Well, folks, I'd waited a long time to be able to play this game since I first heard about it. Over a year or so. I first heard about it by seeing commercials for its upcoming release on NWA Powerrr in late-2019. They were 80s-style commercials featuring NWA World Champion, Nick Aldis, (who is fairly heavily featured in the game) and they caught my attention immediately. I'm very happy that on March 30, 2021, RetroMania Wrestling finally got its proper release and I picked up a digital copy right away! Speaking of digital copy; that's the only way to purchase the game at this point but there are plans for a physical release to come out very soon being produced by Limited Run Games. Limited Run Games is handling the production of the physical copies of this game but the game itself was developed and released by Retrosoft Studios so all credit should be given to them as to how good this game actually is and how good it actually is is what we'll soon find out...
One thing I noticed right off the bat while updating my research for this game is, when it was first announced, they were hailing this as the "spiritual sequel" to Mat Mania: The Prowrestling Network (which is a classic game made by Technos Japan) and later the developers even secured the rights to call RetroMania Wrestling the "official sequel" to Mat Mania but upon perusing their official website for the game while doing this review, I found out that it seems like they have distanced themselves from that game and no longer mention it in their advertising for whatever reason. That's fine with me, though. Mat Mania is a classic game for sure and this game definitely has a retro, arcade wrestling style but it's not much like Mat Mania in any other way than that. The graphics aren't done in the "classic Technos style" of art and this game offers much more options than any previous arcade wrestling game ever did so it's good that it stands on its own. It's actually much better and much more replayable than any other arcade-style wrestling game that I've ever played but we'll get to all those details shortly.
The opening title theme for this game is pretty cool. It's sort of "calm" compared to most wrestling games (there's no thrashing guitar riffs or heavy drums) and it reminds me a little of the style of the old Jim Crockett Promotions/NWA theme that I'd hear every week when watching JCP shows on TBS, as a kid. The opening menu shows us or basic choices of gameplay which are - Story, 10 Pounds Of Gold, Retro Rumble, Versus, and Options.
To begin to break these down - Options are just that; options. You can adjust variables for the audio and video of the game. Versus is your exhibition mode where you can set up one-shot matches between whomever you want on the roster. There are actually many, many options to play around with when it comes to these matches. That's one of the things that adds replay value to this game. You can have singles and tag matches, 3 Way and 4 Way Dance matches (or Triple Threat and Fatal Four Way matches if you prefer WWE terminology), and even cage matches. As a bonus, when setting up a cage match, you can either use the "big blue bar" style, retro, WWF cage, or the classic, "cyclone fence style" NWA cage. Even with non-cage matches; you can tweak the options to make matches No-DQ or Falls count Anywhere, etc. There are really a lot of options to play around with when it comes down to it.
The Retro Rumble mode is pretty self-explanatory. It's a "Royal Rumble mode which all self-respecting arcade wrestling games should include at this point. The only difference between this mode and an actual Royal Rumble mode is the number of wrestlers able to compete since this game currently only has 16 wrestlers on its roster but that number is supposed to be increased with future DLC.
The Ten Pounds Of Gold mode is your basic "chase the championship" mode that all arcade wrestling games have. Seriously, you can't create a retro-themed wrestling game without adding a mode like this where you choose a wrestler and go through the roster, one by one, in an attempt to get your title shot with the champ. The champ in this game just happens to be "the real World's Champion" and the current holder of "Sweet Charlotte" (as he likes to refer to the NWA title as); Nick Aldis. I'll be honest; I wasn't expecting much out of this mode in the game because a "chase the championship mode" is never very in-depth but I was pleasantly surprised by some voiceover work provided by NWA commentator Joe Galley and Aldis, himself. It seems like in every aspect of this game; little touches of detail like that are added to make it just that much better than it would already have been.
For the final mode, we have the "Story Mode". Now, this is something you don't often see in a retro-styled wrestling game. This is a legit story mode that tells the story of Johnny Retro (a/k/a John Morrison, Johnny Nitro, Johnny Impact, Johnny Mundo, Johnny "whatever it is this week") coming back from a career-threatening injury. You start off being rehabilitated by Stevie Richards at his "Stevie Richards Fitness" complex. I'm honestly not sure if that's a real or purely fictional place made up for the sake of the game but that's where your story begins. The story ends up being pretty engauging and manages to hold your interest well. At certain points during the story; you can even make choices that minorly impact the story such as which tag team partner you going to team up with and whether you choose to accept or deny certain wrestler's help in certain situations. That adds enough replay value to this mode to make it worth playing through at least more than once!
I've name-dropped some of the wrestlers featured on this game's roster so far so let's now go down the official, full roster list. First, the commentators featured in the game are the Ring Of Honor commentary team of Colt Cabana and Ian Riccaboni. I'll be honest, I've never watched much Ring Of Honor in the last 10 years or so but Ian Riccaboni was part of the commentary team for the 2019 Crockett Cup which I have watched, more than once. I was quite impressed by the way he one-upped Jim Cornette on commentary that night which is no easy feat. Riccaboni was quoting hip-hop lyrics and making references to such things and Cornette said, "Hey, if you don't quit doing that then I'm gonna start quoting the Eagles!" to which Riccaboni replied, "Hey, Jim... "Take It Easy". He won me over at that point so, needless to say, he's a great inclusion here along with Cabana who also appears as one of the playable wrestlers. The entire current roster for the game is...
Johnny Retro - I think we're all familiar with this guy at this point considering how much he's traveled throughout his career.
Colt Cabana - Cabana is an interesting inclusion because he's included as part of the ROH Commentary team but he was currently wrestling for the NWA when this game was under development. As most of you know, he's currently now part of the AEW Roster.
Brian Myers and Matt Cardona - former WWE Superstars that were known as Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder who currently do a podcast called the Major Wrestling Figure podcast.
Zack Sabre Jr. - a great technical wrestler from the UK representing New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Jeff Cobb a powerhouse and another great NJPW alumni.
War Horse - I'm a little biased against this inclusion because War Horse won the "Indiemania" fan poll to be included in this game and, to be completely honest, I've never heard of him up until now and I've never seen him compete. All I know is that he beat out Matt Cross (MDogg 20 to you old-school backyard wrestling fans) in the finals of the fan poll and I'm a huge fan of Cross so I kind of wish he was included instead.
Team House Of Hardcore - I sort of lumped these guys together because 3 out of 4 of them are an actual team and they all represent the House Of Hardcore promotion. We get to choose from the BwO (Big Stevie Cool, Blue Meanie, and Hollywood Nova) and the leader of HOH; Tommy Dreamer.
Austin Idol - The "Universal Hearthrob" was one of the NWA signings for this game. He still currently appears as a manager there. I'm not this biggest Austin Idol mark in the world but this may be the only game he's ever been included in and I guess that's pretty cool. He is a legend of wrestling in the Southeastern United States in his own right.
Nick Aldis - The longtime, current holder of the 10 Pounds Of Gold. I'm a huge NWA mark so I love his inclusion here.
Road Warriors - Now, I don't know who the devs talked to in order to sign the likenesses of LOD (I do believe Animal was still alive at the time the deal was first signed) but man, I'm glad they did! You can't have an old-school arcade wrestling game without including knockoffs of the Road Warriors and these guys took it one step further by including the actual Road Warriors. Awesome!
Nikita Koloff - Rounding out the roster is the "Russian Nightmare". He's actually who I've used most in this game so far and it's always satisfying to clobber your opponent with the Russian Sickle, possibly even knocking them out of the ring!
RetroMania Wrestling also has some great arenas to pick from in which to attempt to beat your opponents. None of the arenas that appear in the game are listed under their "official names" but there are stages representing GPB Studios (which the NWA films its weekly Powerrr series in), Japan, the UK, the Hammerstein Ballroom, and the Tennessee State Fairgrounds Sports Arena (a/k/a The Asylum) which has hosted many, many legendary pro wrestling cards over the years.
Of course, no game is worth anything unless it's fun to play but we have no worries here. Although it's simple to pick up and play; this game is deceivingly deep and fun to master! It uses a timing-based and momentum-based grappling system like Fire Pro Wrestling Games but unlike those games - there are visual indicators here as to whether your timing is off and what your momentum actually is so you know exactly when to attempt medium or strong moves. You don't have to "feel it out" quite as much as you do in Fire Pro games which is good for the learning curve of new players. For more experienced players; you can turn these indicators off. That's also nice.
It seems like every single wrestler's move list is unique and accurate in this game. There are few "repeat moves" shared by the wrestlers and everyone has their signature moves available; even down to Austin Idol's "Las Vegas Leglock". Granted, if you're anyone else in the universe who isn't Austin Idol then you call that move a "Figure Four Leglock" but we'll continue to let him call it what he wants and act like he invented the damn thing.
This game is super fun to play and it has very high replay value for an arcade wrestling title. Being able to play a game like this over and over without getting bored is a rare thing indeed. The developers did a great job with this one. There's also some already planned DLC to add "Cowboy" James Storm, Mr. Hughes, and Chris Bey to the game. Whoever tf Chris Bey is. He's another indie wrestler I'm completely unfamiliar with but he ranked high in the fan poll so I'm going to assume he's also a great inclusion. Still, devs... give us Matt Cross! Regardless, this is an excellent game that every wrestling fan should pick up!