Saturday Night Slam Masters
Saturday Night Slam Masters is what a lot of people call a wrestling/fighting hybrid style game as in it feels a little like playing Street Fighter 2. There's a lot of jumping and it's faster-paced then most traditional wrestling games but the matches take place in a ring and you have to win by pinfall or submission so you also have the pro wrestling aspect.
Also the "lore" for the game, if you can call it that, is pretty cool. It features the legendary character Mike Haggar from Final Fight and it also has some ties to Street Fighter. The Russian wrestler in the game mentions his comrade Zangief when he loses (Zangief being a main character in the Street Fighter series).
I spent a lot of time with this game when it came out. Perhaps more than any other Super Nintendo wrestling game so, let's see if this grizzled vet can still pull off a win....
BACKGROUND: Saturday Night Slam Masters, known in Japan as Muscle Bomber - The Body Explosion, was originally released for the arcade in 1993. You gotta love Japanese game titles - they always sound super exciting. It was later released for various home consoles.
SNSM was developed and published by CAPCOM, who were responsible for many classic series - Mega Man, Street Fighter, Final Fight, even going back to Duck Tales for the NES, the list goes on and on. It was later followed up by an arcade-only sequel, Ring Of Destruction: Slam Masters II in 1994. The sequel took away almost all of the wrestling aspects of the game and was just basically a straight forward 2D fighter.
I know it seems like, especially lately, I do a lot of Super Famicom/SNES reviews but it goes to show what a great "wrestling console" the Super Nintendo was. I said before, there are many pro wrestling games on the SNES and very few of them, if any, are bad. The Sega Genesis also had a port of this game and the only major difference was the inclusion of a "death match" mode. I remember thinking at the time that it was a really cool match option to have. Still pretty unique today. It sort of speaks of the game's Japanese roots (Japan being the birthplace of the deathmatch as far as I know).
GRAPHICS AND SOUND: This game looks great! The character designs were done by manga artist Tetsuo Hara who was famous for Fist Of The North Star. Each character looks completely unique, except Gunloc and Biff Slamkovich, who are actually supposed to be a little similar because they are rival students of Mike Haggar. Each wrestler also has a unique ring entrance with their own theme music. I like that Haggar comes to the ring in classic Antonio Inoki style, wearing a red towel around his neck that he tosses to the crowd.
Another nice feature is that, we all know by now, when you have an unlicensed wrestling game with "fictional wrestlers", those "fictional wrestlers" usually end up being actual wrestling stars in disguise, which isn't always bad. This game, however, features a roster that is not made up of knock-offs of real life grapplers. Some things are inspired by actual wrestlers, like Haggar's Inoki style entrance and Alexander the Grater is heavily based off of Vader but it's not overdone like in some games. There is however a Hulk Hogan-esque wrestler you see in the intro to the game but he isn't playable and you don't actually run into him until the end of the championship mode.
Each wrestler has some amusing text phrases that they spout before and after each match. It varies depending upon whether you win or lose. These go by very quickly, though, so you have to read them fast. The music sounds great. All of the wrestlers themes are really good and I can't quite explain it, but for whatever reason I've always loved the speech in this game. It only tells you where you're competing for the night like "Los Angeles!" for example, but that voice brings back memories of the hours I spent with this game.
GAMEPLAY: The gameplay has a real nice arcade feel to it. This is a "button masher," for sure. The matches are fast-paced and feel like a 2-D fighting game, except you are free to move throughout the ring and even to the ringside area where there are sometimes weapons available like tables, chairs and even glass bottles! For me, there is no strategy to this game except said button mashing. I just frantically push buttons with a vague idea of what I'm trying to accomplish but that's the way I play most arcade fighters. Not all games have to have a deep layer of strategy to be fun.
The tag team mode is perhaps even more fun than one on one matches, especially with a second player, because all four wrestlers are in the ring at once tornado tag style and it's an elimation match. Both members of a team have to be defeated to win. It's a nice chaotic sort of match with plenty of frenzy. I believe, if you have a multi-tap, the game supports up to four players which seems like it would be a lot of fun to try. Also, if you want to play as the two boss characters in the game, you're allowed to do so only in tag team mode. Basically both match types take you through a simplified story mode. You beat each wrestler or tag team to win your World Title and then you defend it against each wrestler or team. If you're successful then the game ends with one of a few possible interesting little cut scenes.
VERDICT: This game looks and plays great! It's easy to just pick up and play and as much as I've played it, it's never gotten old for me. It has great character designs by Tetsuo Hara. Each grappler looks unique and is very detailed and the animations for all of the over the top moves are wonderful. During the 80's and 90's I don't think CAPCOM ever made a bad game. This is one of their lesser known ones but it's just as high quality as anything else they produced. I give it +4 stars...almost perfect.