.
But fighting is where it's at, and man is it swell! You've a low attack, mid attack and high attack as well as dedicated jump and block buttons. Mixing different directions, as well as the jump or block buttons with the attack buttons will result in all manners of different attacks and combo strings. I felt like there's not much potential for combos, but the movesets are deceptively extensive and every character has his or her own moves. While tearing down the enemy's life bar will KO them, you must also watch out for ring outs, as you can fall off the stage.
The in-game camera is a bit of an oddity... it doesn't always try to give you a side view of both characters, as sometimes the camera will trail behind for a sort of back camera, or will lean too far to a side. It's not unplayable and it probably won't mess up your moves, but it's certainly weird for a fighting game.
Props for Akira Toriyama's character designs. These are the most unique characters he has ever designed, and not only are characters different from each other as far as moves go, but also visually. There's a ton of variety, from a chicken man, to a big woman wrestler, to more grounded and generic characters like martial artists Chuji and Gren. It's a very colorful cast, and not something we see nowadays. Animations are also exquisitely smooth, it's quite a treat watching all these characters in action.
Tobal No. 1 is a more than decent fighting game, but it's a bit lacking. It lacks modes, it could've used a couple more characters, and it's most ambitious mode, Quest Mode, is an annoyance. That said, when it comes down to the fighting mechanics, they are solid if a bit limited, so it's not the best fighter to play competitively. If you can get Tobal No.2 go for it, as it fixes Tobal 1's shortcomings and polishes what already worked well.
7.5 out of 10