WWF Road To WrestleMania
Game Boy Advance
"Heartache, Glory and WWF Mayhem! Various match types including cage and hardcore. 24 WWF Superstars with entrances and finishing moves. Use weapons to defeat opponents. Battle it out with four players!"
I've said before how much I love handheld wrestling games just for the simple fact that you can take them anywhere and use them as a "time killer" for whatever need may arise. Nothing makes a doctor's appointment at least slightly less stressful and annoying than to be able to Rock Bottom a few jabronis while waiting for your name to be called.
WWE doesn't have the greatest track record for releasing quality, handheld games, though (although I did love my PSP version of Smackdown vs Raw 2007), so we'll have to wait and see if this "Road to Wrestlemania" is paved with gold or just wasted potential. If I had to guess, I'd say the latter but we shall soon find out...
WWF Road To Wrestlemania is one of the many pro wrestling titles released by THQ and it was developed by Natsume. Previous to this game being released on November 18, 2001, Natsume developed at least one decent wrestling game. I mean, Natsume Championship Wrestling on the Super Nintendo was alright. That was almost 10 years previous to this release, though. It might not have even been the same team of developers at this particular point in time. This also happened to be the first WWF games released for the Game Boy Advance and the last one released for the system before the WWE name change.
When the game starts up, the title screen and menu music isn't bad. Nothing really impressive but not bad. I can't say the same for the superstars' entrance music, though. Those are mostly horrible. I understand the limitations of the hardware but if they could get a clear sample of The Rock's voice for the beginning of his theme; they should have also been able to make it sound a little better. Most of the superstars' themes don't even sound like they have the right "tone" or they're not in the right key or something. They all sound sort of high pitched. Also, the entrance video and theme of the Undertaker seem to be from his "American Badass" biker gimmick (I always have to mention how much I disliked "Bikertaker") but his ring attire looks more like classic 'Taker. Thankfully, I might add.
This game does sport a fairly hefty roster of 24 superstars to choose from. Superstars like Kurt Angle, The Hardys, APA, Tazz, Kane, and even going so far as to include Raven. There's also a lot of match types and game modes to choose from including a Royal Rumble match although, considering the roster limitations, you have to settle for a 24-man Rumble as opposed to 30. That's still a lot better than the 6 or 8-man Royal Rumbles we all had to settle for on the 16-bit WWF games. The "season mode" here is particularly well done with animated, digitized images (early gifs, perhaps) of Mr. McMahon and the various superstars interacting and cutting promos on one another to further the story along.
Once we get past the questionable entrances and theme music and start a match; the graphics look pretty good for the most part. The superstars' faces look a little "muddled" and not quite right but the crowd is detailed and looks very well done. We get treated to more annoying music that plays through the matches but thankfully it's not quite as bad as the various superstar themes.
Now we come to the most important part of any video game and also the part that hurts this game the most; the controls. I understand that the GBA has a limited number of buttons that can be used. One button strikes and one button grapples. That's not the problem, though. The problem is that the grappling system seems to be broken. You can only pull off a successful move every so often. Most times, when you lock up with another superstar, you just end up releasing the grapple instead of actually doing a move.
It gets pretty frustrating. I would even venture to guess that I'm doing something wrong or that the grapples are timing based like Fire Pro Wrestling but if you let the AI wrestle itself and just watch the match; it ends up having the same issues that you do. Most grapples just end up being "dropped". That's what leads me to think that the grappling system is actually broken somehow. A little sad considering that on the surface, this game seemed like it could be pretty decent.
This game isn't the worst ever but the broken grappling system almost ruins it. Most all you can do is punch, kick, and hope to land a bodyslam every once in a while. I wouldn't necessarily avoid this game at all cost but if you've never played it; you're not missing out on much.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!