In 1994, the folks at Human (the company originally responsible for the Fire Pro Wrestling series) decided to try their hand at making a wrestling game strickly for the arcade. Considering Human is one of the masters at making wrestling-sim games; this was definitely treading new ground for them. For that reason, I wanted to take a look at this arcade wrestling title from what I consider the "golden age" of arcade wrestling action - the 1990s.
Sure, in the 80s there were a lot of great wrestling games for you to enjoy at your local arcade. Classics like Tag Team Wrestling and WWF Superstars but, I think the genre really hit its stride with releases in the 90s like WWF WrestleFest (the sequel to Superstars) Saturday Night Slam Masters, and the groundbreaking WWF WrestleMania. Speaking of Saturday Night Slam Masters; Capcom's hit wrestling game was the main one that Human was taking on with this release. Not only was Human trying to infiltrate the arcade wrestling market; they were also trying to take on giants of the video game world who were in their prime, releasing hit after hit to home consoles and arcades. Capcom were worthy competitors indeed.
Since this game's main competitor was SNSM; Human decided to make the art style of this release similar to that of Capcom's hit. It doesn't look much like your average Fire Pro game, that's for sure. All of the sprites in this game are big and the color scheme is much brighter than Human's usual offerings. It looks really nice, I must say. It definitely has more of a "cartoony" vibe as far as it wrestlers go than the games that Human usually produces. We'll come to find out that this is only the first difference between this game and the usual slew of Fire Pro Wrestling games that were released over the years.
Another difference is that although the wrestlers featured in Blazing Tornado have similar move sets to certain famous pro wrestlers of the era; they don't seem to be completely based on them. Especially with the way they are designed. Each wrestler included in this game is unique and interesting but also somewhat similar to what you'd find in Saturday Night Slam Masters - there are a couple of bulky, strong characters. There's a masked wrestler who's fast and flies around the ring. There are a couple of clean-cut babyfaces. You get the idea.
I, for one, think this game does a very good job at taking on Capcom's hit wrestling game. It may even be better than SNSM by a thin margin. One thing it couldn't compete with is distribution, though. Blazing Tornado is listed as being an "international release" but I'm wondering if that just means it was released in Japan and Europe. I ran across a few SNSM cabinets in various places back in the day but I never saw any Blazing Tornado cabinets at any point in my arcade wrestling career. To be honest, I never even heard of this game until recently when I happened to stumble across it due to modern technology.
Finally, we get down to playing the game and it is quite fun. The controls are laid out as you'd see on an old NEO GEO arcade game - there are A,B, and C buttons and each button does various things. Like Fire Pro Wrestling games; you can utilize weak and strong attacks but it's best to wear your opponent down with weaker strikes and grapples at the beginning of the match or else your attacks may be reversed by your opponent.
One major difference from your average Fire Pro game compared to this one is that this game is a button masher. A button-mashing game made by the makers of the FPW series that is notorious for its timing-based learning curve when it comes to grappling. Crazy, right? I think it was a very good idea though because your casual audience at the arcade does not want to invest 10-20 bucks in your game just to figure out the grappling mechanic, I can assure you. I think Human went the smart route by altering their core gameplay mechanics to suit a more casual audience.
After playing through this hidden gem of arcades past for a few hours, I gotta say; it's quite good. I wish I would've know about it back in the day. I would've definitely supported it by feeding it my quarters, that's for sure. It's an overlooked arcade classic that every gamer should check out.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!