Champion Wrestler: Jikkyou Live
A few years ago, I reviewed the original Champion Wrestler, which was released in arcades in 1988. I have a habit of saying every game I like is "one of my favorites" so I'll spare you that this time but it is a classic arcade wrestling game. I own a copy for my Switch and I still play it every so often. About 8 years after its release (which seems like a very long time before releasing another game in the series), Taito decided to release this sequel. Will it be as good as the original? We'll find out soon...
Instead of being released for the arcade, Champion Wrestler: Jikkyou Live was released for the PS1, exclusively in Japan. No North American release this time around. Perhaps Taito didn't feel like there was much of an audience here clamoring for a PS1 sequel to a 1998 arcade game.
Going from the arcade to a console also changed the core of the game around a lot. Gone are the button mashing of the original. That's replaced by a timing-based grappling system like most Puroresu games of this era used. It's also interesting to note that while games like WCW vs The World and Power Move Pro Wrestling were beginning to experiment with using the PlayStation's ability to render 3-D polygons for their games; Champion Wrestler: Jikkyou Live took a more old-school approach and used 2-D sprites and a side-view angle for this game which makes it look a lot like the Zen Nippon/All Japan games released for the Super Nintendo during the 16-bit era. In my opinion, the game looks good with this graphical style but it's by no means beautiful. The old 16-bit sprites used in those older games actually look better than the ones used here.
The intro movie for this game is kind of interesting. An empty arena is shown and 3 or 4 (what appear to be some sort of) will o'the wisps are released. They begin to fly around the arena and alight somewhere in the ceiling. I can't help but notice that the ringside area is void of any seating and only seats in the stands are available. This makes the arena look like one of those old WWC events they held in baseball stadiums in Puerto Rico. In those old matches, there always seemed to be 50 feet between the ring and the "front rows" of the crowd. This was probably more of a safety measure for the wrestlers than anything else. You know, it gives them extra time to see the rabid crowd begin to riot and rush the ring so they have a head start at hightailing it outta there.
This game features a pretty hefty roster of 42 wrestlers. There are a ton of legends to choose from and... Rastan. Taito was determined to put their "mascot" Rastan into this game just like the original Champion Wrestler. I can't say I blame them but as much as I love certain Taito games; Rastan just wasn't that great in my opinion. Hell, I would've even gotten behind including Bub and Bob (of Bubble Bobble fame) over Rastan. Imagine Bub and Bob versus the Steiner Brothers. Pure dream match material right there. Aside from the Steiner Brothers, you can find Sabu, Vader, Great Muta, Bruiser Brody, and even Royce and Rickson Gracie on the roster. It's a very varied lineup indeed.
Jikkyou Live has a few modes to choose to play. There are of course singles and tag matches available and you can also participate in a battle royal. There's also World Championship Mode where you battle all of the opponents in the game in either singles or tag matches to become the singles or tag team World Champions. If you complete World Championship Mode then you unlock Title Match Mode. In Title Match Mode, you can upload your champion onto your memory card and battle it out with other human players while putting your title on the line. This was sort of a cool way to take your memory card over to your friend's house to set up a title versus title showdown with them.
What really made this game stand out at the time was the in-game commentary. In fact, Jikkyou Live translates to "Play by Play Live" and it's implemented quite well. There's "fluid" and flowing commentary throughout each match that you didn't see in other PS1 wrestling games at the time. I can't be sure but the commentator also sounds like (forgive my ignorance) whoever the commentator was that did commentary in All Japan throughout the 80s and 90s. I could almost swear this voice is the same guy. Either way, it works quite well.
This was a pretty enjoyable game for me to be able to play recently for the first time. There aren't many similarities between this game and its predecessor but it's still quite fun and somewhat of a hidden gem as far as PS1 wrestling games go.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!