Nintendo Entertainment System
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The company Rare is responsible for making a lot of games over the last 30 years are so; a majority of them are classics. Donkey Kong Country, Banjo Kazooie, Perfect Dark, even going back to the early 80's with the Jet Man series, just to name a few.
One thing they could never get quite right was a decent wrestling game on the NES. They had a fairly long partnership with the WWF in the 80's and early 90's and they made some pretty good games for the Super Nintendo but their NES contributions were fairly weak. To quote my favorite WWE YouTube show "Are You Serious", the Wrestlemania series on the NES was #garbagejuice for the most part.
Regardless, it is my duty to play through these games so let's see if there's any treasure among the trash, because here we do like the theme song from The Facts Of Life - "You take the good, You take the bad. You something, something..." Okay, so maybe I can't remember much of the song but you get the general idea. You can't appreciate the good without having something bad to compare it to every once in a while.
First, the cover is pretty cool. Hulk Hogan in mid "shirt rip." That was enough to get you hyped to play in 1989, especially because this was the first WWF game for a console. The very first WWF game was MicroLeague Wrestling that was released in 1987 for the Amiga and Commodore 64 computers. That was also a simulation game that was more like a turn based strategy game than a wrestling game.
Hogan on the cover and Hogan on the title screen; who would have guessed. Can't fault them for that though, they knew where the money was. The title screen also features the tag line "Bigger, Better, Badder" which was the same tag line used for Wrestlemania III. The odd thing is though is that this game was released almost two years after that event and was being used to hype Wrestlemania 5.
One positive thing is the themes for all of the wrestlers sound good; what few there are anyway. There's only six wrestlers available but there's some cool, unique choices like Bam Bam Bigelow and The Honky Tonk Man along with the usual standard choices like Randy Savage and Andre the Giant.
As soon as the match starts, I'm reminded of two things. First, the ring ropes appear to be gone from the bottom side of the ring which reminds me of when Onita and FMW would remove the ropes from certain sides of the ring and put dangerous gimmicks at ringside to throw your opponent onto. I can't help but think that if that were the case and this game featured explosions or broken glass, it be would be a little bit more exciting. I'm not saying all wrestling should feature such things but this game needs SOMETHING going for it.
The second thing I noticed is that there is no crowd so apparently all of these matches are "empty arena matches" like the one Jerry Lawler had with Terry Funk (or The Rock had with Mankind if you'd prefer a slightly less older reference).
There's only one on one matches available in this game; no tag teams. There is, however, an option to play out a tournament with up to six players that could be somewhat fun if you had some friends around. There are many more fun games to play with friends than this one, though.
The matches are mostly "punch/kick". They should have put Bruno Sammartino in the game since he held the WWWF World Title for years just by using this style alone. Every once in a while I could pull off a body slam or a running move. I don't think you can Irish Whip your opponent in this game, but you can run at them yourself and do a running attack. Bam Bam's patented Cartwheel attack used to be my favorite.
The game does try to be realistic in small ways. For example, Andre and Bam Bam can't do top rope manuveurs and Hulk Hogan is the only wrestler able to body slam Andre The Giant. Every once in a while during a match a "power up" for a specific competitor will bounce into the ring (or through the ring would be more accurate). You have to be pretty fast to grab them usually. The power ups are unique looking for each wrestler. Hogan has a cross. Honky Tonk Man has a musical note and so on.
Hopefully I don't sound like I'm hating on this game too much. Some people may have fond memories of it. My only memory of it was renting it one weekend for a "sleepover party" when i was about nine. We all tried to play the tournament option and got bored fairly quickly, if I remember correctly. Even some games that came out on the NES a few years before this one were better in most people's opinion. Pro Wrestling would be one such game.
So far I've reviewed the only WCW NES game and 1/2 of the WWF NES games and I think it's pretty safe to say that no matter who won the Monday Night Wars years later, the 8-bit wrestling war was dominated by WCW, but to each his own.
Until next time.... keep mashing those buttons!