Wrestle War review –

Developer: Sega    Publisher: Sega    Release: 06/28/91   Genre: Action

WWF Slugfest is one of my favorite wrestling games to this day. After suffering through so many terrible Acclaim wrestling games this arcade brawl fest was a breath of fresh air. Fantastic presentation and awesome mechanics made it one of the few arcade games that would tear me away from Street Fighter 2. Unfortunately it was never ported to any home console. I thought Wrestle War would be a good substitute but it was anything but. We did not miss much with this one.

Wrestle War was released in the arcade in 1989 with the home port coming two years later. It is interesting for a variety of reasons. For some inexplicable reason like Super Fantasy Zone it was never released in the US. And its roster is a bit suspect. The cast of wrestlers has clear expys of some of the most notable icons in the business like Hulk Hogan, Bruiser Brody, and Road Warrior Hawk. The Japanese version does not shy away from this while there are slight changes in the international version to cover their ass. But they are not fooling anyone.

As Bruce Blade your goal is to work your way through the ranks of the Sega Wrestling Alliance to become the undisputed champion. The controls are simple with a punch, kick, and grapple button. Wrestle War gives you a lot of moves depending on the situation. If you punch or kick the opponent enough they will be stunned. From there you can perform an Irish whip which can lead to a drop kick or clothesline. Grappling forms the basis of combat and leads to plenty of secondary moves like a suplex, body slam, and special moves. You can even perform reversals and stomp them when they are on the ground. The mechanics are there but the execution is what completely ruins the game.

The controls are incredibly sluggish and unresponsive. It feels like there is a delay after every button press which makes regular kicks and punches ineffective. That means you will lean on grappling which quickly grows old fast. Every lock-up becomes a button mashing war with the loser at the winner’s mercy. It isn’t necessarily hard to win every grapple but the sheer number you perform in each match will make your thumb hurt in short order. I realize most wrestling games use a system similar to this but it feels especially bad here. Maybe if you could climb the turnbuckle or do anything other than lock-up the game wouldn’t feel like such a chore to play.

Wrestle War 002 Wrestle War 003

Wrestle War uses a shifting viewpoint that grows annoying in short order. The default view is side-scrolling but grappling and other moves shifts it to an isometric perspective which is jarring. Bouncing off the ropes also creates another sudden transition and the perspective makes lining up attacks hard. These shifts supposedly make the game more dynamic but they are annoying first and gameplay breaking second.

Despite my issues with the gameplay Wrestle War is not a hard game. It is frustrating certainly but a bit easy on the default setting. As I’ve already mentioned winning a grapple is relatively simple. Slams and such do large amounts of damage and you can stomp for a decent amount after. If you are fast enough it is possible to drain half of your opponent’s life bar within the first thirty seconds. When the momentum shifts in their favor it can be just as painful. This usually happens because your thumb muscles feel like they are going to burst from all the mashing. The final two bosses are insanely cheap but nothing out of the ordinary for those accustomed to fighting games.

Multiplayer could have given the game a second chance at the shelf but has its own problems. Like many early fighting games player 1 is always Bruce Blade while the second player has access to the entire roster which is dumb. Having to alternate controllers to play around with the full roster is a design decision that has always baffled me. The difference between characters is not as pronounced as they should be. Outside of a finishing move and maybe one other attack they are all identical. The versus mode has a short shelf life as a result.

In Closing

Wrestle War is an exercise in tedium and frustrating. Outside of the vaguely familiar wrestlers the novelty of its gameplay is over quickly and you are left with a subpar product. Sega wisely left this one in Japan as it is no good.

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