I think I've found something interesting to share with you guys today. Sometime in 1988 or 1989, Thinking Rabbit (a fairly obscure Japanese game developer) developed this professional wrestling game, and small-time publisher, Seta, was getting ready to release it. The game was completed and Seta even sent a prototype to Nintendo of America for approval. I believe they even gained approval but the game never got released until many years later. No one is sure why. It could be that Seta was such a small company they decided not to invest in it because of fear it wouldn't sell. Who knows.
What we do know is in 2019, NES collector Stephan Reese obtained the game from a former Nintendo of America employee who explained that he had it because Nintendo gave him the prototype to test out since he was a wrestling fan. Once Reese obtained the prototype, another collector offered him as much as 10,000 dollars for it but he turned them down stating that he planned to release the ROM online "soon". Thanks to him, we can now all enjoy this unearthed NES game for free!
What makes this game particularly interesting is that apparently, it was set to be a licensed WCW game. Turner Broadcasting had briefly named WCW the "Universal Wrestling Corporation" after purchasing it from Jim Crockett Promotions before deciding on the World Championship Wrestling name. That's where we get the UWC initials in this game. It also features a roster of not just knockoffs but actual WCW wrestlers of the time. Now, let's take a look and see how this ancient relic compares to other wrestling games of the 8-bit era.
The title screen features pretty catchy music and the options we can choose from are Single match, tag team match, and "elimination series". I really like the roster included in this game. There are a few legends that you never really saw in other games which are included here. Wrestlers like Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton (Bobby never gets the full credit he deserves for being as great as he was), Barry Windam, and Jimmy Garvin. Sting, Flair, and The Road Warriors (of course) round out the roster nicely. I'm willing to bet that no other wrestlers have made more appearances (either officially or otherwise) in wrestling games than The Road Warriors. No complaints here, though. They're arguably the greatest, or at least "most over", tag team of all time.
Upon playing the game; it plays very similar and even looks very similar to the later released WCW: World Championship Wrestling for the NES. That game was released in 1990 so maybe those developers were aware of this game going unreleased and took some elements from it or maybe it's pure coincidence. One thing this game is lacking that the World Championship Wrestling game had is selectable move sets for your grappler. That was a cool feature in the WCW game. Here, you can't select your own move set but each wrestler does have some unique moves that are exclusive to them. For instance, Bobby Eaton has a beautifully animated sunset flip. You don't even see that move in most wrestling games.
Even though this game's ROM was released almost five years ago at this point; I was unaware of it until recently. I'm glad I stumbled across it. It's not the most fun wrestling game for the NES and the WCW game that did eventually get released in 1990 is better but it's still fun to experience. Especially for someone like me who has a never-ending quest to attempt to play every wrestling video game that ever existed.
Also, for the record, Stephan Reese owns the only copy of this game so the ROM he released is legal. That means you don't even have to feel bad downloading it and playing it for free. That was his intention by releasing it and I do think you guys should give it a try.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!