Genre: Sports Developer: Sculptured Software Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1-2 Released: 1995
Something that could be done to describe the series of WWF games on the Genesis is simply paste the word “trilogy” on them and let it be. Here it would make sense, and may as well be done. It started with WWF Super Wrestlemania, continued with WWF Royal Rumble, and then ended its short life span with WWF Raw. In most cases, a trilogy has a first game that is good enough to warrant development of the second. The second game comes in and improves on whatever was wrong with the first and creates an overall better game. If this is successful enough, a third entry might be made as well. The point of the third game is to pretty much be the top of the series. Improve on anything the second game may have missed. Most likely, even if this works out and it’s a hit as well, the series usually ends.
The three WWF games are technically a trilogy in the sequential sense, but in a sense of how I’ve described it above it seems to miss the mark at times. Super Wrestlemania is easy to improve on. Royal Rumble came along and kept the same basic engine, but instead added more characters, fixed MANY graphical problems, added six-button support, and overall made Super Wrestlemania feel like a beta. When WWF Raw came along in 1995, there was no reason to believe that it wouldn’t be awesome! When it was released, it was well reviewed (well, for a wrestling game that is) and seen as a worthy successor to Royal Rumble.
Unfortunately, years later I’m still playing Royal Rumble while Raw sits politely on my shelf. Why is this? I can’t be 100% on why. I mean, Raw had everything! With stars like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage leaving the company, Raw was still able to put together a nice roster. Joining the fray now were Diesel, Bam Bam Bigelow (RIP), Yokozuna (RIP), 1-2-3 Kid, Doink, Owen Hart (RIP), and….Luna Vachon.
EDIT: I didn’t realize how many died until writing this. Damn.
Oh yeah, that could be a reason! I mean, sure the roster for the WWF wasn’t the greatest at the time (early 1995), but you still had people like Tatanka (who was starring on the SNES at the time) and the British Bulldog (RIP). Hell, Sid Viscious (Psycho Sid, Sid Justice, whatever his name was that week) was available at the time! They even ignored Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. What? He beat HHH at a PPV once! Match of his career. Literally!
Still, one thing that Raw has that pretty much wouldn’t be copied for years to come is the inclusion of actual stats for wrestlers! With basic speeds stats, and even stats for grappling and overall weight, this also makes it a lot easier to get good with a specific character, and have to learn all over again for the next wrestler, unlike before where everyone could body slam everyone else without issue.
Regardless, that could easily be seen as a small gripe, but considering who was around at the time, and how they still stayed with only twelve “Superstars” made some feel a little gypped at the time. It’s a mixed bag for the sprites even. Longstay Shawn Michaels at least got a costume change, and even The Undertaker got a glove change, but Bret Hart is EXACTLY THE SAME! I know there’s not much to change, but still, it seems like a little corner that was cut in development time.
Still, even with the roster being a little goofy, Sculptured added a whole new move set to the game! A problem plaguing the games before was that every character had the same moves regardless of who was being controlled. Now there was some variety! Depending on size, speed, and characteristics! Awesome! Yokozuna now can grab any superstar and slam all 894 pounds onto the chest of Doink the clown to their content! Diesel never hip-tosses! Now he can do a backdrop instead! 1-2-3 Kid won’t be DDT-ing Razor Ramon, but a quick-face slam fits much better! Look! Doink just… kicked Lex Luger out of the ring… like a field goal… with a penny whistle sound effect… What the hell.
It was going so well! These move sets make replayability a reality! And then you go and put in secret cartoon moves! Seriously! Shawn Michaels by this time was using the Sweet Chin Music instead of that back slam move from his Rocker days, yet he’s still forced to use it here. Instead of making a move where he picks up a groggy opponent and blasts them in the lower-jaw with a boot, instead you have a special button combo (secret of course, because they suddenly needed to be just like the fighting games of the day, for some reason) and Shawn spins vertically then kicks his opponent in the face as they fly ten feet out of the ring. Yeah.
Still, even though it’s a personal annoyance that these moves are included, I’ll admit that it took something “out there” to really make this game its own game, and not an upgrade to Royal Rumble. The moves made some people happy, and made others wonder what the hell was going on (course, I’m judging this from some kids in elementary school). It’s a reason though why this game isn’t going to touch a perfect rating.
The other things that matter are just how they should have been for a mid-’90s release. The soundtrack sounds pretty nice and actually has a few varying tunes for what you’re doing, instead of just the title screen and the wrestlers music. Your pictures for the wrestlers themselves even get a bit of an upgrade for the most part, even though I’m missing that live view from Royal Rumble’s menu screen.
RAW though, has one nice feature that still makes it a solid release at the end of the day. One thing that cannot be really looked down on is how many match modes it features to keep you playing! Basic singles and tag matches still are around obviously, and the Royal Rumble is still sitting around (with the ability to re-enter the ring this time!). Raw now has not only Survivor Series, which pretty much is the games team battle mode, and a Bedlam mode that keeps you on your proverbial toes (or it could just be thumbs).
Well, there’s not much else to say (Wow, this hit 1,000 words…). Overall, if you’re desperate for a good wrestling game, the Genesis actually has a few quality ones to choose from, and this is one of them! In the end, it makes a trilogy, and almost saves Super Wrestlemania. Almost.
SCORE: 8 out of 10