World Championship Wrestling
WCW (World Championship Wrestling) was released in April of 1990. It was released a year earlier in Japan with a different roster of wrestlers and was known there as Super Star Pro Wrestling. The game was developed by Nichibutsu and published by FCI/ Pony Canyon.
It's the only game to feature the NWA )since WCW was still a member at the time. The cover even states "featuring The Road Warriors and stars of the NWA"). The Road Warriors are also the only wrestlers to appear in both versions of the game as they were also popular in Japan around the same time. Shortly after the game was released, they left for the WWF. I remember, just like with WCW Superbrawl Wrestling, walking into Speedy's Video store and being so excited when I saw an official WCW wrestling game with the baddest tag team around on the cover to top it off!
I rented it right away and although I never owned the game back then it became a frequent rental and one of my all time favorite wrestling games. It's far from perfect but it's still pretty good even to this day so, let's check it out.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND: The title screen opens with digitized speech and crowd noise, and speech is also used in other parts of the game. The title theme isn't particularly good (or bad, really) - just sort of "there".
If you don't push start and let the game go into it's "attract mode" then it will cycle through the roster with a picture and short bio of all of the featured wrestlers. Speaking of the roster, the one here is very strong with top stars like Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Lex Luger and Sting. It's also pretty unique because it features several wretlers that for one reason or another, never made it into other wrestling games like Kevin Sullivan, Eddie Gilbert and Michael "P.S." Hayes.
When the matches start, the ring is a light blue color with a red ring apron and turnbuckles. The ring apron also features the WCW logo. You can tell that the developers were going with more of a simulation feel to this game instead of the colorful, arcade style of SEGA's Pro Wrestling or Tag Team Wrestling. All of the wrestlers faces look very good and the move animations are a lot smoother than some of the games that came out a few years prior to this one, but all of the wrestlers share a form of the same simple ring attire. I don't know if that was a carry over from the Japanese version or if someone was lazy, but they all look alike. Black trunks and various colors of tights to cover their legs. I took note of this pretty quickly when I first played this as a child but then just shrugged it off. I was still just excited to play as one of my heroes, Kevin Sullivan, so it didn't bother me too much.
Just like Tag Team Wrestling, you only see the referee at the start of the match and when he pops back into view to make the counts. One nice feature is, depending where you are in the ring or the ringside area, the game uses several "camera angles" to follow the action. Just a small touch to make the game that much more presentable.
Going back to the sound, even though te title screen music isn't particularly great, the tune that plays during the matches is pretty catchy. Also the theme for the final match with the "WCW Master" is very good and it sort of reminds me of Jaws which is fitting considering how huge the WCW Master is.
GAMEPLAY: The gameplay here is standard in some ways, yet unique in others. There is only one mode of play available, which is basically a rudimentary story mode where you fight your way through the whole roster a few times and then face the WCW Master (who is kind of an unbelievable character in a roster full of real life wrestlers). His stats and his size are huge in comparsion. It takes away from the realism and simulation style play a bit but as a kid I actually never got that far in the game and didn't realize he existed until much later.
By the way, when I speak of realism in these old games, obviously the graphics are lacking by today's standards but at the time, some games attempted to be more realistic then others and you can see it in the presentation and gameplay. Oddly, the game features no tag team mode even though The Road Warriors were featured on the cover.
After you choose a wrestler, you can pick four moves from a possible eight. which helps to vary things up a bit in long play-throughs. At least you can change your moves from time to time. The matches start in the traditional way of striking your opponent until they hunch over in a vulnerable state and then you can execute one of the four grappling moves you've chosen or irish whip them into the ropes for additional moves. All of the grappling moves feature a power meter that goes up and down and if you can time it right, then your move does more damage. The power meter's maxium damage also goes up as you wear down your opponent. There are also high flying moves from the top turnbuckle and you can brawl on the outside with a wrench available as a weapon.
Finally, each wrestler has their special "finishing move" that they can do in the middle of the ring after their opponent is properly worked over. All around good controls and a really balanced job.
VERDICT: No game was perfect in the old days. They were all missing something. One game might have nice looking colorful graphics but might not play as great. Another game might look terrible but be much more fun to play. Classic games like NES Pro Wrestling and this game are lacking a tag team mode, whereas WWF Wrestlemania Challenge had a tag team and even Survivor Series modes but it wasn't quite as well put together.
Point being, taking all wrestling games from the 8 bit era as a whole for what they had and what they were lacking, this still ranks among the best and is still a personal early favorite of mine. I give it 3.5 stars and for the record, I don't think I'll ever be quite able to experience the feeling of walking into Speedy's Video and seeing The Road Warriors looking at me menacingly from the shelf across the room again.
Until next time..... keep mashing those buttons!