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< Part one
My Choices: 5 – 1
The final five, so let the drum roll begin:
I recently praised this title highly in my review, and this marks the second Ryland and Grey Dog title to make the list. As mentioned in the review, to the untrained eye TEW’07 looks like a mere rehash of the ’05 version. The title maintains the fictitious world of both TEW’05 and the Wrestling Spirit titles, and with this Grey Dog has created a great central hub, crammed with so much detail the player almost feels an active part of it. The availability of modifications to change the roster to a real world scenario is now an option, but given time the ‘Cornellverse’ will more than warm to the player, because of this sheer amount of detail and the backstories that are there to be discovered.
The two main modes of play, like I have mentioned for WreSpi, offer different ways in which the game can be tackled for both those wanting a challenge and those seeking a less taxing affair, offering greater longevity as players seek to try different scenarios and options to obtain different gaming experiences. The ratings and grading system in place in the title make it easy for the player to identify with the wrestlers and federations in the fictitious world, making it easy to establish what kind of challenge to undertake, whether it be the huge federation or a smaller under dog. With the challenge of maintaining a companies mantra, through both the wrestlers you hire, the styles of bout and the way in which everything is booked, the title heaps in different facets of decision making to be upheld. The learning curve can be steep, but with the option of Free Style, and its lack of goals, the title is still accessible to those who do not immediately warm to the difficulty levels in place.
TEW 2007 deserves its place on this list, and as highly as it does for these reasons of course, but the primary reason is because of the successful world that Grey Dog has created. The sheer depth to be sought, through the histories of the individual roster members, each with their own likeness realised, and the history of each federation in the game, make the title something to be dug through to seek every nook and cranny of information available. All this benefits the experience, and never makes it a downside that there are no real wrestlers here in its original state. The scenarios and updated rosters that can be downloaded suit those players that do not embrace this rich world, leaving no reason for players not to experience and then enjoy this title.
Fire Pro’s debut outing on the GBA was an under appreciated gem in terms of sales, mainly because of the fickle nature of people rejecting it through it’s lack of a marketable license. Depth is a word I have been frequently thus far, and it is something I feel is key when passing judgement on a title, as if you get more bangs for your buck then of course there is much more likely the title will stand the test of time. Fire Pro GBA need not worry on this account, the sheer customisation the title offers settles this alone from the offset, with tons of moves available to be assigned to the 66 available spaces for grapplers of the players creation. Federations can be created, already featured roster members retired, names edited and histories adjusted…everything can be tweaked to the players every whim.
But most importantly, Fire Pro concentrates on the opposite side of the tracks when compared to the WWE and WCW titles that have appeared over the years; over storylines and fancy fare, Fire Pro concentrates solely on the key word in it’s title, wrestling. This can detract away those non-wrestling fans, without the glitz to allure their interest, but this matters little, as Fire Pro was never intended for their worship. The Audience Match is still for me, the greatest match type ever featured in any wrestling title to date. Essentially doing what it says on the tin, the player has to grapple the way in which the Audience dictates, changing the way in which one thinks and strategise their play and can be linked to what allures wrestling fans to Adam Ryland and Grey Dog’s wrestling titles, with a depth of trying to suit the audiences whims and put on a great bout rather than simply seeking victory in a similar way into which EWR encourages the player to be proud of their booked feuds.
Fire Pro’s key success is that with its grappling system it forces the player to be precise and skilled to achieve, rather than resorting to button mashing which can be utilised in the SD titles for example. It is a title that forces the player to consider, and more importantly care about how they play. It makes the title a technical fans dream. The utilisation of a statistical system that actively changes the way in which the wrestlers perform in future bouts is also inspired, with wrestlers losing strength or even their head based upon how many armlocks or powerbombs they have been subjected to in past bouts. Again this forces the player to consider how they play and adjust and tweak their strategy in order to maintain victory. It can be a title that is difficult to get the jist of at first, but it never sets an unfair plateau that is unreachable, and always inspires the player to persist and get the best out of the title.
The original, and still arguably the best in the wrestling simulation collection of titles offered by Mr Ryland and his Grey Dog team; EWR makes it’s appearance onto the list at number three. The support shown still today for this title, with the game still being played by the masses and modification packs to update its rosters still being bandied around, just cement the fact that this is a title to be reckoned with. The vast range of real world federations and roster members gave the title a depth that still places it as a title in many regular gamers collections today, and this title acted as the ground base from which Grey Dogs future titles were all built and without its influence it would not have helped Grey Dog to progress to the level that they have.
Offering the chance to play owner of a federation is the wet dream of most wrestling fans, in the way football fans got the same kick from Sports Interactive’s Championship Manager series. But what sets EWR apart from its competitors in the field such as Promotion Wars, was the wealth of options available to the player to tackle the title as they saw fit. The player being allowed to choose where and how they started made the game instantly replayable, as players set themselves either the challenge of playing the big dog, or the small upstart promotion; each offering their own challenges and changes to the way in which the game had to be tackled. Where the fun, skill, and challenge lies in this title, is not only in increasing your company’s popularity, but getting your workers over and keeping the fans happy. That means adhering to using wrestlers similar in-ring styles and booking feuds to suit the audience. This addition of maintaining morale in order to achieve the best possible bouts and hence raise the ratings and fan base, while being a no brainer is an inspired touch which was not present other titles around.
In addition to the vast number of wrestlers and federations on offer, the included file editor allowed for the player to customise however they saw fit. To couple with this, the ability to download new scenario’s to either set the player a challenge of saving World Championship Wrestling from its death bed, just add so much more longevity to the title, making it still more than viable today and in some peoples eyes a more playable and addictive title than Grey Dogs more recent efforts. The most important aspect of EWR and its success was that it introduced to the market a title that suited the whims of nigh on every wrestling fan, the ability to be in control of their heroes and their booked careers themselves. With the introduction of EWR, fans could prove to themselves, their friends, and their online buddies that they, indeed, could produce a better show than the McMahon’s, and utilise their favourites to their fullest. The dream of a self-created federation was now a reality that could be realised over and over in a variety of different ways and scenarios through the power of text and simulation.
The first love of many a wrestling fan, particularly those of a WWE affiliation. It is still gracing the Internet world thanks to the joys of emulation, with new modified versions being passed around with the additions of newcomers to the wrestling world. Tantamount to its success has been this longevity, with the title still more than playable today and still converting those to the cause that did not witness it in the N64’s heyday. Maintaining what was achieved with Wrestlemania 2000, No Mercy set a standard bare for WWE titles that still hasn’t been realised to this day.
The Season (or as it is called here Championship) mode alone set a good standard, and offered the intriguing aspect of having to lose some matches in order to reach some of the branches of storyline that are inaccessible otherwise. Throwing bouts to discover something new as intriguing to say the least, but with the mode allowing every title to be got at more importantly it offered great depth. The addition of stipulations to title defences, such as hitting your opponent a specified amount of times with a weapon added a new way in which the game had to be tackled, offering a deal of strategy unseen in other WWE titles. Titles like in the early SD series, and now returning in the later SD titles, could also be defended in exhibition mode.
The key nuance to No Mercy was the actual game mechanics. The controls were inspired, and felt at home on the N64 pad. It did remain pretty much the same as its predecessor WM2000, but this was no bad thing as most aspects were honed. The damage system to date still stands above the newcomers, even despite the likes of Yuke’s taking it into their SD series. Only Def Jam, made by an EA Chicago team comprised of most of AKI/Asmik’s main players from developing this title, has come close to achieving what was set here. The counter/reversal system was also a great achievement, although it did allow for the button bashers to get a stronghold rather than being fundamentally down to timing.
The sheer amount of unlockables in the title, all for purchase from ‘The Smackdown Mall’ just added that extra glean of polish, and when coupled with the comprehensive Create A Wrestler mode, the title offered too much for even the most hardcore of gamers to get bored of. No Mercy is the definitive WWE videogame incarnation to date, and is still unmatched to this day and still holds its own against the flashier next generation fare.
1. Fire Pro Wrestling D (Sega Dreamcast)
Big variety of match types, depth, hugely customisable CAW mode… you would be forgiven for gendering back and thinking that this has already been mentioned in the analysis of Fire Pro GBA, and you would not be wrongly inclined to think so. Yes it was only available on Import too, which meant unless you were fluent in Japanese it could be a tough challenge to translate some aspects, but despite this, Fire Pro D still stands apart from it’s wrestling cohorts. The 2D graphics engine remains from its Turbografix origin (as now featured on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console) even despite its jump to the more powerful Dreamcast, but they significantly improve upon in both animation and detail to the previous FP outings. As has been mentioned in the GBA outing, the amount of customisation available from changing names, to creating Federations to altering those retired, is here to an even greater level in the Dreamcast incarnation. Even as far as being able to create custom logos for created and already present wrestlers on the roster.
The gameplay mechanics in Fire Pro D are what put it at the top of the proverbial mountain for the many worshippers of the franchise. Maintaining the great ground base left by it’s predecessors, Fire Pro D added a vast range of new gameplay elements and features that took the title that peak above. One of these is the addition of shoot fighters to the roster, offering more variations of the play offered before and allowing for a new style of play to be established.
The Dreamcast’s online mode also offered the ability to exchange wrestler details and to download more moves to add to already vast catalogue. This upgradeable aspect allowed for the generic Japanese placeholder names for those potential license infringing wrestlers on the roster, and encouraged a feeling of community togetherness with players working together to create the most unique and enjoyable rosters. All unachievable on titles with lesser depth and customisation, with levels here on a par with the Grey Dog titles, but adding to this mix an actual in ring wrestling affair, something that Wre Spi seems to aspire to, but Fire Pro actually achieves.
Fire Pro D is a title for passionate wrestling fans, developed by fans, and offers everything and more that a fan could want from a wrestling title. It deserves to find it’s place in every wrestling videogame collection, and certainly deserves some sort of port outside of it’s Japanese home. If you could experience just one title above any other, Fire Pro D is the title to be chosen and it is why it finds itself at the top of mine, and many others list.
But will Fire Pro D find itself at the top of the Wrestling 101 Wrestling Game Sections Readers list? Keep tuned and all will be revealed in the near future. And look out in the very near future for the worst wrestling titles list. Keep tuned on the Video Games forum for news of how to vote for this list, or you can jump ahead of the queue and email me your choices now. Thanks for reading, and I hope it has at least introduced a few people to some new titles that can experience and enjoy as much as I have myself.