"Raw slams your senses with 24 megs of the most ruthless mat mayhem ever! The hottest superstars, all new superhuman mega moves, and more in-and-out-of-the-ring action stand between you and the championship belt. This is Raw... and RAW IS WAR!"
I wanted to take a look at a game that I spent a lot of time playing, back in the mid-90s. I'm not saying it's the most classic of all wrestling games out there because that would be far from true but I believe a lot of you guys probably spent a lot of hours playing it just as I did so, why not take a fair look at it and give it it's due.
WWF Raw was developed by Sculptured Software and released by LJN. It seems like these two companies were responsible for all of the WWF games on the Super Nintendo and they did a decent job on them. I know it's become a fad over these last few years to shit on LJN for the quality of their games but, to be honest, as many bad games as they made; they've made an equal amount that I like.
I, for one, particularly love their NES "horror trilogy" of Jaws, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare On Elm St. Some don't share my enjoyment of these games but one thing you can't argue about is that LJN released some of the best 16-bit pro-wrestling games that we got here in North America at the time. Don't get me wrong; Japan was light years ahead when it came to great puroresu games but we never got any of those released here, back then.
This was also the last "button masher" the WWF presented us with, which is nice. Thankfully, we never had to use that playstyle again, after this game got released. Back then, I could overlook the button-mashing aspect of the gameplay because that's what we knew, at the time. It really is an annoying style to revisit, nowadays, though. There's a very good reason that even retro-themed wrestling games "socially distance" themselves from that style of grappling now. To use a pro wrestling term - it's the shits.
WWF Raw was released across multiple platforms but the SNES version was the one I always played so it's the one that I'm taking a look at today. The game starts up with a decent rendition of the classic RAW IS WAR theme along with some very blurry digitized graphics. I'll let the devs slide on that, though, because they were just trying to give us a "realistic" show opener for the game, and honestly; digitizing real footage on the SNES was never pretty. Somehow, Midway always did it beautifully with their Mortal Kombat series but most game developers struggled with that style.
Once we get past the show opener; everything looks great! A lot of detail went into designing these various legends of the squared circle and the roster is pretty stacked for the time. We get our choice of 12 of the top Superstars of the era. Highlights for me were always Owen Hart, Razor Ramon, 123 Kid, and Luna Vachon. I actually played a lot as Luna in this game because I always liked her a lot as a fan. One of the best and toughest female wrestlers of all-time! The only Superstar that I feel like I'm missing out on here is "Macho Man" Randy Savage. He was apparently exclusive to the Game Gear version of this game but I've never gotten my hands on a copy of that particular release. Perhaps one day.
Each Superstar has their own move set along with a finisher and a Mega Move. I'll be honest; I was unaware of these Mega Move's back in the day and I'm kind of glad that I was. They're over-the-top super moves that do a lot of damage but break any sort of realism that the game has going for it. Forget Mega Moves; my favorite thing to do was take a page out of Snagglepuss's book and "exit stage left" in order to pick up a metal folding chair from ringside and then proceed to bash my opponent over the head with it, repeatedly. Okay, maybe I had some issues but weapons were a really seen thing in pro wrestling games of the era and it was a part of this game that I always particularly enjoyed.
There's also a pretty good variety when it comes to the match types presented here. You can have singles and tag matches, a Survivor Series match, and even a Royal Rumble. Royal Rumbles were always my favorite type of match to play during the 16-bit era. This game also features what is called a Bedlam match. This is basically a tornado tag match in which you have to pin both of your opponents in order to get the win. Not a bad touch to add a slight bit of variety to the gameplay. I also indulged in this match type many, many times, back then.
All in all; i had a fun time taking another look at this classic. It has always been my favorite out of the "WWF trilogy" of 16-bit games that they released during the era. Nowadays, sadly, it struggles to hold my attention for more than 15 minutes or so but, back then, this game was truly the pinnacle of WWF games of the time.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!