Power Move Pro Wrestling
This time, I've decided to take a look at an early pioneer of 3-D wrestling games; perhaps the very first 3-D wrestling game -- Power Move Pro Wrestling. It was the first wrestling game released for the Sony Playstation and it pre-dates WCW vs. The World (which was the second game released for the PS1) by a year or so. This game is definitely full of its own personality and quirks and it promises to be "the extreme 3-D wrestling game" so, let's see what it has to offer.
Power Move Pro Wrestling was developed by Yukes and released by Activision. I've always held Activision in high regard because it was formed by disgruntled Atari employees and became the very first third party developer for video games. Prior to this, console manufacturers were the sole programmers for all of their video games. This means that all Atari games were developed by Atari themselves, all games for the old Magnavox Odysee were developed by Maganavox, and so forth.
Once Activision was able to break away from Atari and develop games for the Atari 2600 without being sued into oblivion, other companies followed suit. Also, Activision is still going pretty strong with current franchises like Call Of Duty and Destiny. Yukes, the company that actually developed this game (Activision simply released it to the market), still has a hand in developing current WWE games and have been for a long time now so, they must have done something right.
Power Move Pro Wrestling was released in on December 20, 1996 but it was based on a slightly earlier game released only in Japan -- New Japan Pro Wrestling: Toukon Retsuden. When the game was released in North America, instead of going the usual route of vaguely disguising the real life wrestlers involved, Yukes and Activision changed all of the wrestlers completely so that they could be unique and not resemble their real life counterparts much, if any (except for recognizable moves that the various wrestlers do). I like the idea. It forced the developers to be creative and come up with characters interesting enough to carry a wrestling game on their own without any "star power" involved. This used to be done more often but, aside from Fire Pro games (which is almost a genre in and of itself), if you see a pro wrestling game now, you can bet it's a licensed product... most likely WWE.
Before we get into the "personality" of the game; let's take a look at how it plays and looks. It looks, well, like an early 3-D wrestling game. The polygons that make up the grapplers are pretty big and bulky, but they actually look a little nicer and a little more smooth than what's in WCW vs. The World, which would be the most comparable game to this one. The audience seems to be made up of some sort of "digitized polygon" hybrid graphics but they look okay. Just a little blurry because of the digitization or whatever technique was used to create them. The crowd isn't very large, though, so it sort of reminds me of the days of "studio wrestling" when instead of lugging production equipment on the road, promotions used to film their weekly shows in a studio in front of an audience of maybe 100-200 people; however many they could jam into the building at the time.
All of the movement animations and various wrestling moves look nice as well; even somewhat surprisingly so. This game is sort of an overachiever in that aspect. You come in not expecting much but it delivers.
As far as controls, this one isn't a "button masher"; it takes a more realistic approach to the action. It isn't timing-based like a lot of Japanese games, though. Here, the moves are laid out with a "rock, paper, scissors" approach. Strength moves cancel out submission moves, submissions override strikes and strikes take priority over strength moves. This way, the game really makes you learn the specific move set for your respective wrestler and also makes it to where you can't just spam one move over and over because depending on which move your opponent attempts during a lockup; you won't always be successful.
You're also able to brawl outside of the ring in the ringside area but there aren't any chairs or other weapons around to use, just the proverbial concrete floor. The only negative thing I noticed about the gameplay is the fact that the "hit detection" is a little wonky sometimes, especially with maneuvers from the top ropes. If you climb the turnbuckles and launch yourself at your downed opponent... most likely you're not going to land on them and you'll just end up hurting yourself. It's not even worth trying really unless you just want to see what kind of aerial moves your wrestler would possess if they did happen to ever work properly.
The various modes of play available are a standard singles match or gauntlet match in which you face all other wrestlers one by one. There's also tournament and league options available. One thing that's clearly missing, though, is any sort of tag team match; all matches are singles only. There's also no gimmick matches - not even a cage match option. Still, even if some things aren't present in this game, what it does, it does well.
Finally, let's talk about this particular game's personality. You know, what makes it stand out amongst other classic titles. First, when they changed the wrestlers for the North American release, the developers did a good job. They really came up with some interesting characters. Here, we get to play as the likes of The Egyptian Conniption (originally Masahiro Chono), King Og (Scott "Flash" Norton), and El Temblor which is Spanish for "The Earthquake" and who is based on Koji Kanemoto. All in all, there are twelve wrestlers to choose from plus you can use codes to unlock three more.
Before the matches begin, to add to the colorful characters, we have our ring announcer (whose name is Gorgon.. seriously?) doing some colorful ring introductions. For example, Lance DewLock (Kensuki Sasake) is 6'2", 252 lbs and "gets all of the ladies... and some of the men". That sounds like a pretty crazy groupie scene to me! Caligula-level debauchery, even.
The ring announcer also introduces us to our referee who is an apparently large-breasted man named "Rathburn Sally". If there has ever been anyone in the history of the world who was actually given that crazy-ass name at birth; I'd like to meet them.
A few more things that make this game unique are the fact that you can control the camera angles somewhat with the "shoulder buttons" on your controller. You can also choose whether you'd like to see the action from a ringside view or a view from a balcony, higher up. You can also pause the game and then push Select and wrestle the match in slow motion, if you so choose. I'm not sure if this is actually a feature or just some sort of glitch but... that's how it works. You can also save your matches to your memory card so you can watch them again later, if you want. I don't remember any other game doing this at the time.
My first experiece with this game, like a lot of the older pro wrestling games, was by renting it at Speedy's Video. I later bought it for myself and it's still a very cheap game to come by as far as the last time I checked. I'm sure you could get it almost anywhere for a little more than $5 or so. It is definitely well worth the asking price and is truly a hidden gem of a pro wrestling game.
Until next time.. keep mashing those buttons!