Legends of Wrestling
Sony PlayStation 2
"Legends of Wrestling throws the greatest wrestlers into one game to find out who is the true king of kings. Wrestling superstars, including Hulk Hogan, Bret "Hitman" Hart, and Jerry "The King" Lawler, step back into the ring to deliver more body slams, piledrivers, and powerbombs to the competition. Play as authentic professional wrestlers or create your own legendary fighter, and then travel around the world to battle for wrestling's top titles. Legends of Wrestling also features customizable ring attire and new wrestler entrances."
Legends Of Wrestling was developed by Acclaim Studios Salt Lake City and released by Acclaim on December 3, 2001. This was back in the era when I still went to Speedy's Video to get my fix of playing the latest video games. I swear, during the years of that video store being in my neighborhood; I never did buy many games. I'd just walk down to Speedy's once or twice a week to rent a game or two for a couple of days and get my fix that way, If I liked the game then I'd keep my save file and rent it again at a later date and play it some more. This was sort of my version of Xbox Game Pass or GameFly, back in the day. I truly miss Speedy's Video and believe it or not; I still sometimes dream of going in there and looking at the shelves upon shelves of games and movies. That place generated a lot of fun times and good memories.
I remember going in and seeing this game on the new release shelf one day and getting super excited to play it! This was released after WCW had been bought out earlier in the year and the WWE was the only major sports entertainment company left (unless you counted TNA at the time) so any sort of game that allowed me to wrestle as legends of the sport and big name wrestlers of the era who weren't signed to the WWE was an enticing idea. After looking over the box art and reading the game description and trying to contain my growing excitement for a minute or two; I took the game over to "Mr. Speedy" (okay, that wasn't really his name but that's what us neighborhood kids called him; "Speedy") and checked out and ran (or at this point in my life; drove very quickly) back home to give this game a go.
Once I got home, as excited as I was to play, the next step was choosing who to play as. With a huge roster that includes Hogan, Bret Hart, Terry Funk, Sabu, RVD, the Rock 'n' Roll Express, Ivan Putski, "Superstar" Billy Graham, and even the entire Von Erich wrestling family (and I mean the ENTIRE family including Mike and Chris Von Erich as unlockable wrestlers); this was a hard choice. In the end, I choose The Sheik and started the story mode. The story mode is pretty bare-bones and you just travel through different territories in the United States trying to get over with the audience and eventually become champion. Even if the story mode is a little simplified it was fine with me. That's the way territory wrestling worked. You showed up and wrestled and either the fans liked you or didn't like you and either way; you eventually moved on to see what the next territory held in store.
What I really like about this game is the innovative way the matches are played out. This is one of the first games I personally remember playing in which it didn't necessarily matter whether you won or lost your matches. Sure, you want to win some and you want to become the champ but the most important thing is having exciting matches that the fans want to see.
Each match that you're involved in has an "excitement meter" to tell you how much the fans are enjoying it. If you do varied moves and do not repeat the same ones, over and over, then the fans acknowledge it and get into the match. The excitement level also rises if you do a high spot or sneak in an attack with a weapon. The fans also really love to see someone get busted open and bleed. Throw in your finisher and you've got a helluva match that everyone should enjoy! Getting your wrestler over by having exciting matches like this is how you earn your title shots in the story mode.
If I'm being honest, one thing that did underwhelm me when I first played this game was the graphics. All of the wrestlers look a little large and "cartoony". Also, some character models look better than others. This was before facial and body scans, though, so artists had to create these graphics from scratch. Putting that in to consideration, I think we can cut them a little slack, and although I had to admit to myself at the time that the graphics didn't blow me away; they were still perfectly fine and didn't bother me. I also enjoyed the addition of blood effects in this game because that was pretty rare for the time. This was before WWE allowed blood in basically all of their games in the 2K series.
I'll be honest, this is not a game that I go back and revisit and play very often anymore. Even if I'm going to play a Legends Of Wrestling game; the other two games in the series are even better than this one. I do love thinking about and revisiting my first experience with this particular game, though. It may not have gotten the best reviews and maybe it's not for everyone but I absolutely loved it when it was released. It was a nice change of pace from other wrestling games on the market at the time.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!