WCW The Main Event
I have a lot of fond memories of playing the early WCW video games. World Championship Wrestling for the NES and WCW Superbrawl for the SNES are two of my favorites. Renting those two particular games from Speedy's Video for $2 a pop; I probably could have owned them and paid for them twice over. Alas, those were the days of rentals, though. At least for me; it was far more likely that my parents would give me $2 to rent a game for the weekend than they would be to give me $50 to just flat out buy a game so, at the time, I became familar with a lot of games without actually owning very many.
One thing Speedy's Video never rented were handheld games. When it came to those, you were on your own. That's the main reason why I never played this game back then and also the main reason that my previous Game Boy experience was limited to Super Mario Land, Tetris and Bo Jackson's Football/Baseball - the only three games I ever really owned for the Game Boy. I've acquired almost all of my game collection in the last seven or eight years. They only thing I had left from childhood was my Game Boy and it's eternally inserted Tetris cartridge. Man, at one point, I bet that cart literally stayed inserted in my Gameboy for about 20 years straight.. at least! Recently, though, I decided to pry Tetris loose from it's home long enough to give this game a go.
Like the two games I mentioned at the top; WCW: The Main Event was published by FCI. It was developed by Beam Software and released in February, 1994. It never got a Japanese release, but that makes sense considering that they have enough wrestling stars and promotions over there to fill up their own video games, as we've previously seen here - many times. Europe got a somewhat delayed release, later in 1994. The cover features Sting, looking as intense as possible. Not quite as cool as The Road Warriors on the cover of World Championship Wrestling, but not bad. The back of the box shows us the game's entire roster and assures us that there will be "..BIG action!" and "..BIG excitement!". Well, let's fire up this "monochromatic dinosaur" and find out!
The title screen features Sting and The Steiner Brothers; the latter of which had moved on to the WWF at this point. I guess the developers didn't want to change their title screen and create two new wrestlers on the roster to replace them at the last minute. Can't say as I blame them. Also, they're a popular tag team regardless so I'm sure the fact that they were in the game sold a few copies, whether they actually still worked for WCW or not. The title screen also features generic music. All of the in-game music is like this. There are no wrestlers themes like you usually find in the WWF games from the time.
The match options are also pretty limited, as you might expect in a Game Boy title. There are three difficulty levels to choose from: Professional (as opposed to amateur?), Continental Title (do they mean U.S. Title?) and World Title. You can choose to face a single opponent or do an elimation-style match facing one opponent after another. You can also choose your set number of falls or choose a time limit and have an "ironman" style match with unlimited falls.
After you decide on your set-up, you're taken to the wrestler select screen. The game's roster is pretty small, which again, is to be expected. It consists of the top 8 wrestlers who were active in WCW at the time.. oh, and Marc Mero in the midst of his "Little Richard schtick." You can choose from the aforementioned Johnny B. Badd, Sting, Rick and Scott Stiener (Scott being the calmer mullet-clad version, not the crazy Big Poppa Pump version), Rick Rude, Ron Simmons, Vader, Dustin Rhodes and "Stunning" Steve Austin. I believe this is the first game to feature Steve Austin as a playable wrestler.
I'm a pretty big mark for Ron Simmons so I chose him as my first wrestler to try out.. and this is where I noticed my first issue with the game. We all know that the original Game Boy's graphics were monochrome or "black and white" (as we used to call it) but the developers decided to make Ron Simmons skin tone literally black. I mean, jet black.. "BLACK" black. I'm not sure why they didn't just make him a slightly darker gray than the rest of the roster.
Since I brought up the graphics; the audience here also looks dead.. literally dead. They don't move whatsoever and they all seem to be missing their eyes and just have black, empty eye sockets. Perhaps, Mad Dog Vachon was roaming through the arena "fish hooking" people's eyeballs out. I've heard a few stories about that being his "go to" move in a bar fight. Also, towards the back of the audience, there seems to be a hockey mask wearing, Jason Voorhees which could also explain the lifeless crowd.
The game play is kind of hit and miss. All of the wrestlers basically share the same move set aside from finishers, but that's kind of the way things went for games at the time. One nice touch is the ability to suplex your opponent over the top rope and then brawl on the outside of the ring. This is were the game play begins some of it's idiosyncrasies, though.
There is no count-out when both wrestlers are on the outside but as soon as one wrestler enters the ring, a 10 count begins for the other wrestler who is still on the outside. Another weird thing is that the falls consist of "4 counts" instead of "3 counts". Sort of a half-assed attempt at the famous King Kong Bundy "5 Count", I suppose. The ref doesn't actually count to 4 but he counts a fall as "1.. 2.. 3.. Pin!" with "Pin!" being the fourth count. I have kicked out in between the counts of "3" and "Pin!" many times and it just feels strange, like you somehow cheated the game. Aside from that; that's just not the way a pro wrestling match works, dammit!
Amusingly, if you lose your match, you see paramedics carry you out of the ring on a stretcher. If you win, you're treated with who I assume is Missy Hyatt, awarding you with a title belt. Regardless of the somewhat strange rule set and the possibilty of Mad Dog Vachon and/or Jason Voorhees roaming through the crowd, gouging out the audience's eyes and killing them (perhaps which actually makes the game more exciting), this isn't a bad EARLY handheld pro wrestling title. I do stress the word early there, though.
Later on, handheld games got much more involved but compared to the WWF Gameboy games (Superstars 1 & 2) and the other early WCW games released by FCI; this one stacks up pretty well. Not a bad time waster while waiting for an appointment or while on a cross-town bus trip. Also, it's a little rare nowadays, especially a copy complete with the box and manual (which I do not have, sadly). It's a shame how few people used to save all those boxes from their handheld games.
Until next time, keep mashing those buttons!