Big Bang Pro Wrestling
Neo Geo Pocket Color
"Only a handful of top wrestlers can be show their face on the TV for their fans at home. In the IEW mat, this rule is no exception. In an event practiced for 300 years, only the best performances are in demand. This year, the great king of the IEW, Josef Steele, returns to defend his throne. The story of eight top wrestlers competing for the greatest prize on the ring, the IEW champion belt, is about to begin..."
Today, I wanted to take a look at another game that I've just recently discovered. I always love the fact that even though I've played countless amounts of wrestling games over the years for endless amounts of hours; I'm still always able to find one that I've neither heard of nor played before. This one was understandably under my radar for years because even though I'm a HUGE fan of SNK (the developers and publisher of this game); this game was originally only released in Japan and I never owned a Neo Geo Pocket Color back then. The Neo Geo Pocket Color was sort of a "niche console" like the TurboGrafx-16... around here, anyway. It was something I heard about and read about in magazines but it wasn't a console that I could run down to my local K-Mart and purchase, even if I wanted to. It just wasn't available. Here we are, a couple of decades after this game's original release (November 23, 2000), and now I'm finally able to give it a try thanks to it being recently re-released on the Nintendo Switch.
By the way, in my opinion, if you love wrestling games then a Switch is THE console to buy! There are so many wrestling games available to play on it that date all the way back to the original classic, Pro Wrestling, for the NES. There you go... that's a free plug for Nintendo. It really is the best console for wrestling games, though.
When we start this up; the theme music for the title screen sequence is very fitting and "epic-sounding" and we're shown all of the different competitors warming up for competition. The final shot of the title sequence shows the champion, Josef Steele, looking particularly intimidating, just salivating at a chance to take on the next challenger for his title.
Speaking of the challengers; there are eight wrestlers you can choose from at the start of the game and you can unlock Josef Steele and his valet (the only female wrestler in the game) by beating the Story Mode. The wrestlers are varied and interesting. A few are based on real-life wrestlers but only loosely so. There's still a lot of creativity involved when they came up with these guys. For example, there's Brian "Supernova" McDougal who has a win streak like Goldberg but otherwise is nothing like him. There's Macey "the Oriental" (I'm sorry folks. I didn't name him. Surprisingly some Japanese developers gave him that name) who is loosely based on The Great Kabuki or perhaps The Great Muta and, "Dark Demon" Deitz who's sort of like the Undertaker but more of a ghoul, if that makes sense.
The modes you can pick from to play are Singles Match and Tournament (which are pretty self-explanatory) and IEW Champion mode where you choose a wrestler and take on all comers hoping to dethrone Josef Steele in the end. The selling point of this game for me when I first saw it in the Switch online store was the 3 "special match types" that are included as choices in a singles match. You can choose to play a No Rules (No DQ) match, a Coffin (Casket) Match, or a Reward Match which is basically a "thing on a pole match". You're bound to remember a lot of these from the dying days of WCW. It could be a sombrero on a pole, Viagra on a pole, Judy Bagwell (RIP) on a forklift... just use your imagination. In this game, it happens to be a bag of money on a pole, though, and I guess that would motivate any wrestler as much as anything else would.
The problem with these match types is even though they sound like a fun concept; none of them play out as actually being much fun. They really don't add anything to the game. The No Rules match doesn't mean much because there aren't many "illegal moves" or any weapons to utilize in the game. The Coffin Match sounds fun but you don't even have to wear your opponent down to put them in the coffin. If either one of you is close enough to the edge of that side of the ring; you can easily be thrown into the coffin and then the match is over quickly. Even the Reward Match isn't very much fun because although the match starts in the ring; your opponent will make a b-line toward the money on the pole outside of the ring as quickly as they are able to. Here the match devolves into your opponent climbing the pole and being pulled down by you. Then you climb the pole and are pulled down by your opponent. This process repeats because your opponent is focused solely on climbing the pole which forces you to focus on nothing but climbing the pole as well. Eventually, through sheer luck or attrition, one of you reaches the money bag first.
I don't have the same complaints about how the regular matches play out. This game uses a timing-based grappling system like a lot of puroresu games which I always prefer over button mashing. Move sets are a little limited, given the classic two-button layout of the Neo Geo Pocket Color, but everyone in the game does have their own unique moves and finishing moves to utilize so that helps make up for it. The game also looks really great all-around and has great sound quality and some great music. Each wrestler also has their own entrance before the match which is yet another nice touch.
The story mode is simple (as should be expected) but it is still quite fun to play. There's also a decent amount of replay value to it because before every match; your next opponent will chastise you or verbally berate you in some sort of way. These are specific to the wrestler you're playing as so it makes you wanna play through with all of the wrestlers to see what kind of things they will say to you. It reminds me of wanting to play through Street Fighter 2 with all of the characters just to see the pre and post-fight screen interactions between all of them.
Altogether, this is a pretty good game. I was pretty disappointed with the gimmick matches included because I was really looking forward to trying them out but they all turned out to be duds. The base matches themselves turn out fine, though, and the story mode does make you want to complete it multiple times so you're able to get a few hours worth of enjoyment out of it. A digital copy on the Switch also only sets you back about 8 bucks (USD) which is a very fair price for what it is. I would suggest any Switch owner should check this one out for sure.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!