WWF Royal Rumble
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"In the ring... out of the ring... out of control! Take on 12 of the best Superstars of the World Wrestling Federation as you atomic-drop, headbutt, piledrive and dropkick your way through the most grueling test of wrestling skills ever devised!!"
Well, it's that time of the year again. Time for the most royal of rumbles. I've always enjoyed the Royal Rumble, specifically the Royal Rumble matches, themselves. I mean, they're the whole reason for this pay-per-view, aren't they? They should be. Anyway, I'm not sure why I love the rumbles so much. Usually, it ends up being like most battle royals; a group of grown men (or women) clustered together, dry humping each other in an overcrowded ring. Still, for some odd reason... it has its charm.
Since it is that time of year again, I thought, why not take a look at the classic Royal Rumble game released for the Super Nintendo in 1993 by LJN. I've said this before but it bears repeating; I know the Angry Video Game Nerd has tried to convince everyone that LJN is the worst publisher of all time and that they release nothing but garbage games but that's not the case. I can think of publishers with worse track records and that's also the point; LJN was a publisher. They didn't develop anything. They simply published games made by various developers so all of their games don't even share the same style or quality. It varies from game to game. On a personal note, LJN's "horror trilogy" for the NES (Friday The 13th, Jaws, A Nightmare On Elm Street) are some of my favorite games for that system. LJN's wrestling games were also known as being fairly decent which brings us to the game we have today.
As mentioned in my rant above; WWF Royal Rumble was published by LJN but it was developed by Sculptured Software who actually ended up developing quite a few pro wrestling games over the years before becoming defunct in 2002. I previously reviewed (pretty far back at this point) their "swan song" game; Legends Of Wrestling II for the PlayStation 2. That one wasn't too bad so, let's see what they have to offer here in the 16-bit era.
The game starts with a nice theme. I hate to admit my ignorance but, I can't quite place where I remember it from. Perhaps it's a classic Royal Rumble theme or WWF theme that I haven't heard in years or maybe I just remember it from playing this game so many times. Regardless, it's pretty catchy. The same can't be said of the various superstar's themes when choosing your wrestling representative, though. They all sound a little "off". Not terrible but not quite right. It's like they're being played in the wrong key or something.
Speaking of the superstars, there are 12 to choose from here. Not too shabby by 1993 standards. Five of these superstars (Ric Flair, Mr. Perfect, Ted DiBiase, Yokozuna, and CBW spokesman Tatanka) are exclusive to the Super Nintendo version of this game. The Sega Genesis version, released months later, also had it's own five exclusive superstars replacing these. I think the roster for the version we're discussing here today is a little stronger but honestly, with choices like Rick Martel, Papa Shango, Hulk Hogan, IRS, and Jim Duggan, the Genesis version also packs a decent punch. Both versions feature the Macho Man, though, so we have our bases covered there.
WWF Royal Rumble has a few different match types like a "chase the championship" mode or 4 and 6 man tag matches but why bother playing the Royal Rumble game unless you're ready to rumble in the most royal of ways? Taking that into account, we might as well just jump head-first into a Royal Rumble match, itself. I decided to utilize one of my all-time favorites for this match; Mr. Perfect. Seriously, even though he was trying to portray a "cocky heel," Mr. Perfect has to be one of the coolest gimmicks ever. Curt Hennig pulled it off perfectly (perhaps pun intended). I digress...
The matches start with the ringing of the bell. No entrances or anything, just you and your opponent, squared off. Just like an actual Royal Rumble, the rest of the participants come in at timed intervals. In game, the timed intervals are seemingly only a few seconds apart, though. Once six superstars are in the ring, no one else enters until someone is eliminated. At the time, I remember that 6 wrestlers being in the ring at once was a pretty big selling point for this game. Well, it was for 12 year old me at least, if for no one else. Seemed pretty awesome.
The action usually starts with you and your opponent duking it out for a minute, utilizing your various strikes. Once a grapple is initiated, button-mash mayhem ensues. Believe me, you gotta mash 'em fast to win the tug-of-war (as they called it) with your opponent in order to be able to successfully pull off one of your grappling moves. This is definitely not my preferred style of play when it comes to pro wrestling games. Why would you design your game to wear out buttons like that? Maybe they based this style of gameplay on what they thought hyperactive children would enjoy doing. That does seem to make sense, I guess.
The superstar's movesets are shared somewhat but each has their own, patented "finishing move" at their disposal. The animations for everyone's moves also look nice and the moves seem to have a real impact. Actually, all of the graphics, in general, look pretty well done. The art-style sort of reminds me of the All Japan wrestling games for the Super Famicom. There are also some nice details like a Hulk Hogan lookalike in the crowd and the classic commentary team of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon, arguing at ringside.
The Royal Rumble matches play out as you'd expect. Basically, you attempt to wear down your opponent and then throw them over the top rope, ass over teakettle, down to the ringside floor. If you survive to be the last man standing, well then, kudos to you. Afterwards, if you do decide to try something besides the Royal Rumble match, you're able to brawl outside the ring and there's even an occasional metal folding chair to smash your opponent with. You can't ever go wrong with that.
I remember playing this game a lot in the early-mid 90s, along with it's Super Nintendo counterparts; WWF Super Wrestlemania and WWF Raw. Just like LJN's "horror trilogy" for the NES, I consider these three games LJN's classic, "WWF trilogy" for the Super Nintendo. All of them, especially Royal Rumble here, are "must-plays" (despite the somewhat annoying button mashing involved) featuring many, legendary WWF superstars as playable characters. Also, like most classic pro wrestling games, even more fun is to be had when you get some friends involved in the action. The more the merrier.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons (literally)!