Genre: Sports Developer: Sculptured Software Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1-2 Released: 1995
When one thinks of the Genesis and wrestling video games, the first thought that pops up is the Acclaim WWF trilogy. Super Wrestlemania, Royal Rumble, and Raw; all of which have their share of flaws but remain fun regardless. In the mid-’90s, Midway decided to release a WWF-based arcade game, using the same sort of digitized character model graphics engine which they managed to find massive success with using in the Mortal Kombat games. The end result was WWF Wrestlemania, which wound up being a hit and spawning numerous console ports. Even though the days of the Genesis were coming to an end, Sega’s 16-bit system got its own version (as did the 32X, which isn’t all that different from this one), and amazingly enough, it wound up being the best cartridge-based port of the game.
WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game features a handful of the wrestling organization’s top wrestlers at the time: Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Razor Ramon, Lex Luger, Bam Bam Bigelow, Yokozuna, and Doink the Clown; all of whom are nicely rendered and animated here on the Genesis. Unlike the Acclaim trilogy mentioned before, however, Wrestlemania opts for a super-over-the-top/Mortal Kombat style of fighting action instead of focusing on typical wrestling grapples and such. What’s even more surprising here is that somehow, it manages to work out very well. Between the Undertaker firing spirits and demons like fireballs to Bam Bam Bigelow’s flaming head butts, the game is a welcome change of pace instead of following the same archetype of wrestling titles in the past. The action that Wrestlemania offers is fast and frantic, and the totally over-the-top nature of it just makes it that much more enjoyable.
Voice clips from announcers Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler are included as well, and while they are relatively sparse compared to the arcade counterpart, their funny quips and dialogue are a nice touch. The game’s sound and music clips as a whole are pretty nicely done, as a matter of fact, and combined with the graphics engine, round out a very nice presentation package. The character models themselves aren’t as large or detailed as the arcade game, which is to be expected of course, but for what it’s worth, the end result here is pretty admirable.
One thing I often noticed growing up and being a Genesis owner is that if a game was released on both the Genesis and Super NES, nine times out of ten the Super NES version was the better one in terms of presentation and overall quality. With Wrestlemania, not so much. The Super NES version notoriously left Bam Bam Bigelow and Yokozuna off the character roster and also only allowed up to three characters on the screen at once. With this Genesis port, not only do we get all the characters, but it also allows four of them on screen at once. This may all sound trivial now (and it kind of is), but back then for me this was a huge deal. Not since the first Mortal Kombat game could I say that my Genesis got the better port, so this being the way it was then with Wrestlemania warmed my little pre-teen Genesis-loving gamer heart.
As much as I love Wrestlemania though, the game isn’t without its flaws. Even though the Genesis version allows four wrestlers on the screen at once, there is a noticeable degree of slowdown that occurs. It’s not much of a surprise that this is the case, considering these were the waning days of the Genesis’ lifecycle, and developers were really pushing what the aging console could do at this point. Also, considering that this was a game originally created by Midway, the same crew behind the secrets and Easter egg-laden Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam franchises, there aren’t really any extras to be found here. There were long rumors that Adam Bomb was a hidden character within the game, but I’ve never been able to find him, nor have I ever heard of anyone finding him in either the arcade version or any of the home console ports. It’s really just a personal minor complaint from me however, so it doesn’t take away any of the game’s overall fun factor.
All in all, WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game was a blast to play back in the mid-’90s, and it’s still a blast to play even today. If you’re a 16-bit wrestling game purist and have trouble getting over anything that isn’t quite like the Acclaim trilogy of WWF games, you may have some trouble getting the most enjoyment out of Wrestlemania. That being said, it’s kind of hard to say no to what basically amounts to being a nigh-Mortal Kombat game starring the best pro wrestlers the WWF had to offer of the ’90s era. It’s easy to track down and won’t cost you an arm and a leg on eBay, so do yourself a favor and check it out.
SCORE: 8 out of 10