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WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game (Sega 32X) artwork

WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game (Sega 32X) review

"For wrestling fans, WrestleMania defines the sport. It is the single biggest event in the calendar, and, for more than a quarter of a century, has promised big matches, big celebrities, and a few hours of quality sports entertainment. "

For wrestling fans, WrestleMania defines the sport. It is the single biggest event in the calendar, and, for more than a quarter of a century, has promised big matches, big celebrities, and a few hours of quality sports entertainment.

Yet whenever the Pay-Per-View extravaganza is represented in a video game, it always felt slightly hollow, underselling what is known as 'The Showcase of the Immortals'. WWF WrestleMania on the NES in 1988 offered some graphics of a previously unseen standard, but its match engine was extremely limited and offered nothing resembling a wrestling match. Its successor, WrestleMania Challenge was more fun to play, posessing superior depth, but its awkward isometric view made navigating your grappler difficult. A version was released on the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 in 1991, hampered by a tiny roster and virtually zero immersion.

This version was initially distributed as an arcade machine game in the 1994-5 transition, and was subsequently ported onto a number of platforms from the Mega Drive to the PlayStation to the PC. It promised faster and more entertaining grappling than any wrestling game had offered in the past. With the wrestling game genre in the state it was at the time, you would think it wouldn't be difficult to wipe the floor with its predecessors.

They were right - playing the game is much faster than any wreslting game that came before. All of your superstars can move around the ring with such ease, and moves are performed with more fluidity than before. If the game followed in the footsteps of such well-designed and deep arcade games such as WrestleFest from half a decade earlier, there would have been little room to go wrong.

Sadly, Acclaim almost appear to have taken the WWF brand and more or less replicated their Mortal Kombat series to a tee. While there's no disputing the Kombat series' popularity, this really isn't what would be expected for a World Wrestling Federation game. The action conveyed on any given Federation show bears no correlation to a Mortal Kombat clash. It fits into the arcade theme relatively well, but doesn't bond well as a console purchase.

The port looks lazy for a number of reasons, and falls short of all the console games before it. Every match is a two-out-of-three-falls match against the clock, and basically revolves around you mashing your controller and hoping for the best before your opponent flattens you with a series of moves you could only dream of pulling off. The aim of the game is to beat your opponent until their energy level is empty (if the time limit expires before this occurs, the win is handed to the superstar with more energy). They will then crumple the to mat and stay there, allowing you to go for the pinfall - there's no count from a referee, it automatically counts as a fall scored. The controls for the game are frustratingly obscure, regardless of which version you are burdened with. Like Mortal Kombat, it features the troubled system of performing a series of keystrokes to perform even the most basic of 'wrestling' moves in this game. There's also the chance to perform a 'weapon' attack by hitting A+B, and running is triggered by A+C, then a running attack from another corresponding button. The rest of the combinations have been forgotten; this was enough to beat the game in itself, anyway, and suggests that, really, there's no point in mastering the controls anyway.

The sheer exaggeration within the game is something which is fun for a while, and would undoubtedly endure on the relative infrequency of playing on an arcade machine, but before long, the novelty wears off. Throughout the battles, you will see The Undertaker evoke bats from his fallen opponent, Yokozuna 'bleeding' salt and fish, and Lex Luger managing to put his hands together and come crashing down with the head of the Statue of Liberty! This is only the beginning; every wrestler has their own outlandish moves which, while an effective way to emphasise each given character's gimmick, just ends up becoming frustrating after a few minutes.

If you can cope with the hurdles the game continues to throw at you in this way, there are two modes for a single player - Intercontinental Championship and World Championship. Each follows the usual structure of match after match, again signifying that not a whole lot has been done to this game between its death in the arcades and resurrection on consoles. As the matches go on, you're gradually pitted against more and more opponents, up to a huge 'WrestleMania Challenge' which is effectively you against every superstar in a 'battle royal'. This is a welcome departure from the usual preliminary bouts and is actually quite a compelling challenge, harking back to the WrestleFest Royal Rumble mode, except much faster.

The critique of the graphics, is, of course, skewed towards which version of the game you're playing. Here, on the 32-X, it is on par with any other game. Only the Mega Drive version is graphically inferior - but still it looked far better than any other wrestling game seen on the console. Yet it still seems a waste to offer only eight superstars, particularly on more powerful versions; in 1995 there would have been a colourful pool of superstars who could have been added, such as Owen Hart, The British Bulldog, even one Hunter Hearst Helmsley. This would add more variety to the game, as well as making it a semi-credible advance from the arcade game.

Using the impressive Mortal Kombat look, it means that every superstar looks almost photo-realistic in this method of presentation. Every grappler moves akin to their real-life counterpart and some of the more realistic moves are performed just like they would be conducted by said superstar in any WWF match. While music is similar to Raw, there are impressive implementations of speech and sound, with frequent comments from Vince McMahon and Jerry 'The King' Lawler throughout the bout. A decent feature, which, if a little repetitive, works well to represent Federation broadcasts.

This game may retain some of its appeal if you continue to use the two-player feature. Here, you can choose either to duke it out against each other, or take on random pairings of the superstars as a unit. This adds more to the fairly one-dimensional game and gives it a significantly longer lifespan.

This doesn't salvage the game, however, and its general lack of longevity, lack of superstars, and lack of realism means it's no competition to WrestleFest or Superstars, even as an arcade game - and WWF Raw is a much more faithful console recreation of a good old fashioned World Wrestling Federation scrap.

WrestleMania: The Arcade Game just doesn't last on a console. It's disappointing, because, with the smooth animations and good recreations of its roster on the entire spectrum of consoles upon which it was released, you get the impression that, if Acclaim had a crack at a straight-edge wrestling game rather than just a port of a lacklustre arcade game, with a few more game modes, it would have been impressive and might have even given us a reason to master all those taxing combinations.

Little did we know that Acclaim would be back the very next year, with an even more bizarre concept...

Louisutton's avatar
Community review by Louisutton (August 13, 2010)

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Leroux posted August 13, 2010:

Reading these old wrestling game reviews has been awesome and really brings back memories. I loved the bit about how out of place Luna Vachon was in WWF RAW because I remember thinking the -exact- same thing about the game. This one is spot on too: there just wasn't enough for this game to have staying power.

And I'm especially excited about the cliffhanger... it's admittedly a game I've never played, but remember reading about.

Staff Request --
I noticed this game has the wrong cover art while browsing around. I'll submit the replacement if someone could delete it (and HG can feature the icy stare of a constipated Hulk Hogan).

Edit: Genesis version too.
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zigfried posted August 13, 2010:

Cover arts deleted, correct away!

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Leroux posted August 13, 2010:

Much thanks.

Edit: Strange. They didn't take.
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Louisutton posted August 14, 2010:

Many thanks for the nice comments! :) A review of In Your House should be coming as soon as I can track down my PSX disc...

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