"It's wrestling mayhem out of control! Five maniacs hit the mat in a no holds barred, free-for-all brawl with no rules, no refs, and absolutely no mercy!"
The TurboGrafx-16 was a bit of an obscure console back in the day. No one I knew of actually owned one and I never owned one back then either, as much as I wished I did. It was much more popular in Japan where it was known as the PC Engine but the game we're looking at today is one of the few North American exclusive titles. Did Japan miss out on a classic by not having this game released there? We shall see...
Battle Royale was released in 1990 by Incredible Technologies. Although they might not be the most well-known developers, Incredible Technologies is mostly known for releasing games in the classic, arcade golf series, Golden Tee, which you're sure to find at almost every local sports bar and bowling alley. Seriously, from what I've seen, Golden Tee games are the king of the sports bar scene. They're literally everywhere. I guess getting half lit and playing a round of video golf while Gary Glitter's Rock N Roll part 2 (Bah dun dah dun dah dah... Hey!) blares from the speakers above your head is a pretty damn good time, though.
This game starts up with a title screen that switches over to what appears to be a female news anchor or, more likely, a female wrestling reporter. She's apparently representing a company named BRAWL which stands for Battle Royale of America Wrestling League. She's here to introduce us to the "five maniacs" that make up the roster for this game.
That's right... five. Only five. This has got to be one of the smallest rosters ever in a wrestling game and in 1990, this is almost inexcusable. The only game I can think of that has a smaller roster is Tag Team Wrestling with its roster of four with only two of those wrestlers being playable. Tag Team Wrestling was originally released in 1983, though, and was one of if not THE first wrestling game ever released so it's a lot more understandable in that case. I hope all of these wrestlers here at least have some personality. The included grapplers are...
Mongo Kahn - He hails from Outer Mongolia and wears what resembles a spiked, Sabu-style turban on his head. He's also a "master strategist" who possesses "ninja tactics". Kahn also warns us, in classic "foreign heel" fashion, "You die! You die!". That's enough to strike fear into any grown man's heart.
Sumo Master - Sumo Master simply growls at us while wearing his spiked dog collar. He's apparently an "unstoppable force" that "feels no pain".
The Meat Eater - This guy simply taunts us by laughing at us but considering his looks and his lame-ass name; perhaps we should be the ones laughing at him. The Meat Eater? Come on, bud. I eat my fair share of steaks too but it doesn't necessarily make me tough.
The Executioner - He's another laugher although more of the evil type. He wears some sort of blue helmet with the "face plate" blacked out... or perhaps he has no face. Who the hell knows. He is described as a "sadistic fighter" who "welcomes pain". This bears the question of who's the tougher fighter between him and the Sumo Master; one who feels no pain or one who feels pain yet welcomes it? You be the judge.
Spitfire Spike - This guy's catchphrase seems to be an enthusiastic, "Oh, yeah!", which makes him sort of like Randy Savage but a lot less cool (so, he's basically Lanny Poffo). He's also described as someone who "knows his limits". What does that even mean? Are they talking about consuming alcohol or is he just a mediocre wrestler and is aware of it and accepts it?
For the record, all of the graphics look great, so far. The female reporter and wrestlers available look very detailed on the wrestler select screen and although there aren't many to choose from, the grapplers do seem to have their own personalities and quirks.
The way you actually choose your wrestler works a little different in this game, though. You don't just select who you want; you play as one of the five managers and literally duke it out with the other managers to get to control the wrestler of your choice. The managers are pretty interesting characters themselves. One guy looks like Duke Nukem in a "Million Dollar Man"-style tuxedo and one female manager looks like Suzanne Somers in one of her old Thighmaster commercials, complete with a leotard.
The selection starts with all five managers at the top of the screen. All five wrestlers are "across the room" at the bottom of the screen in their respective locker rooms. You have to have a foot race across the room while punching and shoving the other managers in order to reach your chosen wrestler's locker room first. It gets pretty hectic sometimes and it's probably even the most fun part of actually playing this game, as we shall soon find out.
You may be able to guess from the title, there's only one match type available to play; a battle royal or "battle royale" if you wanna be fancy. What you may not be able to guess is that this game features very little wrestling in the traditional sense. It's completely a "punch/kick" game. Hell, it's so punch/kick that Bruno Sammartino should have been featured as the secret boss character. (Sorry, Bruno. I really do like you. It's just too easy to not go for the "cheap pop").
If you read the manual, it gives you complex and awkward button presses to be able to pull off different styles of strikes but this isn't even necessary. You can win simply by spamming a simple punch over and over. There aren't even any "health bars" for the wrestlers. Apparently, the developers thought they were as unnecessary as including any actual wrestling moves and given how the game is designed, they were correct, sadly.
You don't need any health bars because once you punch a wrestler a few times and he falls to the ground, you can just pick him up and throw him out of the ring to get the elimination. The combination of the cowardly scream of the thrown wrestler and the fact that they usually look like a lawn dart, landing straight on their head, does make for a pretty comical combination, though. Worth a chuckle or two.
Speaking of the sound, the music for this game is also nice... pretty catchy tunes. Throughout your battle royale career, one of your opposing managers will occasionally show up between matches to warn you of what their charge is going to do to your personal wrestler of choice. This gives the game just a little more personality and honestly, personality is all this game has to go for it. The gameplay is just not there for this one. To steal one of J.R.'s old catchphrases, this game "is all sizzle and no steak". It looks really nice and you'd think it'd be great but there's just no substance.
It's been a while since I've played a bad wrestling game. Even the ones that some people don't think are the greatest, I can find some positive aspects in. That's just me; I love pro wrestling video games (obviously, I guess, as I've been doing this for a few years now and playing them my whole life). I won't call this game a bad one but it's not one of the best, that's for sure.
Still, if you ever were to play it, you would initially be entertained by its quirkiness and you'd have some fun with it before it got repetitive and boring. You can also extend the lifespan of the game by getting four other friends together and battling each other as this game has the ability to do just that. Multiplayer mayhem! Throw in a few drinks and you could possibly even turn this punch/kick fest into a moderately fun evening with a group of friends.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!