Toki is a conversion of the 1989 arcade game by Tad Corporation and it features a jumping ape who can spit bullets at his enemies. It’s a platform game with relatively short levels and occasional boss fights, and it is known for its rock-hard difficulty.
I did read somewhere that Toki had a life bar in the NES version, but that is only partially true – he starts off with two hearts, so if he gets hit twice, he dies. The number of hearts can be extended – albeit very rarely, and only by picking up a certain kind of bonus item (a large heart outline) that I think is only dropped by a beaten boss. Picking up small, filled hearts re-fills the heart meter, but again I think these are only dropped by defeated bosses. What that essentially means is that Toki on the NES is only marginally less difficult than the arcade version. Meaning: that it’s still damn hard. That said: you do get four continues too, so can re-start where you left off when you lose all your lives. At least they’re giving you half a chance in this version, unlike in the arcade original, which just wants to swallow your money, chew you up, and spit you out as a ball of human detritus in under thirty seconds…
The layout of Toki on the NES is very close to the arcade game, so if you have played the original then you should at least have some idea where all the traps are; where the bosses and mini bosses are, and how to get past them. There are some differences to the arcade game, though. For example: the Poseidon-like, green fish boss, mid way through stage two is handled differently, in that: rather than just coming across him mid way through the level, you reach a certain point and the screen fades to black and you fight him. And after you’ve beaten him the level fades back in and you continue onward. This change was possibly made because either the developers thought the original was too difficult at this point, or there was a technical problem with having such a large sprite on-screen while the screen was scrolling. In fact: there is quite a lot of sprite tearing in Toki on the NES, which is a pity (because it looks horrible), but that is likely down to the technical limitations of Nintendo‘s console rather than bad programming.
Gameplay-wise Toki is relatively simple, but varied enough to be fun and interesting. You can pick up power-ups that enhance Toki‘s offensive and defensive capabilities; make high jumps on see-saws; swim underwater; climb up vines; swing on ropes; crouch; and spit diagonally and upwards and downwards. The basic aim, though, is to not get hit by any of the multitude of hostiles that are hell-bent on killing you, and to beat the various bosses at the end of each of the six stages. While the bosses are not the most difficult I’ve ever encountered in a game of this type, they are still quite a challenge to put down. As long as you work out their move patterns and avoid being touched by them (or their projectiles) you should be able to take them down fairly quickly.
Overall, Toki on the NES is not a bad game. If you like platform games and relish a challenge then it’s worth playing. It does take some practise to attune yourself to the game’s idiosyncrasies – like knowing when to rush through part of a level or not, and how to jump on the heads of enemies to reach high-up items, or to bypass a difficult-looking section of the game, but once you’ve figured out how to play it, Toki is reasonable fun. While it’s still quite hard, this conversion is nowhere near as frustrating as the arcade original (which is toe-curlingly difficult).
More: Toki on Wikipedia