Virtual Pro Wrestling 2: Ōdō Keishō
Today, I wanted to take a look at a game that I really should've already reviewed already by now. It's reportedly one of the best wrestling games of all-time. The problem is; I never got a chance to play it for myself until recently. Now that I've remedied the problem of never having played it - let's see if this piece of puroresu gaming history is as classic as they say it is...
AKI Corporation is responsible for unleashing Virtual Pro Wrestling 2: Ōdō Keishō to the Japanese public on January 28, 2000. This game never got a western release which is why I went so long in my gaming career, not having played it. However, AKI Corporation is one of the greatest wrestling game developers of all time, being responsible for WCW/nWo World Tour and Revenge, WCW vs The World, WWF No Mercy, and even the two Def Jam Vendetta games! Basically, if you played a pro wrestling game in the late-90s through mid-2000s and it was any good at all... it was probably an AKI game. Despite having the number "2" in the title; this game is actually the third game in the Virtual Pro Wrestling series following Virtual Pro Wrestling on the PlayStation and Virtual Pro Wrestling 64, also on the Nintendo 64.
Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 features a license from All Japan Pro Wrestling even though their name isn't stamped onto the title of the game. This means it features the likenesses of some of AJPW's biggest stars over the years including Hiroshi Hase, Vader, Stan Hansen, and, of course, Giant Baba. My favorite inclusion on the AJPW roster is Kamala or "Giant Kamala", as he was known in Japan. This is the only video game I can think of that features the Ugandan Giant (RIP) and he was always a favorite of mine. It's really cool to be able to play as him here.
Aside from the AJPW license, like most puroresu games, this game features a slew of other, recognizable, grappling greats under thin disguises. Seriously, even Inspector Clouseau is truly a master of disguise compared to most of these guys. I can clearly spot the likes of Mike Awesome; (Pancrase and pro wrestling legend) Masakatsu Funaki; and creator of the legendary Pride FC, Nobuhiko Takada.
I'm glad they added some Pancrase and MMA fighters into the roster here. It mixes things up a little and, as a bonus, the game is programmed in such a way that the fighters control a little differently than their pro wrestling cohorts - the MMA fighters have different move sets and their strikes are a bit flashier in style and cause much more damage then the wrestlers' strikes do.
As for the icing on our "roster cake"; this game also features a section of the roster containing pro wrestling legends you can play as including Terry Funk, Riki Choshu, Atsushi Onita, and Ultimo Dragon, among many others. Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 has an insanely big roster for the era. You really couldn't ask for anything more here. This game has it covered!
The main problem with these puroresu games is deciphering the menus. Well, I suppose if you can actually read kanji then it's a simple process but it's always a little bit of an ordeal for me. It only takes trial and error and a slight amount of time invested and you can usually figure out what's what, more or less. There aren't a ton of match options or game modes but you can play the Royal Road Succession which is basically like it's Road To WrestleMania counterpart from AKI's WrestleMania 2000 game. I was looking to jump headfirst into the action so I started by simply choosing a one on one match.
For my first experience playing this title; I chose one of my all-time favorite MMA legends, "The Gracie Hunter" Kazushi Sakuraba, and decided to take on Mike Awesome because that's a dream match for anyone to see, right? Okay, maybe it's just me... still, it's a match that I wanted to see play out.
This game boasts hundreds of moves, even many that you don't get to see outside of Japanese pro wrestling, very often! Using an MMA fighter in my match; I could also tell that the developers did a very good job as far as programming that particular "style" into a wrestling game. Having MMA fighters on the roster really opens up a lot of interesting "dream matches". Perhaps next time I'll play as Bruiser Brody and take on Bas Rutten.
This game pretty much controls like every AKI game. That's far from a bad thing. There's a reason why they never switched up their control scheme much; they didn't have to. The gameplay here is well balanced. Instead of timed button presses during a lock-up (a/k/a Fire Pro Wrestling style), AKI always used a grappling system that's similar to what's still being used on current WWE games. You simply have to initiate a grapple before your opponent does in order to pull off a move. If your opponent is able to initiate a grapple before you can then they get to do their chosen move. Pretty straightforward.
I remember seeing AJ Styles quoted as saying that this is "the all-time greatest pro wrestling game". I'm not sure I share quite the same opinion as The Phenomenal One but it does rank towards the top of best pro wrestling games I've ever played. Just not quite THE top. I'm glad I finally got to check this classic out and I would suggest that any puroresu video game fan and especially any fan of the AKI series of wrestling games should also give this one a go. It'd be time well spent.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!