The Simpsons Wrestling
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I've put off reviewing this particular game for a long time. I put off reviewing it mostly because Canadian Bulldog, himself, did it justice with his review prior to me joining the team here at Wrestling Merchandise and Memories. It's been on my "shortlist" of games I wanted to review since I started doing these reviews almost five years ago now, though, because I have vivid memories of the first time that I ever played this game. For better or worse; that experience stuck with me over the years so I figured, after all this time, maybe it's about time I give it another look.
The Simpsons Wrestling was developed by Big Ape Productions and released by Activision in Spring 2001. I'm completely unfamiliar with Big Ape productions and they aren't/weren't big enough and well known enough to even have a Wikipedia article written about them so you can take that however you'd like, I suppose. I'm assuming it means they didn't develop many games at all and didn't leave their mark in the video game industry whatsoever.
In 2001, my fandom for The Simpsons was beginning to wain (the first 10 seasons still remain classic television) but when I saw this game sitting on the shelf at Speedy's Video, like so many wrestling games had before it, I just had to rent it for a weekend and give it a try! I'd like to say that I wasn't disappointed. Yeah, that's what I'd like to say. The reality, though, was quite the opposite.
I remember this being one of the first, if not THE first, game to feature The Simpsons fully voiced in a game by the real-life actors themselves. That was a big selling point for this game. Well, for me it was. I had played through all The Simpsons games at that point (Bart vs The Space Mutants, Virtual Bart, the classic arcade beat-em-up, etc) but now they were going to "come to life" just like on television.
The voice-over work is actually one of the few highlights of this game. Although some character's lines and quips can get repetitive and annoying while you wrestle them; for the most part, it works. I like that each character has a different, unique, pre-match line they use depending on whom they're facing off against. These are also well-written taunts, more often than not. You can tell that there really was some time invested in writing the dialogue for this game. You gotta give the developers credit for trying to create a game that truly captured the humor and vibe of The Simpsons. The script and voiceover work is sadly one of the only highlights of this somewhat tragic attempt at a wrestling game, though.
The matches you partake in hardly resemble a wrestling match at all, to be honest. There is very little grappling and virtually no submissions in the game. A lot of the combat is just different strikes and weapon attacks for those characters who utilize a weapon like Groundskeeper Willie and his trusty rake. I will give credit for each character having unique and character-specific attacks. At least once you spend the time required to unlock them all they're all unique and not just a copy/paste job. In reality, about the only two things that make this even somewhat of a wrestling game (aside from the title) is the action takes place in a wrestling ring and the fact that pinfalls end a match (ignoring the fact that, for some unknown reason, you count your own pinfall attempts and you can score a pinfall on your opponent even if they're lying face down on their stomach).
The different arenas representing different areas of Springfield are nice but they don't really add much. I mean, however nice it may look, how much does an arena really add to any wrestling game? Unless it's interactive somehow, it's just aesthetics, more or less. One thing I do love is hearing characters like Otto, Grandpa Simpson, and Lenny yelling out smart-ass one-liners from the crowd.
The developers did add the nice gameplay aspect of a stamina meter which makes it impossible to spam high damage maneuvers. Running around and performing moves drains your stamina meter, which makes you unable to perform anything but your weakest of moves. If you take a second to slow down and let your wrestler regain his wind for a brief respite then your stamina meter refills, enabling you to perform more powerful maneuvers again. This helps to balance the gameplay a little. It's just a shame that the matches aren't very fun to play.
I don't really know how to rate the graphics for this game. A lot of people say they're horrible and the outlines of the characters look choppy and disconnected and yeah, I can see that. It still looks like The Simpsons to me, though. I don't think it's that bad compared to other early PS1 wrestling games with those horrible polygon graphics. To me, this game looks like what it is - an attempt to take The Simpsons art style into 3-D graphics as opposed to 2-D animation.
I've heard people mention this game amongst the worst of all-time but I wouldn't say it's quite that bad. It has its shining moments - however few and far between they may be. It's kind of is what it advertises; The Simpsons Wrestling. You should expect it to be over the top and cartoony and not some sort of pro wrestling simulation. Still, for whatever variety of reasons, it's just not that fun. It's definitely one worth checking out once for the sake of curiosity, though.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!