There is something natural and organic about wrestling games over the years. Starting off with the very most basic Pro Wrestling (which has been reviewed here), the games have developed into multi-faceted beasts with such advanced complex controls and game modes that would render the most fussy of wrestling gamers salivating with choice. It wasn’t always like this though, for professional wrestling (or should that be sports entertainment?) video game fans. Sometimes you had to just make do with whatever game mode the game developers gave you. Case in point? Today’s review – WWF Wrestlemania Challenge on the NES.
WWF Wrestlemania Challenge is a professional rasslin’ (Sorry, Wrestling) game released in 1990 for the NES and features nine of the hottest stars in the WWF at the time: Macho Man Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Ravishing Rick Rude, Brutus Beefcake, Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Big Boss Man, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and finally Yourself! Yes, for the first time in a professional wrestling video game you can play as yourself, but not being able to customise any part of the character. Still, it is a nice feeling that you, the player could go one-on-one in the ring with a wrestler and have a chance of winning. The point of the game, like any sport (sorry, “professional entertainment”) is to beat your opponent and win the match. How, well by mashing buttons and beating seven bells out of your opponent of course and pinning them for the win. Or, you could throw your opponent out of the ring, pummel them there and get back in the ring before the bell counts for 10.
When you turn on the cartridge you’re treated to a lovely visual of the Ultimate Warrior which to be fair graphics-wise is a good likeness. Yes the game was released in 1990 after such visual treats as Super Mario Bros 3 was released, but up to this point in terms of realism and graphics it wasn’t the strongest point of the NES. When pressing the start button you get treated to the first set of options, whether you want to play 1 player vs the computer, 1 player vs 2 player or 1 AND 2 player vs the computer. It’s great when an NES game allows two players simultaneously on screen but the added bonus of the two of you versus the CPU is an added treat. When you have chosen your option, you get to choose one of the nine wrestlers listed above and then what type of match it will be: Singles match, tag match or survivor series which is three-on-three. There is a variation between you picking Yourself as a character or a named wrestler. If you pick Yourself, one of the game modes you can pick is Super Challenge, consisting of you going against every wrestler one after the other in order to win. This feature is not available if you picked a named wrestler, instead the Super Challenge is replaced with a singles match against an opponent of your choice.
When playing the match, the camera angle is of an isometric view, favoured by such games as Marble Madness and Snake Rattle N Roll (both of which were Rare games, such as WWF Wrestlemania Challenge – sensing a pattern here…). As a result, when controlling your character pressing the right button on the d-pad makes your character go bottom right, pressing down on the d-pad makes your character go bottom left and so on. Personally, it’s not a favoured control scheme and would like the option of choosing whether you control at a 45 degree angle or 90 degree angle like you can pick on Marble Madness. However, the controls are more advanced than previous wrestling games at this point. The A button does a physical move such as a punch or headbutt and the B button grapples the opponent to a more advanced move. Double tapping left or right makes your character run and then do a running move by pressing A, and pinning the opponent is with the B button. So controls-wise it is a welcome improvement on previous incarnations. As touched upon earlier, graphics wise the game has gone up a belt (every pun intended) and look a lot better than WWF Wrestlemania. The characters have a resemblance to them and even in-ring you can see a likeness which does make you think you are watching Hulk Hogan or the Ultimate Warrior. The crowd do have generic faces but with different coloured hairstyles but it’s nice to feel you are preforming in front a crowd that isn’t faceless. You’ll notice a stamina meter as well on the bottom of the ring – every time you get attacked your stamina meter goes down. However by running around and attacking your opponent your stamina meter can be replenished. In some respects this is good as you have a chance of getting back into the match if you have been attacked but as a result this can lead to matches been longer and more drawn out which some gamers may not enjoy as much. It is difficult as this was one of the first wrestling games that had this feature so the decision had to be made whether the stamina meter goes down and never gets replenished or whether this does go back up over time.
So overall how does the game fare in the passages of time? To be honest, the fact the moves became more advanced, the graphics became better and the choice of nine characters to pick makes it one of the better wrestling games on the console. At times the game can be tough and challenging with no password option or save feature so it is a game with which you have to sit down in one shot and defeat the other eight wrestlers to become the best in the business. The game is better than WWF Wrestlemania from 1989 but is it as good as Pro Wrestling? That is a difficult choice, it comes down to whether you like playing as made up characters or those you recognise from the TV. It is the same question that football fans had when playing a game such as FIFA with real names compared to games like Sensible Soccer which had made-up names due to licencing. Overall though if you wanted to play a WWF game on the NES then certainly with the different game modes and different characters then this would be the game of choice to pick up compared to it’s previous entry on the console, and coupled with Pro Wrestling makes a great tag team of wrestling games on the NES.
Rating – 4 out of 5