“Let’s Get Ready to Rumble…”
This is our first ever video game review on gwg.org, and just so you know I’m not making any of this up, here’s a synopsis of the storyline for this one, taken from IGN.com: “A sick and twisted half-naked scientist has decided to dress up like a nurse and hold an international wrestling tournament for the world’s greatest female grapplers. Once the women have entered, the evil doctor then takes samples of their DNA so that she can create a cyborg super-soldier to do her bidding for some unknown purpose. In the meantime, the mad puppeteer has also decided to brainwash all the contestants she’s met by turning them into an army of trashy, leglock-giving bad girls with skirts so short they should be called Smurfs.”
On the off-chance that you are not already whizzing out the door to your nearest electronics store to obtain this title, I’ll tell you more, but first a little background. I’m not a great computer game player, having completed precisely three in my life (Zork, Doom and Tomb Raider), but Chris bought me this for Christmas [how I love my wife!], so naturally I felt morally obliged to play it… The basic concept is straight out of Game Cliche Academy; a bunch of characters with various motives, get together to beat the crap out of each other in a range of interesting ways. See also Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Dead or Alive, etc. etc. The key difference here that while most offer a token woman or two, here, every character is female, which may be a unique feature for a Western release [there was an AJW game for the Playstation, but it was Japan only]
It’s kinda hard to decide whether this is feminist or sexist. There’s no doubt that these are strong, independent women who can kick ass with the best of them. Yet they also wear outfits which would prove structurally unfeasible in real life, and you could say the same thing about physical attributes resembling a multiple Zeppelin pile-up. Then there’s “mud mode” (left), which is exactly what it sounds like. Of course, this cheesecake aspect is far from unheard of: Dead or Alive: Beach Volleyball took the female characters from the beat-em-up game and put them in swimsuits to play volleyball against each other. Yet, its roleplaying aspects made that one a favourite with our teenage daughter as much as our son. That’s unlikely here, shall we say.
On the other hand, the in-ring battles are still a step or two more credible than anything I’ve seen out of a regular all-woman federation in the US [I did enjoy the Heatwave show staged by IZW here in Phoenix, which was a one-off event], and approximately ten miles ahead of the farce that passes for woman’s wrestling in the WWE these days. Admittedly, in terms of personality, they’re from the shallow end of the character pool – teacher, nurse, punk rock chick, etc – but again, this compares not unfavourably with the sole flavour, Silicone Slut, available in the WWE.
My playing-style is your average button-masher, but it took me only an hour or so to beat the game with my first character – there are ten to choose from at the beginning, and playing through story mode in each one unlocks their alter-ego. Play through all 20, and you can be the bosses too, but be warned: the voice acting is horrible, and the storylines positively wince-inducing. In addition, you can play straightforward exhibition matches, and carrying out certain tasks, known as “vows” e.g. winning inside three minutes, can cause characters to switch from good to bad versions too. A problem here seems to be that you can’t have both alignments active simultaneously, so you’re not able to have Reiko Hinomoto (nice) take on Rowdy Reiko (naughty).
The controls are similar for all the characters, but they have different move sets, so that adds variety. Personally, I sorely wanted a practice mode (like Dead or Alive, for example); as is, the only way to learn is in actual matches, hardly the best way. I remain clueless about blocking attacks, but muddled through, despite some annoying occasions where my AI opponent seemed to perform a lengthy string of attacks that I could do nothing to counter. On offense, successful moves gradually fill up your meter (the yellow bar at the top); each completion gives you the chance to perform a lethal attack. Computer-controlled fighters tend not to use it immediately; don’t make that mistake, as a lethality, followed up if necessary by a pin attempt, is a good way to win.
The graphics kick ass. An awful lot of polygons (I believe around 10,000!) go into each character, with detailed hair, costumes, tattoos, backgrounds and other refinements that look good even on the biggest TV set. However, when the wrestlers run, it sometimes doesn’t work at all. The music is pretty lame J-Pop, so you’ll probably rapidly find yourself turning off the entrance videos too. On the down side, as well as practice mode, we could have used tag matches, survival mode, create-a-character, a bigger range of locations… The options present here are pretty sparse, though in gaming I suppose it’s usually better not to be a jack-of-all-trades.
Still, with all the different characters, there would certainly be plenty to keep the dedicated completist playing. I’m not sure I’ll have quite the stamina to do that, and it’s more likely to be the kind of thing I pick up casually for half an hour. It is definitely a guys’ game – our aforementioned teenage daughter used the word “nasty” more than once while spectating – and contains enough elements to have Chris’s eyes rolling, such as the mud and gallery mode. But as a crass, shallow, mildly guilty pleasure, it’s great, and despite some obvious short-comings with the story and lack of variety, as a wrestling game, it’s actually pretty good. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I must go ice down my thumbs.
Platform: Playstation 2