Title: Legends of WrestleMania
Genre: Arcade, Wrestling, Sports
Rated: T for Teen
Remember those nights you spent on the edge of your seat, watching your spandex-clad heroes face off on the biggest stage of them all? Pepperidge Farm remembers…as does THQ. In honor of the countless heroes of the squared-circle, THQ (and developer Yukes) have teamed up with the WWE for Legends of WrestleMania . Instead of aiming at a simulation type gameplay a-la Smackdown vs. Raw, Legends sticks to a more streamlined, arcade-styled gameplay. Alongside a change in gameplay is an added emphasis on presentation, to better represent the legendary encounters that have made WrestleMania the number one sports entertainment event of the year.
GAMEPLAY – A major obstacle for Legends to overcome was drawing in that illusive segment of the casual market which has since abandoned their love of wrestling, and simply toying with nostalgia alone wouldn’t be enough to drag them in. Legends brings with it a completely new control scheme, eased up from the Smackdown controls so as to be more newbie-friendly. How simple are we talking? Forget triggers, right analog sticks, select buttons, this game uses on the four face buttons (alongside the left analog stick for movement, of course). With this knowledge in hand it would be easy to say that Yukes had dumbed down the control scheme, which is a bit of an unfair statement. Almost everything from the Smackdown series has been transferred to the game via various button combinations, streamlining the controls so as not to confuse a newcomer with the ridiculous amount of buttons found on your standard controller.
Upon stepping into the ring, the action is, as expected, simple. One button for strikes, one for grapples, the usual song and dance, but this dance has a bit of a twist to it. Did you enjoy God of War? How about those Quick-time events, did those pique your interest? If you answer was yes, you could be insane, but you will also be pleasantly surprised by the new chain grapple system present in Legends. By simply tapping the grapple button (with no direction), you will activate a cinematic sequence of grapples, in which the first person to tap a large button on screen will be rewarded with ultimate victory in the chain of grapples. Not only does this happen with every chain grapple, but also every signature, so I hope you like…big buttons. Thankfully, each wrestler has plenty of non-chain moves, so this new grapple system shouldn’t wear out its welcome too quickly. Of course, those non-chain grapples have the tendency to get repetitive, depending on the speed of your match. If it is a slow, grinded out encounter, with low momentum for each wrestler, you might see the same few grapples a good amount of times. Though, when the pace picks up, the movesets become more varied as you move up in the game’s tier system, which serves to replace Smackdown’s momentum bar, instead making for a multi-layered, longer, approach to building up a finishing move. Getting into higher tiers (there are three overall) also allows you to do taunts, which may increase attributes, or even regain lost stamina.
The main slogan for Legends of WrestleMania was “Relive, Rewrite, Redefine,” which represents the single-player portion of the game. In these modes you take some of WrestleMania’s greatest matches and either play through them the way they aired, with an alternate outcome, or with a completely different stipulation. Each match in the single player is introduced by an outstanding promo video, which does a tremendous job of pumping up the player for the ensuing contest.
Serving as the bright point of the single player is, unsurprisingly, the Relive mode. Here, you get to play through seven of the biggest matches in WrestleMania history, and try to replicate them as accurately as possible. For example, let’s take Hogan vs. Andre at WrestleMania 3. To earn a medal (which unlocks costumes, match types, and other assorted extras), you must recreate a handful of the match’s highlights. Body slamming Andre (and winning by leg drop) will add points to your tally, as opposed to just winning the match with a few jabs. One of Relive’s greatest strengths lies in the events that play on-screen when you complete a goal. What happens on screen is a very accurate representation of the actual match. Instead of doing a body slam and then building up a signature to finish Andre, your body slam will transition directly into a leg drop, just as it happened in real life. Similarly, when you give The Rock the stunner, his legs will bounce off of the ropes, just as they did at WrestleMania 15…and any other time the Rock fought Stone Cold. Seriously, what was the deal with that?
I am, however, much less optimistic in regards to the other two modes. Though each is still accompanied by a video promo, the match comes off a lot weaker without the presentational strengths of Relive. Since these matches have been altered, you won’t have the accurate depiction of a scenario, but instead will get a loose guideline of what might have happened. Having Brutus the Barber Beefcake beat Honky Tonk Man is great and all, but without the historical accuracy, it just ends up being something I could do in the exhibition mode. Though, then again, why would I be using Honky Tonk Man in exhibition mode? Redefine suffers from similar issues, but even more severe since these are matches that have been completely altered, with different stipulations to boot. Now you can know what it would have been like if Andre took on Big John Studd in a Hell in a Cell match, something that I’m sure has been wearing on your mind.
As all wrestling games do, Legends shines in a multiplayer context. There is nothing quite like taking on your friends in a good old fashioned Royal Rumble. While we are on the subject, I must admit that the Rumble matches in Legends are the best I’ve seen in quite some time, since the days of No Mercy.
GRAPHICS – Considering that Legends is a game which attempts to capitalize on nostalgia, you would figure that the graphics and presentation are top-notch. This is partly true. Graphically speaking, the wrestlers have been altered from their original appearances to be more exaggerated and action-figure-like in appearance; so as to further the game’s attempt to recapture the magic of late nights you spent as a child watching the Hulkamania run wild on anyone and everyone in sight.
Presentation, on the other hand, turns out to be a mixed bag. Entrances are phenomenal, recreating each legend’s introduction almost flawlessly (though, Hogan still doesn’t rip off his shirt). Once you get into the ring, however, presentation begins to falter. Though I feel the fights maintain a big-match feel, it’s hard to ignore some of the striking issues. When performing a running strike, you have to time it perfectly, or else your wrestler will just stop right in front of your opponent, how often do you see this happen in wrestling? Even the Nintendo 64 games had some sort of reaction when wrestlers bumped in the ring. Along with that, each wrestler has about three different strikes, and seeing those same three strikes does get pretty old. Not only that, but the strikes hardly look like they make any contact. These are petty issues, I’ll admit, and they don’t overall ruin the presentational values of Legends of WrestleMania .
SOUND – There isn’t much to discuss in the audio department of Legends, but let us start where every match begins, with the entrances. What else can I say about this…its entrance music, the correct entrance music, and it sounds great, did you expect any different. Crowd reactions to entrances could still use a little work, I feel like the crowd exploding when Stone Cold’s music hits is a big part of that nostalgia factor that THQ was clamoring for.
Play-by-play is present in Legends, and is still done by good ol’ JR and Jerry the King Lawler. It seems less annoying this time around, perhaps because their commentary is more withdrawn, and not rambling endlessly for the entirety of the match. It could also be caused by the game’s expanded roster, which can include over 70 wrestlers if you import from Smackdown. Pretty difficult to hear the same stories repeated over and over when you have 70 superstars to choose from.
LASTING APPEAL – As a single player affair, Legends will not last you a particularly lengthy amount of time. Each of the three modes will only take you a couple of hours a piece, and if you factor in the stat-building mode (for Created Legends), Legend Killer, that will only add about two hours onto your play time. Of course, the aforementioned Create-a-Legends will probably be enough to occupy many wrestling fans, nothing quite as appealing as creating yourself. Creating “Disco” Drew Robbins was just enough to verify my purchase of the game.
But let us be honest, when has the single-player ever been the main draw for a wrestling game? Much like, well, any wrestling game (except for Impact…), Legends thrives in a multiplayer context, especially in a local multiplayer setting. The online play is the same mode we’ve been getting in Smackdown for years, and it hasn’t been improved in the least, so if you didn’t like it then, you probably won’t like it now.
FUN FACTOR – It’s hard not to enjoy yourself when you are playing as some of wrestling’s finest on the grandest stage of them all. The Relive mode might be enough to verify a rental of the game, and the multiplayer is fun as usual, possibly good enough for a purchase if you have friends that are always up to thrown down in a Royal Rumble.
Sadly, the fun does come to a halt at times, specifically in the Legend Killer mode. Serving as an arcade mode, this requires you to take on a gauntlet of Legends in a row, in order to build up your created legend’s stats. Grinding stats has never been a fun endeavor, and Legends of WrestleMania is no exception to that rule.
THE 411 – Legends of WrestleMania makes good on the promise of a nostalgic experience, recreating some of the great moments in WrestleMania with the outstanding Relive mode. However, the single player, ringing in at only a handful of hours, isn’t enough to necessitate a purchase. On the other hand, multiplayer, provided you have the proper environment, can be a blast that easily makes this $60 well spent.
Graphics 9.0 Wrestlers are exaggerated for nostalgias sake, and entrances are near perfect replicas of the real thing.
Gameplay 7.0 Fast-paced and fun, though moves get repetititive.
Sound 8.5 Great entrance music (as you would expect), but commentary and the crowd could still use some work.
Lasting Appeal 7.0 Single player is ridiculously short, but mutliplayer could have you coming back for more, thanks to the improved Rumbles.
Fun Factor 7.5 Relive and multiplayer are a blast, the rest of the game…not so much.
Overall 7.5 [ Good ]