FMW - Onita Atsushi
I wanted to take a look at this particular game today because, in my 35 or so years of playing wrestling video games (since the dawn of the genre, more or less), this is still, hands down, the most bizarre pro wrestling game that I've ever played! It's always kind of fascinated me so, I figured that warrants us taking a closer look at it here.
I first encountered this strange creation made by the developers at Pony Canyon around 5 years ago. At that time, I had just recently modded my Super Nintendo to play Japanese import games so I was dying to snatch up every puroresu game that I could. I'm a huge fan of classic FMW and Onita himself so when I ran across this game for a reasonable price; I had to snag a copy. There was very little info about this game online at the time and it ended up completely surprising me by what it was.
I don't know exactly what I expected. I assumed some deathmatch options would be available to play, given the Onita and FMW license, but what I ended up playing was a fighting game that feels similar to a slowed-down version of Street Fighter II which also has touches of hardcore pro wrestling and deathmatches thrown in. Completely unexpected, I must say.
Once we start the game up; we see some sort of demon warrior that is apparently named King Shadow. He's gathered his evil minions together to take on four of the heroes of FMW. That's the basic storyline here. When I started playing through this again, for the first time in more than a few years, I tried using Tarzan Goto because he's one of my favorites from the FMW roster. However, I quickly found out that I have more luck using Onita, himself, just because he's much quicker and more agile of a character to utilize. The other two playable wrestlers you can choose from (yeah, there are only 4) are Sambo Asako and Ricky Fuji. All in all; I think Onita seems to be the best one to use.
Each stage of this game takes us to a different exotic, interesting location. In the first stage, you take on a sumo wrestler named Yashajin. Naturally enough, his stage is a sumo ring which is (perhaps not so naturally) surrounded by exploding landmines on either side. You can punch and kick in these various matches but, just like with pro wrestling, the key to wearing down your opponent is by using the various grappling moves and slams at your disposal. With these, you can more effectively hurt your opponents but it also drains your grappling move meter.
Your grappling meter is made up of three icons. Each one of your grappling moves uses a certain amount of icons. For example, if you perform a weak move then only one of your icons is used. If you perform a medium move then two are used and strong moves use all three at once. Once your meter is completely depleted; you have to wait for it to gradually fill back up. The meter fills up over time but it also fills up completely once you hit a certain low point on your health meter. This way, when you're getting the shit kicked out of you like a hapless jobber who signed up to take on the Road Warriors in a squash match; you have a fighting chance to still pull off a win.
I have previously played through and beaten this game before but it took a lot of work, I assure you. This game is very hard and unforgiving. You'll be spending a lot of time on just the first level alone. The levels and the bizarre characters are what make this game shine, though, so you shouldn't get bored with the grind, at least. Let's now take a closer look at some of the locations we'll be visiting and some of the opponents we'll be taking on.
As I previously mentioned, the story for this game involves some demon-like warrior named the Shadow King or Shadow Master or some such shit, who, apparently, has some sort of vendetta against Onita and FMW. Either that or Mr. Shadow is just threatening the world in general and Onita and his deathmatch wrestling cohorts have decided to step up and form some sort of garbage wrestling version of The Avengers in order to save us all. The storyline really is sort of vague. Perhaps it wouldn't be quite so vague if I could read kanji but, regardless of motives involved, our first opponent is athe aforementioned sumo wrestler named Yashajin.
This rotund adversary is probably the most normal that you'll face throughout the game and his level is (naturally) a sumo ring. First, I have to give credit where credit is due - this game looks really nice. The backgrounds for the stages are highly detailed and the graphics all look really crisp. This stage features a volcano in the background (which erupts if you win the fight) and a bullet train that goes zooming past from time to time. The edges of the sumo ring are strewn with landmines that explode when stepped or dropped upon. Now, I haven't watched much sumo wrestling but I assume this isn't the case with most standard sumo rings. In all seriousness, because of the FMW license, each stage features some sort of deathmatch wrestling gimmick attached to it. I guess it sort of makes our heroes feel at home and gives them some sort of hope against these dastardly foes.
If you can manage to defeat Yashajin (which is no easy task, I can promise you) then we're next whisked away to take on a fighter named Killer. M, who appears to be what I can best describe as a karate-robot with an afro and mutton chops that would make a young Harley Race jealous. The afro I speak of is only sort of a "half-ro" because the top of Killer. M's head is a clear dome where we can see his human-looking brain that was planted inside of him, I can only assume. We attempt to best Killer. M on his stomping grounds which seems to be some sort of airplane hanger. I can only assume it's the top-secret place where he's constantly honing his karate skills. The deathmatch gimmicks on the sides of this stage are flames that shoot out of the walls if you get too close, and flaming meteors that occasionally fall from the ceiling for whatever reason. I'm not even sure how this military base(?) has some sort of "indoor meteor shower technology" but we can just let it go, I suppose. There's a lot of things in this game that you really just can't explain.
Another opponent that bears mentioning is a hippie you encounter on a rooftop named "Dude Love". I can only assume this is some sort of coincidence because this game predates Mick Foley using that character in the WWE by at least a few years. It's either a coincidence or someone on the development team (or Onita himself, since he had a hand in the creative aspects of this game) is a hardcore (if you'll forgive the pun) Foley fan and had seen the original Dude Love movie that Foley had created, however long ago. Aside from having the same name; the opponent you encounter here in the game has little to nothing to do with Foley's creation. This guy is just a hippie who makes an inhaling noise at certain times like he's smoking a joint and then proceeds to blow purple haze (not Mark Lewin... some sort of actual purple haze) into your face. Whenever this happens, you hallucinate that Mr. Love is a giant, invincible mushroom with boxing gloves that's hopping around the screen and attacking you. Yes, you read that correctly. As you progress in this game; your opponents continue to get harder (and stranger) until you reach Shadow Boss or whatever we decided his name was. If you beat the main game, there's even a bonus mode that gets unlocked where you can play as Megumi Kudo in a deathmatch against Combat Toyota. Sort of a "historical recreation" of one of their famous matches.
It was great to take another look at this game today because it continues to be one of my favorite obscure gems when it comes to puroresu games. Not because it's the best or the most fun to play but because it's just so damn interesting. It's a very hard game to master and you have to keep playing the same stages and same opponents over and over but each new stage and each new opponent is so interesting and utterly bizarre; it makes you want to win and see what the next stage and opponent hold in store. I would suggest that every fan of puroresu games or even fighting games, in general, should check this one out. It's sort of a hidden gem of both genres.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!