WWF No Mercy (Nintendo 64) review
"It is a timeless wrestling game -- one with a still faithful following, one with a generation of devotees steadfast that it has not yet been eclipsed -- that reminds us how mortal we are. "
It is a timeless wrestling game -- one with a still faithful following, one with a generation of devotees steadfast that it has not yet been eclipsed -- that reminds us how mortal we are.
It is not just the grim countenance of The Undertaker, a historic character that still chillingly looms over the sport, but the solemn reminders of stars that still should be. Eddie Guerrero. Chris Benoit. The Big Bossman. Test. The British Bulldog. The undercarders are represented by Crash Holly, the women by The Fabulous Moolah, the ghosts of the past by the unlockable giant whose untimely death once devastated the sport, Andre. It is just a dozen years later, but there are as many gone out of only a few dozen as there are from any Madden or Griffey or Courtside that WWF No Mercy would call its contemporary. Probably more.
It was a celebration of wrestling once. It was, definitively, the best title that landed in North America, backed by the patented THQ-AKI fighting engine that made it adored by fans. Before wrestling games were sloppy -- anyone that mashed five button combinations to perform a running lariat in an Acclaim spectacle can attest. But THQ-AKI games were methodical, with grapples, counters and reversals that ebbed and flowed the way the sport rarely managed outside of Japan. When players became too reliant on a technique, they paid for it. While the computer was tough, smart quick moves and perseverance won the day. It was challenging, like many great fighters, because it emphasized timing, while leaving enough up to chance to return to again, resolute and impassioned and looking for another fight.
Its imperfections were infuriating, but maybe there was no other way. Computer players scurried out of cage matches after just a few minutes. Story mode pitted players in two-on-one handicap matches around every turn. A casual slap to the back of the head ended too many Royal Rumbles. But all these complaints are just instances of a game rough around the edges, not bad at its core, and a fair fight wouldn’t have seemed like wrestling anyway.
Its strength was all that it did. The terrific create-a-wrestler mode, with entirely customizable movesets choosing from over one thousand maneuvers, allowing for any superstar to be emulated. There were pay per view events that could be staged with up to fifteen matches each, with hardcore rules and ladders, submission-only and iron man stipulations that would keep each card fresh. There were titles to be won, with storylines based upon then-WWF antics, and a 100-man survival gauntlet to be run. There was a mall full of costumes and additional trinkets to purchase with hard-earned success in these modes, adorning created wrestlers in mawashis and brahma bull tees. It was diverse, and it certainly tried hard to meet every wrestling fan’s desires, and anyone not satisfied still couldn’t point to a game that was better. It took years before any forerunner could knock it from its tower.
It’s a game for the die-hards that lives to this day. It doesn’t have the entrances and ensembles and evening gown matches the newer titles boast. And return trips are chilled by these ghosts of the past, these once great warriors that are mostly either gone or forgotten, but this was a celebration of their time, and their place, and they lived big and loud and this was the game they deserved -- the biggest. The memories are fond, and not forgotten, and approaching middle age men now wax nostalgic over times that were tumultuous and trying and fights where No Mercy was an applicable phrase. But we remember the greats that are no longer with us, and we pick up the controller to fight another day, because for some this is still the best game in town, and no one can tell us any other way.
Featured community review by Leroux (July 10, 2011)
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