Patrick Hope: The greatest games ever staged
I am the game, and you do not want to play me. Finally, Welcome to Bonus Stage has come back to Our Town. And this week we’re celebrating a new year of sorts.
You see, Wrestlemania XXX was this past Sunday, so it’s a new year in the pro wrestling world. And that means it’s as good a time as any to discuss the best wrestling games ever made.
Those four games are “WCW vs. nWo World Tour,” WCW/nWo Revenge,” “WWF Wrestlemania 2000,” and “WWF No Mercy,” all developed by AKI and released by THQ.
The four games, which were released between late 1997 (“World Tour” even came with a poster for the disaster that was Starrcade ‘97) and late 2000, are easy to group together as all are based on the exact same fighting engine. Every character has an array of striking and weak grapple moves to soften up your opponents, and then a set of stronger grapple moves when you want to go all “Here come the pain!” on them.
Of course, the highlight for any wrestling fan was going to be the signature special moves, which you only were allowed to use when you powered up your spirit/attitude meter to the max and were ready to unleash such destruction that JR would probably yell to stop the match. And in all four games, the finishing maneuvers for every wrestler are present. You’ll get to feel the bang with Diamond Dallas Page’s Diamond Cutter, go coast to coast with Shane McMahon, and if you want to do the Steiner Recliner, Big Poppa Pump is definitely your hookup.
And these moves actually look pretty good! Undertaker’s Tombstone actually looks like the Tombstone instead of the two wrestlers just kind of getting put together in a blob and it’s infinitely better than having his special move be shooting ghosts from his hands. That actually happened in one game. It was strange. Giving the feeling of actually controlling your favorite wrestlers in a match is a huge part of any game in this genre and an area where these four games never disappointed.
Another area which always impressed me was how all four games built on each other. One of the most common complaints about franchises today is that each release is just the previous one with a new coat of pain.
Oh, it’s true. It’s true. But each game added new options.
“Revenge” put in entrances, managers and a much larger roster. “Wrestlemania 2000” added actual entrance music, a full career mode and the vaunted create-a-wrestler. And “No Mercy” finally threw in unlockable moves and ring gear, a story mode with actual storylines and new modes like a ladder match, which also served as an effective TLC match. You’ll never be so excited to yell at D-Von to get the tables.
And any discussion, especially of the two WWF games, has to include something about the create-a-wrestler function. These two games were the first to actually let you create a wrestler from scratch. Unlike previous games, where you got to customize appearance to some extent, but were always left taking an existing wrestler’s moveset wholesale, you had full control here.
You could load up on the most powerful moves and make your guy a juggernaut, which I may have done with my own character, Dr. Pat, who dominated with his finishers, the Hope Diamond and the Patmission.
Or you could create other real wrestlers. Or you could create celebrity characters. My “No Mercy” game definitely still has Bill Clinton as a created wrestler. Let me tell you something, brother, the sky was the limit here.
Now, by today’s standards, the presentation in the games is lacking. There’s no online play, obviously. The wrestler models don’t exactly hold up. The Titantron videos will likely hurt your eyes. And the customization options are far less comprehensive than modern wrestling games. But these games are still insanely fun to play. I fired up “No Mercy” only a couple weeks ago and beat the tar out of Road Dogg with Stone Cold.
These games are like little time capsules of one of wrestling’s most popular eras and, all nostalgia aside, completely torch their more modern counterparts in pure fun. And as sports games, kinda, they only cost a few bucks. So pick them up now.
And that’s the bottom line.
Hope is a Dickinson attorney and video game enthusiast. To read more of his video game columns, visit http://bonusstage.areavoices.com.