Action Arcade Wrestling
"Perform a BODY SLAM, knock’em down with a CLOTHESLINE, pull off the classic PILEDRIVER AND… shoot LIGHTNING BOLTS into your opponent's face?! Whatever you do… don’t find yourself looking up at the lights!"
Not too long ago, my friend sent me a link to a video game trailer, asking me if I was aware of this new wrestling game that was being released for the Switch. The game he was referring to was Action Arcade Wrestling and (to borrow my friend's favorite catchphrase in his day to day life) "I'm not gonna lie"; this game looked pretty sweet with its 3D cel-shaded graphics and its over-the-top moves, like shooting lightning bolts out of your fingertips. I decided right then that when the game was released; I just had to get a copy for myself. To be completely honest, even if the game in question looked terrible, I still would've bought a copy and we'd still be taking a look at it here because it's sort of my job to do these reviews. Still, it's nice to go in expecting a decent game worth playing at least.
This game began its life as a PC release in 2019 called Chikara Action Arcade Wrestling but upon the shutting down of the Chikara wrestling promotion in 2020; it was rebranded simply as Action Arcade Wrestling and all of the licensed Chikara wrestlers were removed and replaced with original creations by the developers, VICO Game Studio. After the rebranding; AAW was released to consoles to hopefully have another run at being a top-tier indy wrestling game. The PlayStation and Xbox were graced with this title in 2021 but those of us who own a Switch had to wait until February of 2022 to finally get a chance to try this one out for ourselves. Is it worth the wait? Can a game that's already 3 + years old still hold up in the current landscape of pro wrestling games? We shall soon find out...
I'm always a fan of unlicensed wrestling games, so I was anxious to check this one out. Back in the day, when arcade and arcade-style wrestling games were popular; I'd venture to guess that at least 90 percent were unlicensed games meaning they had no ties to any wrestling promotion. these were always my favorite because I always liked to see what wacky and over-the-top characters the developers chose to grace their game. Upon scrolling through the wrestler select screen; AAW does not disappoint in this aspect. With names like Jacques Hammer, "Hot" J. Tubbs, "Titanium" Teddy Idol, and Slammer Stanislavoich; we have many choices on who we'd like to use to lay the smackdown on our hapless opponents. 22 choices, in fact. Not a bad-sized roster. My personal favorite to use so far is Codename "Scales" (Subject SDH-93010). His appearance reminds me of a cross between a Scooby-Do villain and The Amazon from Pro Wrestling (NES) and he appears to be constantly drooling scales/pixels out of his mouth for the entirety of his matches. That's somebody... well "something" that I wouldn't want to lock up with for sure!
There's no story mode to this game or "chase the championship" or anything like that. That's not a deal-breaker for a retro-themed, arcade-style wrestling game, though. As long as it's fun to play (preferably with a few of your buddies after a round or two of drinks) then that's what counts. The match choices we do have are a singles match, tag team (either tornado tag or standard rules), 6, 8, and even 10-man tag matches, and a few battle royal options. All of the tag matches can also be set to "elimination-style" so you can even stage your own Survivor Series if you'd like.
One place this game really shines is the create-a-wrestler option. It's very detailed and deep and you can pretty much create whatever and whoever your mind can come up with. I personally downloaded "pixel perfect" versions of Junkyard Dog, Jake Roberts, Bret Hart, and even Mayor McCheese (of McDonald's fame) and He-Man's favorite sidekick, Orco. The cel-shaded graphics used for all of the grapplers look amazing, to be honest. It somehow gives a retro feel to the proceedings even though that's not a style of graphics usually reserved for old-school wrestling games. Speaking of the "create option," you can also create your own arenas. Players have created everything from classic WCW/WWF arenas to the arena for AAA's "When World's Collide" PPV from 1994 which is one of my favorite "big events" of all time.
I have no complaints about how this game plays. The controls are very simple and easy to learn. It plays a lot like the late-90s, classic wrestling games like WCW/NWO World Tour or WWF No Mercy. During matches; different power-ups are "thrown" into the ring. This is sort of a call back to power-ups being thrown at you in games like WrestleMania for the NES. Power-ups include speed and health boosts and various other things that can help your wrestler and hinder your opponent.
You can also choose whether the crowd at your show gets a little rowdy and throws weapons into the ring as well. These weapons are numerous and varied and sometimes humorous (like an inflatable baseball bat) so they add yet another level of excitement to the proceedings.
All in all, I'd say this game is really great for what it is: a retro-themed, over-the-top brawler of a wrestling game. It really does invoke memories of playing 64-bit classics with a group of friends. If you're looking to get the crew together after 20 + years or so to play a wrestling game for old time's sake then this is the game to do it with! Also a "budget" price tag of 15 bucks or so (USD); you really can't go wrong with this one.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!