WCW Wrestling

Welcome to the NES era, where the difficulty of 8-bit games often claimed the souls of young children.

None could be truer than the poor kiddo who unpacked this cool looking WCW Wrestling game. It’s wrestling, those are the Road Warriors on the cover (one of the biggest draws outside of the WWF at wrestling’s height) and this should be a blast…

Should be, because it wasn’t made by LJN.

It isn’t, because like every other wrestling game made during this era, its either:

  • Bugged
  • Too Hard
  • Limited By Technology

This is true of WCW Wrestling, which looks cool and lets you move all over the place, including outside of the ring with even an isometric corner view.

There’s also a nice roster of wrestlers to choose from, none of which as any special abilities than the other aside from how they look. Everyone’s here, including Ric Flair, Sting, Lex Luger, Road Warriors Hawk and Animal, Ricky Steamboat, and then maybe lesser knowns outside of the regional territory such as Mike Rotundo, Steve Williams, Kevin Sullivan, Rick Steiner, Eddie Gilbert, and Michael “PS” Hayes.

The boss at the end of the game is a generic masked wrestler called the “WCW Master”, who can be unlocked to play with. (He’s actually based on Andre The Giant’s character “Giant Machine” in Japan, as this game’s engine was originally released there as a totally different wrestling game.)

You can also customize your wrestler’s move set before the match. But good luck using it – or getting any offense in.

As was customary at the time, jamming on buttons was necessary to success. Jamming on them here, however, usually ends up in poor collision detection where you can never land a hit on the CPU controlled opponent.

Despite the custom moves, you’re relegated to kicking and punching – usually landing neither. Your character is at the mercy of watching the CPU do all of the cool stuff, and should you happen to get off of the mat or kickout from a pin attempt, you’re most likely hitting every button known to man as fast as possible, which pressing A+B makes you run.

Then you run into a clothesline. Or a dropkick. Or any other cool moves you can’t do, but the computer performs mercilessly.

Thankfully matches are timed. That will make sure you’re out of your misery soon enough, because no other power bars or meters exist that show you if you’re ahead or behind your opponent health wise. Nope, the only gauge which exists is when you suplex someone out of a grapple, a power bar which eventually lands on full power, flashes the screen, and allows you to execute your special move.

Well, not you, but the computer.

It’s almost as if you’re playing Mortal Kombat in the arcade and were lucky enough to win two matches. Guess what’s next? The cheating CPU that will suck your quarters!

Except there’s no quarters. And there’s no winning – unless you trick the CPU into getting counted out of the ring at 20!

I have a real love/hate relationship with wrestling games from this era, and WCW Wrestling is among the worst of them. While it presents itself as more of a pure wrestling game than LJN’s WrestleMania fare, it’s still a turd that should be long forgotten aside from the cool Road Warriors pose on the cover.

Avoid it unless you enjoy terrible video games.

ECW Hardcore Revolution

For the longest time professional wrestling video games were much like games licensed for blockbuster movies: the premise was great, but the actual end product was seldom passable.

The sport, er, sports entertainment, exploded around the same time as video games rebounded with the NES in the 1980s. A few commendable games appeared in the 16-bit era, but it was the jump to a 3-D landscape which set the new generation of wrestling games apart from the old.

Acclaim was at the forefront of the hot WWF license for the longest time, producing the popular WWF Attitude. But as noted to any wrestling fans, the late 90s were a huge war between the big two promotions: the WWF and WCW.

When WCW’s license jumped to EA, their former publisher, THQ, went after the WWF – this left Acclaim with no wrestling property during the genre’s highest period in history.

Enter ECW, or Extreme Championship Wrestling, a third outfit which was smaller than the other two mentioned, but was growing from a regional company into a national brand. Acclaim swooped in and made a deal with the company, in which they would repaint their WWF Attitude series over with ECW trademarks and characters.

Make no bones about it: that’s precisely what Hardcore Revolution is. A rebadged WWF Attitude.

That could be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. For the WWF, THQ just rebranded their WCW vs. NWO World Tour game into WrestleMania 2000, with some enhancements, and it was wildly popular.

However, Hardcore Revolution was already built on what I felt was janky controls and sluggish gameplay to begin with.

Yes, it’s the N64 blocky characters, which was amazingly advanced for its time – but so much else about this game just feels more like a punch/kick brawler than a smooth-as-butter wrestling experience witnessed elsewhere.

Moves don’t really chain together well and you’re left with the feeling of those 8-bit and 16-bit button masher wrestling games as opposed to something “revolutionary”.

I will say that having the ECW theme to open the game will give you goosebumps. The amount of game modes and customization (including custom PPVs and create-a-wrestler) is more than aplenty to appease gamers looking for variety.

The roster or wrestlers, including some that can be unlocked, is a laundry list of most ECW mainstays too.

Usually, the fun in each of these games was watching the wrestlers’ entrances – and this is where the steam starts to run out for ECW’s title, as the company used a lot of cover bands to replay popular music hits. Those songs were unable to appear within the game and instead, you get the equivalent of a dubbed out, modified version for nearly every character.

The rest looks appealing – and the camera angles are a different approach than what you may see in other wrestling games of the era.

Yet, there’s something about ECW Hardcore Revolution that just seems off. That’s why I’m giving it a middle thumb – there’s some nostalgia and fans of WWF Attitude won’t mind the experience duplicated with ECW wrestlers.

But I didn’t care for Attitude either, so that’s why I’m somewhere in the middle of not being in love with this game.

WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game

What do you get when you take Midway’s trend of digitizing Mortal Kombat actors and NBA Jam players with the sports entertainment goliath then known as the WWF?

You get Vince McMahon saying “boomshakalaka”!

And no, that isn’t a joke!

Back in the 90’s it was still a somewhat guarded secret that the WWF’s head announcer was also the owner of the company. So naturally, when Midway created a WWF arcade game, Vince’s voice was added to it.

As was the case with several series around this time, the Sega 32X ports were among the best of the bunch, as Midway fully supported the add-on to the Genesis. The added hardware power allowed for the full roster, much of the voice details and more to be fully ported from the arcade version, making for a more definitive port than what was a stripped-down Super Nintendo sibling.

The gameplay itself could be a love/hate relationship.

Make no mistake, this was an arcade game. It’s also pro wrestling, which can be called a rehearsed male soap opera at times, but this title took it over the top.

For example, when Bret “The Hitman” Hart got slammed to the canvas, cartoonish hearts spill out of his body.

The Undertaker goes full “dead man” gimmick with ghoulish apparitions and overtones.

Bam Bam Bigelow has flames as part of his repertoire and so on.

It makes for an appealing visual style but also takes away from what could’ve been a more serious wrestling game in the vein of the excellent WWF WrestleFest (or it’s lesser known cousin, WWF Superstars).

Instead we get a more “arcade” style button masher complete with cheap AI tactics.

And while I’m on my rant, why isn’t there entrance music with the wrestlers until after you win a match? That seems a bit backwards and is one small detail that really derails from this being higher on my list of favorite wrestling games.

In fact, there was no sequel made to this game to my knowledge either – maybe it wasn’t the commercial success they had hoped? Maybe it was just too wacky? Or maybe wrestling was entering a down period in the early 90’s and people lost interest?

Either way, if you’re a wrestling fan who also loved the Midway style of games during this same era, you will likely enjoy this game. If you’re a wrestling purist looking for strategy, this isn’t it.

If compared with an NFL game, WWF WrestleMania is more like NFL Blitz than John Madden Football.

WWF Super WrestleMania

After dealing with the limitations of the 8-bit era pro wrestling games, WWF Super WrestleMania came along and blew everything out of the water during the 16-bit era.

Interestingly enough the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo had different versions of the same title: this one reviews the latter which had a larger roster, and obviously better graphics and audio as opposed to the competition.

The graphics, audio, gameplay, roster and everything just about trumps any of the NES era WWF games. When you first start the game, however, LJN had to keep their logo onscreen until you hit the start button – a minor annoyance but one found throughout the game at times.

The next step was your traditional start menu, which then led to an amazing discovery that you could play with not only tag teams, but a four-man “Survivor Series” style match as well.

You select a difficulty level next and then get to choose from one of ten wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan, the Macho Man, and the Road Warriors – the rosters were the main difference between the two games, as the SNES was lacking the popular Ultimate Warrior. Aside from Hulk and Macho, both versions only shared The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase as well.

Otherwise, the available wrestlers were vastly different, including the Undertaker, Sid Justice and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, plus two tag teams: the aforementioned Road Warriors and the Natural Disasters.

Ring introductions looked cheesy, but the fun, if you will, begins after the bell.

The visual life bar was a major help in the new 16-bit era, but everything else was ramped up – with more buttons on the controllers themselves, you were now able to do much more with your wrestler, such as running or climbing the ropes.

You could even brawl outside of the ring, but beware of a count-out! (Heck, let’s gone one further: there are announcers ringside and a referee in the ring!)

Yet, and quite honestly, this game still suffers from the “pickup and play” issue most pro wrestling games do. You often grapple with your opponent, a commonality with the 16-bit era games, but in Super WrestleMania there’s no “tug-of-war” bar to know who is getting the upper hand.

You’ll often come out of the grapple with a simple headbutt… or if you’re close to the ropes, you might throw your opponent over the top rope.

There were no signature moves in the SNES version, which is a bummer – you’re pretty much stuck to suplexes and body slams. However, the character selection menu has a nice treat. If you stay on one wrestler for a few seconds, their entrance music plays.

This was likely a “killer app” type of feature back in 1992! (I know it was when I was a kid!)

Overall, this was a step in the right direction for the wrestling genre, but it still lacked the ease of mastering. Grappling appears to be related to AI cheating, and figuring out how and when to pin your opponent meant matches lasted 20 minutes or longer in some cases.

There are better wrestling games on the platform, but then again, in 1992 this title was groundbreaking. It’s worth having a look just for the progression from Super WrestleMania to the next games in the series.