Cutie Suzuki - No Ringside Angel
"Many girls in Japan have dreamt for fighting in a professional wrestling federation. All their training effort has helped them become glamorous professional wrestlers who dream of glory. Only nine girls have the 'burning spirit; to fight for the five major titles of women's professional wrestling."
Today, we're going to take a look at a game from one of my favorite sub-genres of video games; obscure Japanese puroresu games. Now, I've never been a little Japanese girl (believe it or not) but if we take this game's word for it, a lot of them dream of growing up to be pro wrestlers. Seems legit to me so, let's take a look.
Cutie Suzuki No Ringside Angel is a Japanese exclusive game released on December 12, 1990. It was developed by Copya System Ltd. and released by the Asmik Corporation. I'm not extremely familiar with Cutie Suzuki but, since she was featured in this video game, I assume she was a pretty big name on the Joshi pro wrestling circuit during this era. On a side note, I have an affinity for Japanese women. I think they're beautiful. Cutie, here, isn't really that cute, though. If I were the one handing out nicknames at the time, I'd have called her "Plain Suzuki" or "Average At Best Suzuki" but that's just my opinion. It doesn't really impact this game at all but, you know me, I just have to throw in my two cents from time to time.
I'd like to also mention that this game was composed by Akihiko Mori. Usually, I don't give composers credit as perhaps I should but I had to in this case because all of the music in this game is very, very good. He really did a superb job here. Some of the music (like the title screen theme) seem to be a little out of place and seem to belong more in a JRPG than a puroresu game but, regardless, it's extremely well done. This is a pretty big feat considering most music on the Genesis sounds like muffled garbage compared to their competition at the time.
Ringside Angel starts up with a title screen featuring Cutie Suzuki looking slightly cuter then she does on the box art (perhaps that's just a not-so-great picture, who knows?) and Mr. Mori's catchy, opening theme music. If you wait a few seconds, the game will go into it's "attract mode" and show you the roster of Joshi (women) wrestlers. It gives their stats and shows you what their respective finishing moves look like. It's a pretty good way to get familiar with the ladies you'll be going up against.
The roster is made up of fictional pro wrestlers heavily based on real grapplers. This is a pretty standard model for a Japanese puroresu game; have one big star (or even none, sometimes, like Fire Pro Wrestling games) featured in your game and then make the rest of the roster "fictional" but recognizable. That way the fans are happy because they know who they're "supposed to be" but you don't have to pay anyone to use their likeness in the game except for the aforementioned wrestling star that you feature on the cover. It's a little bit of a shady practice in my opinion but it does make sense. I can see why they do it; it saves on the bottom line.
By the way, if I ever play a 90s Joshi game that doesn't feature Bull Nakano, I'll be extremely disappointed. She was a beast! Thankfully, this game doesn't disappoint. Her character doesn't look much like her, though. Still, the spirit is there. The rest of the roster is made up of characters based on other Joshi superstars like Dynamite Kansai, Plum Mariko, and (with a name that already sounds like it was made up for a video game) Jaguar Deathlock.
Before each match, as best as I can determine without being able to read kanji, you seem to be able to choose which moves you want your wrestler to use in the upcoming match. It's set up sort of like World Championship Wrestling for the NES in that aspect. After you select your moves (or whatever the hell it is that we're doing here), we get to the action.
Like a lot of older wrestling games, this one starts off the matches with the combatants already in the ring; no entrances, no frills. We do have some more of Mr. Mori's catchy music featured in each match, though. For whatever reason, I really do enjoy the music in this game. Not only is it great but the music is also used for gameplay purposes; when a wrestler's health gets very low, the music subtly changes to let you know the situation. Pretty cool feature.
The controls for this game feel pretty good. It's sort of a balance between the two styles of gameplay most used for pro wrestling video games from this era; button mashing and timed button presses. It sort of falls between the two styles the same way that Tecmo World Wrestling and Pro Wrestling for the NES does. To date, the only other Joshi puroresu game I've played is Fire Pro Wrestling: Queen's Special and I have to say that I did enjoy it's gameplay style just a little more. Still, this is not bad.
As far as the graphics go, everything looks great. No Ringside Angel has a somewhat unique art-style that makes it stand out. Instead of "health bars", this game features close-ups of the two opponents faces at the top of the screen that conveys the respective conditions of their health. Basically, the more you get beat up, the rougher and more defeated your expression is going to be. This, combined with the music cues provided, is a nice, unique way to display each wrestlers vitality. Also, at the top of the screen, you can watch the play-by-play commentator and his guest color commentator call the action.
There are three guest color commentators who are randomly featured throughout the game; Mr. Schwartz (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Mr. Kernel (Colonel Sanders of KFC fame), and the cross-eyed, dinosaur mascot of Asmik - Asmik-Kun/Boomer the Dinosaur. Colonel Sanders seems like an odd choice but I have read that KFC is very popular in Japan, even being used as "Christmas dinner" for millions of people there, every year.
I have to admit, I went into this game not expecting much but I was pleasantly surprised. It's really quite good regardless if you're a fan of Joshi wrestling or not. Fire Pro Wrestling: Queen's Special might feel a little more "realistic" to play but this game has some nice nuances to it and a touch of humor that's missing from a lot of wrestling titles. If you get a chance to add this one to your collection; I highly recommend it. It's a great conversation piece and pretty fun to play as well.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!