Onita Atushi - FMW
Super Famicom / Super Nintendo
This is the most bizarre video game -- let alone "wrestling game" -- I think I have ever played so I HAD to review it. I recently played it for the first time and it's.... well, it's a strange one to say the least but first, some background.
For those that don't know, Atushi Onita was a Japanese professional wrestler who started his own promotion in 1989 which was called Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (or FMW for short). The promotion featured many styles but focused most of its main events and big matches on the death match style Onita created after being inspired by the matches he had seen while working in Jerry Lawler's old CWA Memphis territory. These matches Onita dreamed up featured exploding barb wire, landmines, fire, and other dangerous gimmicks. The promotion became quite popular so in 1993 it got it's own game.
The game was developed by Marionette and published by Pony Canyon who you may remember as one of the companies responsible for World Championship Wrestling on the NES a few years prior to this. This game however, is unlike any other wrestling game on the planet. Some may call it creative and some may call it "the shits" but it's worth experiencing and it all comes from the mind of Onita himself who is credited for the story of the game. Let's pop this into the old modded Super Nintendo and check it out.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND: The graphics and presentation is really good in this game. It features a lot of digitized pictures and speech of the wrestlers involved. The two wrestlers who are featured most are, of course, Onita and Megumi Kudo, who was the top Joshi (female) wrestler in FMW at the time. Ms. Kudo doesn't even seem to be playable at first but if you beat the story mode of the game she becomes a secret character complete with her own storyline.
All of the theme music throughout the game is top quality as well. The stages are varied and detailed with multiple things happening in the background. This might be the time to mention that even though FMW features real pro wrestlers and revolves around a real promotion, it is actually set up like a 2-D fighting game (think Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter) so the stages are all different, not just a wrestling ring. This is only the start of the weirdness though, I can assure you.
GAMEPLAY: We've got a lot to cover here. First, as I said, this is technically a 2-D fighting game. It's slower than any other one I've ever played, though. Street Fighter 2 Turbo, it is not. There are no combos and strikes don't do much damage. The big damage moves are available as your special meter fills up. Then you can grapple and use wrestling moves against your opponent like suplexes, slams, or pile drivers. There are only 4 playable wrestlers available (five if you count Megumi Kudo). The ones available are Atushi Onita, Tarzan Goto, Ricky Fuji and Sambo Asako.
Each wrestler plays differently and has their own moveset available at least. This game isn't neccessarily rare or hard to find but it gets overlooked a lot I guess. For whatever reason, it's under the radar of most gamers and very little online footage of the gameplay exists so I decided to beat the game myself so I can describe the entire thing in better detail. It was a roller coaster ride for sure.
Perhaps the most normal opponent in this game, a sumo wrestler named Yashajin. You fight him in an outdoor sumo ring with a volcano and a bullett train in the background. Like FMW itself, the outside of each "ring" in each stage is rigged with dangerous gimmicks. On this stage, if you throw your opponent out of the ring, he lands on land mine explosives. If you beat this stage, the volcano in the background erupts violently.
Okay, let's take it up a notch. This time you fight in what appears to be an air force base of some sort, complete with a camouflage floor. The hazards on this stage are fire if you're thrown out, or fire that rains from the sky occasionally. Your opponent is "Killer M" who is naturally a Kung Fu robot with big, pink, mutton chop sideburns and what I'll call a pink "half-fro". It looks like an afro but the top half is see-through so you can see the brain that powers him. If you happen to best Killer M, a drop of fire falls on your head and your character says "ouch!" in a funny little way.
This stage is a little more traditional to the wrestling game genre. It's an FMW ring surronded by the promotion's infamous "exploding cage" which also acts as the weapon for this round. Your opponent this time is Knuckles, a boxer. FMW did some MMA style matches with boxers and martial artists so that makes sense. What's strange, though, is Knuckles wears exploding boxing gloves! I'm not sure what kind of science he uses, but they literally explode every time he punches you. Much like a boxer, he tries to overwhelm you with strikes but is pretty vulnerable if you can grapple him.
This might be the weirdest of the weird. The stage is fairly normal, for a fighting game anyway. It's just your basic roof top scene. I don't think there's an outside weapon to use here. I never saw one come into play. Your opponent is a hippie with a big moustache and afro named D Love. This was before Mick Foley's alter ego Dude Love was well known, so I'm not sure what they were going for here. This is also probably the hardest opponent in the game. Every time you pull off a grappling move against him he gets up and makes a sharp inhaling sound as if he's smoking a joint. At this point, the screen gets all wavy and trippy and he turns into a giant pink and yellow mushroom. While he's in mushroom mode he's invincible so you just have to wait it out until he returns to normal and repeat the process. Very difficult indeed.
This is probably the most normal stage and opponent. You fight what appears to be a shootfighter wearing old Pancrase-style ring attire named Inoba. You have to beat him in an FMW ring surrounded by electrified ring ropes.
Back to the strange for Stage 6. Here, it looks like you're wrestling inside of a medieval castle of some sort. For whatever random reason, you're wrestling someone named Bondage who is dressed as a gimp complete with g-string and assless chaps. Bondage likes to kick you when you're down and has a crazy laugh that I don't quite know how to desribe. It just makes you uncomfortable. Surronding this ring is standard old school barbed wire that you or your opponent can get tangled in.
Time for the boss! This guy is the purple "demon ninja" that you first see in the intro to the game. His name is K Shadow which some people say translates into Shadow King. You must fight him in a barricaded section of a parking lot in front of an old mansion. Land mines are once again the weapon of choice in this stage. If you manage to defeat K Shadow then the old mansion gets completely blown up behind you. Then K Shadow re-awakens and turns into "you", whichever wrestler you've been playing with. If you can defeat yourself then the story's over with a cut scene and some text and you can now play as Megumi Kudo through her story.
VERDICT: Some people wouldn't like this game, I'm sure. It can be frustrating at times. It's not talked about very much. When it is talked about, it gets mixed reviews.
Personally, I like it. It's unique and bizarre and holds your attention enough to want to keep playing. It might be a little slow and clunky but it's different from anything that came before or after it's release. For this reason alone I give it 2.5 stars.....worth a look.
Until next time.... keep mashing those buttons!