WWF Rage In The Cage
"Brace yourself! A supercharged lineup of Superstars collide in this ultimate World Wrestling Federation slugfest!"
I was really excited when I first saw the Sega CD. It was yet another thing I never owned but used to rent from Speedy's Video on the weekends. For a few dollars and a security deposit, I got to take home the "next step in video games." Some of the FMV games like Ground Zero: Texas and the notorious Night Trap were hard to control but still novel enough to keep me entertained. One weekend, while renting the Sega CD for the 1,000,000th time (give or take) I saw this game on the new release rack. Of course, I was dying to take it home a give it a shot!
WWF Rage In The Cage was released exclusively in North America by Arena Entertainment (a/k/a Acclaim) on December 21, 1993. It's programmed by Sculptured Software, whom, if you're keeping track, is responsible for programming a lot of classic pro wrestling games... and also some that are not so classic. I think that this game is often times overlooked compared to some of the other pro wrestling games released around the same time so, I was excited to check it out again after all these years.
Rage In The Cage starts up with a nice theme and some full-motion video of WWF Superstars in action. Because this is the Sega CD, though, the FMV is poor quality, in different shades of monochrome, and only plays on a small square in the middle of your screen. Nowadays, it looks pretty rough. If I grade it fairly, though, at the time it was amazing to see any sort of real footage used in a video game! It also goes on for quite a while if you let it keep playing.
The wrestler select screen is nice with real images of the superstars from which to chose from. It also gives their "tale of the tape" as far as height and weight go. After this (or more accurately, prior to this; I jumped ahead and forgot to mention this part first), you can choose your match type. The options are one-fall, brawl (No DQ), tournament (the classic "chase the title" mode that all of these old games have) and steel cage match. I guess we could have assumed as much or else the title of this game wouldn't make much sense. It's interesting that although there are three, fairly famous and fiercely formidable tag teams featured in this game (Money Inc., The Headshrinkers, and The Nasty Boys), there's no option for any sort of tag match. That's definitely a step down from the 16-bit era games where you had options for tag team and Survivor Series style matches. The roster here is much bigger than those games, though -- 20 superstars -- so, I guess that's a plus.
Before the matches start, we run into the very first "loading screens" I ever encountered in my years of playing video games. It was different when I encountered them. I won't say I was annoyed because I sort of blindly accepted right away that they were apparently going to be a part of the "next generation of gaming," but still, I didn't know quite how to take it.
This game, in its graphics and gameplay, is basically a spiritual successor to the 16-bit WWF games so I don't think the loading screens have much to do with the actual games as they do with having to load Howard Finkel's introduction and the superstars' pre-match trash talk. That's right, this game had actual introductions by The Fink and actual audio of the wrestlers talking smack back and forth. That was a first for me! Well, aside from Tony Schiavone shouting catchphrases in WCW Superbrawl for the Super Nintendo. Here, the actual audio consisted of full sentences.
As I mentioned, the look and gameplay of this game is basically the same as the 16-bit era WWF games that were featured on the SNES and Sega Genesis. That pretty much means if you enjoyed them, you'll probably enjoy this one as well. It uses the same "tug-of-war" button mashing system to pull off grapples. The move sets for the wrestlers are pretty similar but of course, some changes were made and moves added to make up the signature moves of all of the superstars involved that weren't included in the previous games.
Oddly, I feel this game looks more like the Super Nintendo ports of the 16-bit WWF games as opposed to the Sega ports even though this is played on a Sega console. It just looks particularly "crisp" like the SNES games did. Perhaps the programmers realized the graphics previously used on Sega consoles looked inferior and since the Sega CD was more powerful than the Genesis, they could improve on the graphics a little. Regardless of the reason, it looks really nice.
You can still see whom I assume to be Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon doing commentary at ringside. I mean, it's definitely "The Brain" but Gorilla is harder to distinguish. You can even see a "Hulk Hogan" superfan in the audience. I'd suggest that it's perhaps "Tye Dye Guy" but I believe this was before his rise to gimmick fan super-stardom so... probably not likely. Still, there's someone out there in the virtual audience showing a lot of love for Hogan.
Oh, by the way, if you play through the tournament mode and win; you get to see your chosen superstars picture on the cover of WWF Magazine as the "New World's Champion." Then you get to see the credits with personal appearances by the staff at Acclaim. Man, not that there's anything wrong with it but, they REALLY enjoyed putting themselves into their games whether it's secret characters in NBA Jam, audience members, or just cameos in the credits. They made sure you knew who they were and what they looked like. I guess they were striving to be more than just a name that you don't bother to read in a line of credits that you don't bother to watch. Makes sense.
I'd say that since this is Rage In The Cage, we should probably play through a cage match and see what it's like. That's just what I did but I'm pretty sure you guys know already, the cage doesn't add much. It changes the rules of the match a little, obviously. Technically you can throw your opponent into it but it's just not that exciting. Back in the day, I'd much rather play something like a Royal Rumble match as opposed to a cage match. That's just me, though.
All in all, this is a fairly decent game. I mean, I had fun with it. It could be better but it could also be much worse. It improves on the WWF games at the time on some levels but on some, it takes a step back. It's a very good, lesser known companion piece to those games, though. For that reason, I'd say give it a try.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!