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Genre Spotlight: Wrestling Wassail

While Wrestling games usually seem to only come in handfuls, the Genesis actually had a bit more than that from which to choose. A few are even good enough to enjoy even if you think that “professional” wrestling on TV is just a plain waste of time (which I obviously don’t. Hey, I’m as I type this WrestleMania XXI is about to unfold!)

So, in honor of the upcoming Super Bowl of wrestling, here’s a little piece on what Sega’s 16-bit bad boy had to offer.

 

 Aah! Harimanda

We start off with the most realistic type of wrestling made into a game. Sumo wrestling has a long heritage, and this game actually does a pretty good job of imitating a real sumo match for the most part, something most wrestling games have trouble with, even if they can jump high the in air. I don’t know if the wrestlers featured here are real, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen one of them on ESPN 2 when they show Sumo tournaments. given the popularity of the sport in its native Japan, it’s understandable that the video game rendition would be so popular. Many Americans may not be interested in Sumo wrestling, but I wish this could have been brought over. It’s obvious, however, why it wasn’t.

Cutie Suzuki no Ringside Angel

Quite possibly the oddest wrestling game on the list (but only for the U.S. As I write this, the oldest Japanese women’s wrestling promotion is about to have its last show). Cutey Suzuki seems to be the Hulk Hogan of women’s wrestling. (I’m begging for correction if it’s needed). Pick her, or from eight other generic women’s wrestlers. If I could read Japanese, I’d probably read names I’ve heard of before. I was amazed by how good this game actually is, even if it’s mostly a button masher with most parts. That’s when I read it was by Asmik, the geniuses behind the “big 4” wrestling games for N64 (World Tour, Revenge, Wrestlemania 2000, No Mercy) The game has some stuff that was ahead of it’s time as well, like the replay after a match, and the announcing team. I wish I knew how the good the play-by-play actually was, because if seeing the two little heads in the corner just adds the right something to the game. Even with guest announcers like a little purple dragon and Colonel Sanders!

Saturday Night Slam Masters

With a name like Capcom, it’s got to be good! What starts out like just another fighter quickly turns into a unique game experience. You’ve got 12 different guys to choose from, all with assorted wrestling-type characters and stereotypes. The luchadore, the 500 pound behemoth, the mysterious witch doctor, the mysterious dirt bike driver, Mike Haggar, etc. The matches it’s self are done in the most unique way on the Genny. While it feels like a normal fighter, you’ll notice how it’s harder to fight when you’ve got ropes, turnbuckles, and the ability to just move down to dodge a punch (Not ducking). The grappling system is done almost perfectly, although being you’re able to escape grapples WAY to easily at times. The games even got weapons outside and a death match with friggen’ land mines outside the ring! Even though the SNES version is a bit better, this game was WAY ahead of it’s time. Capcom definitely went all out on this.

Thunder Pro Wrestling

Remember those old wrestling games for the NES? Well this game is just like it, except for the ring being turned sideways. I’m surprised this game was even released on the Genesis. Seeing that it came out in 1992 surprises me even more. You’d expect a title that came out four years into the console’s Japanese lifespan to look and play much better than this. Thunder Pro is a real step down for wrestling games, and it even lacks the campy charm of the WWF titles. It easily seems like something for the Master System. The controls are primitive, even though the moves can be pretty varied. I wanted to like this game, it being a wrestling game and all, but I still couldn’t find that much fun in it. I’d still recommended it because there are definitely people who’d like this game’s classic style.

Wrestle War

Here it is, the arcade classic which never made it overseas (which really sucks). You start out your career against an unnamed Mohawk man, and go on to wrestle all across America , winning and defending title belts. Wrestle various stereotypes of wrestling: Luchadore, axe murderer, face-painted giant, Hulk Hogan clone, etc. Even though Wrestle War can be easily won by just knocking down a guy and stomping 50 times, this game can still be so fun it doesn’t really matter. It’s pretty short though. Though it hasn’t aged well compared to the other games on this list, it’s still not clear why it was never released in the U.S. where wrestling is extremely popular. Considering that there were not other wrestling games on the Genesis at the time, fans would have had no choice but to pluck down their cash for this one.

WWF The Arcade Game

Like the name suggests, this is more of an action game than a wrestling simulator. Choose from the usual group of guys from ’94-’96 WWF (Undertaker, Doink, HBK, Bret Hart, and Yokozuna). This game is one of the worst button mashers in the bunch. Even with great graphics (Almost Playstation quality!) and music, the controls are real simple. Coming from Midway, the game was given button combinations for moves, much like Midway’s “other game” Mortal Kombat. The easiest way to win matches is mostly just doing constant run attacks and super punches until your opponents life bar is completely drained. The matches aren’t really that fun, especially when you could just be Yokozuna and continually toss everyone out of the ring until they die. With almost no match variety, you’ll be done with this one quickly, whether you beat it or not.

WWF Rage in the Cage

The Sega CD WWF game is a basic Royal Rumble/Raw game, except with a cage, and the obligatory graphical and audio upgrades. 20 competitors fight it out for the championship belt, and with four modes to go through, there’s more than a bit of variety here. The graphics aren’t as clear as they could be, considering this is on the Sega CD, and even the music is below par. The use of the six-button controller is a big plus for this type of game, though don’t expect to pull off any complex moves. The WWF games are pretty much button mashers with a nice button layout, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun! Honestly speaking though, I can see the need to cater to CD-owning wrestling fans, but there’s nothing here that stands out compared to the cartridge games.

 WWF Raw

The third and last Flying Edge game for the Genesis obviously is better than its two older brothers. You’ve got the audio and graphical upgrades (well, for most of the guys, ‘Taker only got a glove change, and Bret Hart is still the same). The biggest change is the inclusion of stats for each wrestler. Stats for speed, power, grappling, flying, and so on. This makes things a bit more challenging, and gives everyone a more personalized look and feel. Another improvement is the varied move sets for guys depending on weight. This means no 1-2-3 Kid body slamming Yokozuna. it’s not perfect though. For example, there is the problem of the 1-2-3 Kid hitting an X-Factor on Yokozuna. Not likely in real life. The game seems to get a bit more cartoon-like here; with the back-body drops making your opponent fly 30 feet in the air, and all of the special super moves which seem to defy simple physics. If there was any real complaint I have about this game, it’d be how a spot was wasted on Luna. Also of note is that the 32X version sported a pre-Savio Vega Kwang the Puerto Rican Ninja!

WWF Royal Rumble

Round 2 is a much better game than its predecessor, but it’s still not the best. Royal Rumble is the second Acclaim/Flying Edge title for the Genesis and has more wrestlers, more modes, and a friendlier feel. The graphics are bigger, and the ring is a bit easier to move in. The controls are VASTLY improved, simply by allowing the use of the six-button controller, even though every wrestler gets the same exact moves except for the finishers. This means that the game is still mostly a button masher, but at least it’s a lot easier to mash the buttons this time around. The music is better than the first as well. Of course, the greatest addition to the game is the Royal Rumble match itself.

WWF Super Wrestlemania

Sega’s first WWF game wasn’t the greatest game in the series, and has mostly been panned and ignored, with good reason. When I play the game, it feels as if I’m playing a beta of Royal Rumble, even though it doesn’t have the same wrestlers. Its graphics have scrunched-in feeling, and the game is hard to get into. It’s also a bitch to control. With no 6-button support, you’re stuck with barely a few moves to do (which aren’t ) much. It’s also way too easy to just do the simple punch/stomp 30x-pin “technique” to win all your matches. Not my favorite of the series, but luckily Flying Edge took what was wrong with this game, and fixed them in its next game.

 

 

Well, that’s it. It may not be the 20+ game extravaganzas and fiestas other genres have, but there’s still a fair amount of games here, especially with something as non-mainstream as wrestling.

P. S.: Wassail means banquet.

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