WWF WrestleFest (Arcade) review
"The Back Then "
The Back Then
Wrestling was represented by just two major parties: The WWF, and the WCW. Each had its own popular stars to carry the company name. The WWF had Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, The Big Boss Man, and Sgt. Slaughter, to name a few. The WCW had Sting, to name even fewer. Neither dominated the “market” so much that the other wasn’t considered mainstream. They coexisted semi-peacefully.
I, being the simple-minded elementary school student that I was, was entranced by the outrageous personalities and grueling “battles” that made up the World Wrestling Federation. I knew very little arithmetic (this fact remains), yet I could recall, “play-by-play”, the event in which Hulk Hogan put his World Championship belt on the line against the equally devastating Ultimate Warrior, who held the only other single-man trophy, the Intercontinental Championship. Both belts were up for grabs, in a confrontation that featured superstar power of a blinding magnitude. No other two wrestlers were as adored as these two musclebound combatants.
If these events were of such an astounding interest to me, then it is no surprise that WWF WrestleFest, an arcade wrestler by Technos, had me hooked from the start. The epic clashes of the classic megastars could be reproduced at one’s will, for the mere price of a quarter!
WrestleFest is loud, and perhaps that is what makes it so appealing to a fan. The fighters are graphically massive; they sport their authentic gear and accessories; and they move about and perform tactics one would expect from them in a real squared-circle.
The presentation is brilliant, in its attempt at simulating early-90’s era wrestling broadcasts, which were simplistic themselves. A collection of some of the most well known stars fills out the roster: the tag-team Demolition, Mr. Perfect, The Million Dollar Man, Ted Dibiase, Earthquake, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, plus the above-mentioned stars, Hogan, Boss Man, The Warrior, and Slaughter. The cream of the crop are the unplayable Legion of Doom, who stand as the tag team champions and serve as a cool “boss encounter”. These names may seem obscure now, but in The Back Then, these were the recognizable names of champions.
After choosing between the two modes of play (The Main Event—a two-man road to the top, where LoD was in wait—and a Battle Royal, a last-man-standing thriller), one selects his wrestler or pair of wrestlers, and watches them walk down the aisle, to the tune of a fanatic greeting of adoration. The crowd is ecstatic as your selected warriors strut to the ring, pumping their fists, preparing to quarrel. Once in the ring, each was introduced, and the bell sounded.
Perhaps it is the sheer simplicity of WrestleFest that made it so approachable in my youth. With just two buttons—and the winner of a given grapple usually being the one who smashes the buttons most rapidly and persistently—the system was devoid of complication. They act as a punch and kick respectively. In struggles, one performs a maneuver (such as a bodyslam, suplex, or a piledriver), while the other sends the opponent into the ropes and bounding back. The first tactics you can perform are only the simpler ones, with the purpose of wearing your opponent down a bit. These types include slams, headlocks and punches, clotheslines, and the like.
As a fight progresses and the participants weaken, more impressive, hard-hitting methods come into play. Neckbreakers, piledrivers, various suplexes and backbreakers will become more frequent. Finally, once a brawler has been weakened enough, he is likely to be subject of his opponent’s trademark finishing move! These knockout blows generally decide a match. Mr. Perfect’s “Perfectplex” is, as the name would indicate, a near-foolproof match-ender. Hulk Hogan drops the legendary big leg after bounding off the ropes, crushing his foe’s chest. The Ultimate Warrior lifts his enemy high above his head and drops him after a short delay, unleashing a dreadful gorilla press. These are the memorable moments that identify the wrestlers themselves, and they’re all here.
A life outside the ring exists here, and for the usual 20-count intervals. The outside area has fences to run your opposition in to, and sets of metal staircases and gray boxes to drop onto their heads. The weaponry is fair play outside the ring, as there are no disqualifications.
The Battle Royal mode allows the player to select a single wrestler, throws them into the ring with three others, and demands that he survives the longest. Do not get eliminated—which, in this mode of play, includes being pinned, submitting, or being tossed outside of the ring. The last man standing after each character of the roster (as well as the Legion of Doom) has had a go at it is the winner.
The Main Event mode sees a pair of human-controlled wrestlers face off against four other teams, each becoming progressively more enduring than the last. Each match takes place in a new ring, the third of which is a surrounded entirely by a solid steel cage. Sending opponents into the ropes results in them being rejected coldly by the hard metal casing, and they end up on their back. This is the only non-cosmetic variation in surroundings, but an interesting, authentic one at that.
During play, semi-memorable background tracks beat along, adapting themselves to in-game situations. In the beginnings of matches, they are subtle, quiet themes, acting as a backdrop. Their intensity heightens dramatically should your wrestler’s health depreciate to dangerously low levels, however. And, throughout, a tolerable play-by-play announcer broadcasts excitedly every maneuver that occurs, attaching the name of the attacker to each short description.
The Legion of Doom waits nonchalantly, barking out threats into the microphone of the irreplaceable “Mean” Gene Okerlund, who impartially asks their thoughts as you knock on their front door, having eliminated all other challenges. Watching the champions bask in their own superiority, readying themselves to beat the living tar out of you—it’s an atmospheric thrill, right up from Mean Gene’s first question, to the antagonists’ ring entrance.
The Here and Now
Professional wrestling is unimpressive, and in shambles. What was once a brilliantly entertaining sport is now hampered with utter soap-opera garbage and disappointing, offensive, crude personalities. This thinking may be the result of my having moved on from the days when I found this sort of entertainment appealing; only now do I see its true horrid color.
But WWF WrestleFest is how it has always been. When given the opportunity to revisit it, it is exactly as I’ve remembered leaving it in The Back Then. It features the most popular, entertaining, inspired professional wrestlers that any major federation as ever seen. It hosts all of these superstar’s trademark tendencies, taunts, and tactics. Its simple gameplay gives it a certain frantic intensity during the later matches. As sure as the Legion of Doom yell into the microphone of “Mean” Gene Okerlund in the studio, waiting for you to arrive at the summit, WrestleFest will always be there for the nostalgic Back Then fan to embrace.
It has withstood the tests of time.
Featured community review by dogma (April 09, 2005)
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