Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling: Toukon Sanjushi
Nintendo Game Boy
I have a soft spot for Nintendo's original handheld - the Game Boy. It was the first handheld console that I ever owned although I had owned and played a lot of the old Tiger Electronics one-off handheld games and the ancient Mattel electronic football and baseball handhelds where the "action" was made up of red dots and dashes on a screen. My Game Boy was given to me by my parents on my 10th birthday along with some cool accessories for it like a "screen enhancer" (a/k/a a magnifying glass that clipped to the Game Boy to magnify the screen) and a "night light" to be able to play in the dark since the Game Boy didn't have a backlit screen so you couldn't see it in the dark without some sort of light source shining on it. Out of all of the games and consoles that I currently own; my Game Boy is also one of the very few things left from my childhood. I've literally built up my entire collection over the last ten years or so. This also makes my Game Boy special to me and makes me continue to search out new games to play on it which is what brings us to the game we're taking a look at today.
Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling: Toukon Sanjushi was released in Japan by Varie on June 28, 1991. At this point in time, Varie had released and would continue to release a series of New Japan Pro Wrestling games for Nintendo's 8 and 16-bit consoles. This was their attempt to branch out and test the waters of Nintendo's handheld market.
This game's title translates to "New Japan Pro Wrestling: The Three Musketeers" which, at first, seems like an odd name for a wrestling game. Is this some sort of bizarre crossover game? Did the estate of Alexandre Dumas sign off on this? Are we getting ready to step into the squared circle and battle it out with the likes of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis? As awesome as all of that sounds; such is not the case here.
In this case, the Three Musketeers/the Toukon Sanjushi are a popular and legendary faction in NJPW consisting of Masahiro Chono, Shinya Hashimoto, and Keiji Mutoh (The Great Muta sans his gimmick). NJPW champ Riki Choshu has challenged each of the musketeers to take him on for the championship. The only catch - they have to face off against their other two teammates and two other "hired guns" he brought in before they can earn a match with the champ, himself. On paper, this sounds like a really awesome concept/storyline for a wrestling game. In reality, though, it makes for a simplified, bare-bones, wrestling game with a very small roster. Still, let's see what this obscure artifact holds in store for us.
As you can probably guess by now, there is only one mode in this game and only three playable wrestlers to choose from. You can choose from any of the Three Musketeers. Mutoh is the fastest and is a high flyer. Chono has strong kicks and a devastating finisher (the STF) and, Hashimoto has the strongest grappling moves. At least they put some effort into making the playable characters a little different from one another. Aside from each other; the other wrestlers you must defeat on your way to the championship are Tatsumi Fujinami and Hiroshi Hase. If you're able to best all of the other challengers, then you take on the champ, Riki Choshu.
The graphics for this game are pretty good as far as Game Boy games go. Everything is crisp-looking (considering the capabilities of the system) and detailed. The music is also pretty catchy and upbeat and hopefully, you like it. Seriously, hopefully, you like it because you're going to be hearing it a lot. There's more or less one song in this game and it just plays on an infinite loop.
I will applaud the developers here for attempting to make their own unique grappling system for this puroresu title. You won't see any timing-based grappling or even button mashing here. The grappling system in this particular game is done by "grappling icons." A grappling icon appears next to your health meter whenever certain things occur. For example, if you hit your opponent with three unanswered strikes then you get an icon or if you perfectly time a block of one of your opponent's strikes then you get an icon. When a grappling icon appears; you have a few seconds to grab your opponent and try to devastate them with some sort of suplex or slam. This system combined with each wrestler having a fairly unique move-set and special moves almost make up for the smaller-than-average roster size.
It may or may not sound like it, but I actually had a decent time playing this relic for the first time ever. There are a few things that make it stand out as somewhat unique compared to other puroresu games and the storyline that's presented here is simple yet concise and actually generates a player's interest by having you take on your teammates and other NJPW legends in order to get a title shot. Speaking of legends - even though this game's roster is very small; everyone included in the game is a puroresu legend. every. single. one. You can't pick up and play this game expecting hours and hours worth of entertainment but it's still a very interesting game to play if you're a puroresu video game mark like me.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!