Fire Pro Wrestling: Iron Slam '96
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I think it's pretty well known here that Fire Pro Wrestling is my favorite pro wrestling video game series of all-time. I'm sure a lot of other people feel the same and for good reason - Human and Spike Chunsoft (Human started the FPW franchise which Spike eventually took over before being merged with Chunsoft to form Spike Chunsoft) both have released pristine Fire Pro games for decades now. Up until recently, I always thought there wasn't such a thing as a "bad" Fire Pro Wrestling game. This particular game really puts that theory to the test and attempts to prove me wrong, though, so let's take a closer look a see exactly what we're dealing with.
Sometime in 1995, while this game was being developed, the folks at Human decided to throw away almost everything that made a Fire Pro game unique and fun and just slap together a "generic" PS1 wrestling game like every other developer was doing at the time. I can imagine the pitch meeting: "Alright guys, we have to get rid of these 2-D sprites and get with the future of video game graphics; 3-D polygons! People don't need a deep roster or intelligent AI or the ability to edit and tweak the wrestlers and features in the game! Hell, people don't even need different match types! They're fine playing one on one matches all day. Nobody would ever get bored with that!" I can only imagine, judging by what this game turned out to be like, that it must have gone down something like that.
Released by Human on March 15, 1996, Fire Pro Wrestling: Iron Slam '96 doesn't resemble any other Fire Pro game that you've ever played. Well, at least it doesn't resemble any of the many that I've played over the years. You never know what's lurking out there, though. Believe me, I was surprised when I first ran across this one.
Let's start with the graphics. By today's standards, it looks pretty ugly. Back when it was released, though, it would have been passable. The graphics remind me of WCW vs The World or Power Move Pro Wrestling for the PS1. Early 3-D polygon games have aged horribly as everyone who's ever seen one knows. That was the beauty of the Fire Pro games always using 2-D sprites for their graphics - it's a much more timeless and visually pleasing style which is why, even today, a lot of games (especially indie games) are still programmed that way.
Also gone is the huge roster featuring multiple promotions that most other FPW games have. In this game, we get only 12 wrestlers to choose from and you can't edit them whatsoever. You also can't create your own wrestler. Granted, you couldn't create your own wrestler on other early PS1 wrestling games either but it had been a feature in Fire Pro games as early as the 16-bit era so it is sort of a glaring omission here.
Another much-beloved thing that's missing from this game is Fire Pro's intelligent AI for your CPU opponents. Usually, you can always count on your opponent to be a fairly accurate representation of its real-life counterpart in a Fire Pro game. Here, though, you get to wrestle a version of Jushin Liger who just likes to spam by attempting to kick you a hundred or so times without doing much of anything else, for example. You get the idea.
For my final, major complaint - for a game series that allowed you to play different match types (even including UFC style fights in an octagon, no less) ever since the 16-bit era; why can't I even play a simple tag match in this game?
There's absolutely no variety or replay value whatsoever to this mess! Just 12 wrestlers in one on one matches. You honestly get more variety than that in arcade wrestling games that are always "stripped down" compared to console games. Somehow, this game is more "arcade" than an actual arcade game, if that's even possible.
Alright, I feel that I've now complained enough and you get the idea of how much of a terrible example of a Fire Pro game this was. Even compared to non-FPW games that were being released at the time; it ranks pretty low.
Pretty much the only thing worse is the abomination that I haven't mentioned up until now; the dumpster fire that was the Xbox avatar FPW game. Perhaps, if I build up enough courage, we'll take a look at that one someday.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!