Legends of Wrestlemania Review - May 6th 2009

HOGAN! AUSTIN! Ahem, Honkey Tonk Man… We cover the good and the not so good of Legends of Wrestlemania inside.

Lets face it, wrestling now is truly for wimps. Where there was once The Rock we now have Kofi Kingston (who?); where once a Stone Cold Steve stomped a thousand mudholes now stands The Miz (what?), and where once a big red machine called Kane lumbered, masked and intense, we now have, shudder, unmasked Kane (now bald and flabby).

It is to developer YUKE's credit, then, that they know exactly where the strength and appeal of professional wrestling lies – in its glorious and decorated past. There can be no doubt using the likeness’ of your Jake the Snake Roberts’, King Kong Bundys’ and Bret ‘Hitman’ Harts’, from their real entrance music to their attires, taunts and move sets, is a smart move. Don’t these figures, men that captured the imagination of 80’s and 90’s audiences – a youth which has since grown up and accepted the mantle of ‘core gaming demographic aged between 20 and 30’ - deserve recognition outside their spritey SNES wrestle-em-ups? Is Sgt. Slaughter not owed a virtual face-lift and belly-tuck courtesy of next-gen hardware (and the Wii…)? If seeing Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler is anything to go by, these men need all the help they can get. But does this game do them complete justice? Sadly, no.

It may be traditional, but who really needs fold up chairs to hit each other with?

Like the ill-advised comebacks of bell-bottoms, synthesizers and Sly Stallone, it seems also that 80’s interactive-movie-disguised-as-game Dragon Quest is making a resurgence. Honestly, how many quick-time-events have we seen in 2009 alone? First Madworld, then Ninja Blade, now The Rock all seem unable to perform their moves without a brainless and obtrusive flurry of unintuitive button presses. QTE’s are acceptable when the developer wants the player to perform a spectacular move impossible on the pad unless it incorporated a ‘kill a giant, mutated snail’ button and about a hundred others, but here its used in everything from irish whips to submissions.

After grappling an opponent who’s missed his opportunity to counter, it just doesn’t make sense to allow him 3 more bites of the cherry in the form of button presses before the move is complete. Yes, the pace is faster and the momentum is constantly changing, but you never feel in control of it all and this makes the whole scheme ineffective.

The harder they fall.

Not all of the in-ring gameplay boils down to an interactive cutscene however, and it’s in these moments when LOW is good enough. The context-sensitive moves - initiating an environment-based grapple depending on how near you are to a sturdy ring post or painful-looking outside ring area (those cushioned mats must really smart!) – as well as A-based grapples, work as well as they did in Smackdown vs. Raws’ 06-09, but the game never attempt to transcend its forbearers, feeling forever like an expansion pack or add-on.

Due to the lack of ‘Attitude’™ in the early days of pro wrestling (can you imagine Bret Hart driving to the ring in a beer truck?) there is a noticeable absence of backstage areas, weapons, and jumping off of really tall things. But then, the inclusion of contemporary iconography would ultimately detract from the nostalgic revelry the game strives towards.

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