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Today, I want to take a look at what may be the greatest arcade wrestling game of all time. It is by far my favorite and the one I played the most throughout the 90s. I seemed to run into it everywhere. Reminds me of a time when you literally did run into arcade games everywhere. Nowadays, you have to search out an official arcade and even those are dwindling. Back then, you could find arcade cabinets at laundromats, convenience stores, grocery stores... Ah, the good old days.
WWF WrestleFest was developed and released by Technos Japan in 1991. Technos is one of my all-time favorite developers responsible for classics like Super Dodge Ball, Renegade, River City Ransom, and Double Dragon. They also previously released another WWF game that I've reviewed in the past - WWF Superstars.
With WWF Superstars, Technos wanted to give the feeling of actually watching a WWF program which is why they included cut scenes including (poorly voiced) versions of Mene Gene Okerlund, Andre the Giant, and Ted DiBiase. Here, they expanded on this idea by adding more cut scenes and even ring introductions by Mike McGuirk. Sadly, the cut scenes in this game are still poorly voiced by people who are obviously not the real WWF superstars themselves. It's one of the few low points of such a fine game. These cut scenes featuring Mean Gene interviewing the "boss characters" The Legion Of Doom a/k/a the Road Warriors. Aside from the poorly done voices; the developers didn't even get the superstars' catchphrases correct as Animal spouts out Hawk's famous line, "we snack on danger and dine on death."a
Aside from LOD, the rest of this game's roster is filled with more legendary superstars. The entire roster includes returning superstars to the series, Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Ted DiBiase, and Big Boss Man alongside "newcomers" like Jake The Snake Roberts, Earthquake, Mr. Perfect, Sgt. Slaughter, and Demolition. Sadly, Hawk and Animal aren't technically playable characters (just boss characters) but there is a trick to play as them. If one player plays the game until the point where you wrestle LOD, then another player can join and play as LOD. If that player wins the match then they can continue to play as LOD until they lose. Pretty cool loophole they left open. Also, if you do play as LOD, you find out Hawk and Animal have twice as much of an energy bar as everyone else in the game. Really comes in handy when stomping down your competition.
Apparently, Technos had wanted to include The Undertaker and Warlord in this game which would've have been nice additions. For whatever reason, the WWF declined to allow them to be included. Technos was also apparently adamant about including Earthquake because he was a hugely popular sumo wrestler in Japan previous to his WWF career. At least they got their wish of including him here.
WrestleFest looks and plays a dream - arcade wrestling bliss. Technos Japan's graphics have always been top-notch and that's the case here as well. There are even nice little touches like the entire screen seeming to shake whenever Earthquake jumps around. Yeah, you can tell that the folks at Technos really were huge Earthquake marks -- but who can blame them?
WrestleFest sports two different modes - you can choose to participate in a Royal Rumble or you can compete on Saturday Night's Main Event which comprises the "story mode" for the game. Here, you create a tag team consisting of two superstars, unless you want to play as Demolition. For some reason, Demolition is only selectable as a team and can't be teamed with other wrestlers. I guess Smash and Crush weren't into sharing.
After you choose your team, you then compete against other combinations of superstars until you are granted a title match against LOD themselves. Every few matches or so, you get to compete in a cage match. The cage doesn't really add much but it looks kinda cool and it's another little touch of variety to this classic game. Even during the regular matches, you can take the action to the ringside area and use various bits of plunder (as the late, great Dusty Rhodes used to call it) to pummel your foes. If you're able to defeat LOD, like most arcade wrestling games, you have to do the whole thing over again after which you'll be presented with the game's credits featuring digitized pictures of all the superstars on the roster.
I had a really great time revisiting this game. Truly one of my all-time arcade favorites regardless of genres. If you've never played it; you should seriously go out of your way to check it out. If you have played it then you already know that anytime would be a great time to play this classic again.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!