Fire Pro Wrestling: Combination Tag
Let me start by saying that I am currently the illest that I've been in a long time. No, not the Beastie Boys kind of ill... actually sick. Don't worry, it's not the dreaded "C-word", just the flu. Still, it sucks. The last couple of nights, I've been having fever dreams that make a Firefly Funhouse match seem sane and tame by comparison! Sorry, I just figured that I'd give you a little peek at what's going on in my life as I sit here and officially review my 100th game for Wrestling Merchandise and Memories. Even if I'm currently under the weather; it's been really fun working for the website for all these years. Here's to 100 more reviews!
My favorite wrestling game series is Fire Pro Wrestling so I thought it fitting to take a look at the genesis of the series here, in my 100th review, since I've never reviewed it or even played it until now. I'd say it's long overdue for me to take a look at the one that started it all. Fire Pro Wrestling: Combination Tag was developed and released by Human, exclusively in Japan for the PC Engine (the Japanese version of the TurboGrafx 16) on June 22, 1989. Masato Masuda was one of the main programmers of this game and just a couple of years prior; he came up with the concept and was the sole programmer of Pro Wrestling for the NES. That's a good start because it means at least one programmer who worked on this has experience in creating one of the greatest wrestling games of its era.
The title screen music is pretty good. With its super-fast beat, i can tell it's trying to get you pumped up to play which it more or less does. This music and all of the music in the game has a little bit of a "scratchy" quality to it, though. It's not bad but it can be a little grating on the ears and you wouldn't want to turn it up too loud. I can forgive this a little because it's 1989 and the PC Engine didn't have the same sound quality as the NES but even Splatterhouse that only came out a year later looks and sounds much better on this console.
On the title screen we can also see that have a few options to choose from. That's a bonus you don't get from many 80s wrestling games. Back then, developers would usually make wrestling games that had tag team matches (Tag Team Pro Wrestling or Pro Wrestling for the Megadrive) or games that featured singles matches (like Pro Wrestling for the NES) but you hardly ever got both in a single game. In this game, you can even play in 5 vs 5 elimination matches similar to a Survivor Series match which is almost unheard of at the time!
Like all Fire Pro games, this game features no official license from any sort of wrestling federation but all of the wrestlers on the roster are heavily based on wrestlers who were famous in Japan at the time. Many of these legends continue to appear in Fire Pro games, even today so, let's run down the list of who we can play as. Of course, there's Inoki. Also, Akira Maeda, Tenryu, Riki Choshu, Masa Saito, Billy and Barry Gaspar (who I sort of recognize based on their unique ring attire but with whom I'm not very familiar), Stan Hansen, Bruiser Brody, Mil Mascaras along with his brother Dos Caras, Tiger Jeet Singh, Bad News Allen (one of my personal favorite inclusions here) and, you obviously can't leave out The Road Warriors. This game sports quite a large and varied roster for the time.
This game uses the same timing-based system as all Fire Pro games. You first have to wear down your opponents down, beginning with weaker strikes and moves, and whatever grappling moves you attempt to do; you have to input the button press at the correct time. The "correct time" is the second the two wrestlers involved touch each other's shoulders when locking up in a collar and elbow tie-up. Masato Masuda may have even invented this system because Pro Wrestling uses a similar yet more simplistic version of it in that game. When I played Pro Wrestling as a kid, though, I usually just button mashed or utilized the glitch where you can just run the ropes at the very top of the ring and lure your opponent into clothesline after clothesline until they're able to be defeated.
Fire Pro Wrestling: Combination Tag is a good start to this long-running series and it only got better and better from here. You're not missing out on anything huge if you haven't played this but if you're as big of a fan of the series as I am then it's pretty awesome to experience the origin of it all.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!