Reviewed: May 6, 2002
Released: December 4, 2001
I’m probably the last person who should be reviewing this game, as I find the entire “sport” of wrestling ludicrous. To me, it’s all about the scripted drama and egomaniacal “actors” – not athletes – who star in this 21st century circus.
Despite my opinions I cannot ignore the fact that millions of people do find some sort of attraction to wrestling, and that many of the participants have evolved – literally – into high-profile stars of film, TV, and magazines. And while today's fans all know the Rock, Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Kurt Angle, there are millions of thirty-something fans who can remember an entirely different breed of wrestler. These were the founding fathers of the WWF; these were the Legends of Wrestling.
Acclaim has gone back into history and snatched all of your favorite wrestlers from the WWF retirement home (some even from the after-life) with the hope that new and old school wrestling fans will want to relive those golden days of wrestling.
More than 40 classic wrestlers appear in Legends of Wrestling, 12 of whom must be unlocked during career mode play. This is a fairly impressive selection for a non-mainstream wrestling game. Randy “Macho Man” Savage; one of the few wrestlers I actually know of by name was surprisingly not in this game. I figured if he was big enough that someone like me had heard of him then he must be a “legend”.
My review copy of Legends of Wrestling came with the Prima strategy guide, which was both a blessing and a curse. I was able to look-up and learn the moves for any character I wanted to play, but the book also revealed the sheer complexity of each character’s library of special attacks, combos, and finishing moves. I hadn’t been that overwhelmed since trying to master Mortal Kombat nearly a decade ago.
True fans of the sport will notice another oddity – a friend (who follows wrestling) had to point it out to me. These legends from the 80’s all seem to have mastered modern day wrestling moves and forgotten many of their own signature moves that made them legends in the first place. It’s almost as if Acclaim took a modern day WWF title and just substituted historic characters into the roster.
Legends of Wrestling adopts a new control scheme, so veterans of previous Acclaim WWF games will have a bit of a learning curve ahead. Actually, the combo system is pretty simplistic, and you will be pulling off some amazing moves pretty fast and fairly easy. You have your basic movies like counter, grapple, and quick grapple, but things really get interesting when you start chaining your moves into elaborate combos.
A new Combo Meter appears under you health bar and if you can get the timing down you can combine certain moves into devastating combos. Countering an opponent’s attack is handled the same way. Watch the bar that appears and hit the counter button at just the right time to reverse the grapple and get the drop on your attacker. It might sound complex, but it is pretty intuitive and as elaborate as any modern day fighting game.
As good as the fighting system is, it is marred by a substandard control system. The response between the time you press a button and the time it actually registers on screen is long enough to displace you from the game. The meters, while useful, are also quite distracting and before long you will feel like you are playing one of those memorization dancing games rather than a fighting game. Just enter your button strokes and watch your wrestler “dance”.
Acclaim has provided a Create-a-Wrestler mode, but it’s hardly worth mentioning – in fact it’s downright embarrassing. Creating a unique WWF persona with attitude and personality takes a lot more than just being able to switch out a few random body parts. I want to design my own costumes; draw some tattoos or perhaps some scars; design a scary Mohawk or evil-looking beard. Instead, I am reduced to swapping out various heads, bodies, and legs and that’s it!
The Career mode has some intriguing possibilities. It’s based in a time where wrestlers were divided up into territories and they could only compete nationally after they had mastered their own territory. It’s a cool and authentic concept and aside from the roster, about the only thing that is true to the 80’s wrestling organization.
Once you get past the cool opening movie you will find that the graphics in Legends of Wrestling are pretty bad when you compare them to the other 2nd-generation titles. Actually, they’re pretty bad even if this game had come out at launch. Everything is bland and almost cartoonish. The level of detail is minimal in both the characters and the arenas.
Only a few of the characters are even recognizable and even those are misshapen or totally out of proportion. I’ve met Hulk Hogan, and he looks nothing like the “blimp” portrayed in this game either today or twenty years ago.
The levels or arenas are a bit better than the characters but not much. There is a nice variety of locations to fight in and watching the crowd can sometimes be as much fun as playing the game. And what would any modern day game be without the obligatory matrix camera effects – can somebody come up with a name for this effect before we forget what the Matrix is? I still haven’t figured out the logic that determines when this effect is invoked, but after awhile it begins to wear thin.
There is certainly nothing spectacular about the sound or music. There are the predictable grunts and groans as the wrestlers do their routine, but there are no real voice-overs from the actual wrestlers; no signature taunts or remarks; and nothing to really get you jazzed about the game.
The crowd yells and cheers but the effect is pretty random and never synchs with the action in the ring. Even in the 80’s the introduction of each wrestler was a pretty big spectacle with music and all sorts of graphical flare. The intros in Legends are simple, boring, and pretty lame in the sound department.
With the lengthy list of wrestlers you would think there would be some considerable gameplay waiting for you. Unfortunately, all the wrestlers share the same set of moves and the commands to execute them. Once you have mastered any one character there is only the slightest in variations to master the remaining wrestlers. You can easily master the entire roster in just a couple days of regular play.
The Career mode adds significant length to this title, but you will be hard pressed to tolerate the game long enough to finish a single career.
Legends of Wrestling supports up to four players if you have the multi-tap, or two without. This opens up some moderate replay value, but the bottom line is that the game isn’t good for one person, so it’s not going to impress your friends either.
Acclaim had a good idea with this title, but somewhere during the execution they lost their focus. There is much more to an historic game than just bringing back the roster of characters. You might get away with that in football, baseball, or more conventional sports titles, but wrestling is all about the individual, their signature moves and even the subtle nuances of the era.
Everything that made wrestling “special” in the 80’s has been lost. Where are the Cage Matches? Where is the Battle Royal? And why are my wrestlers doing moves that weren’t invented until after they retired? Unless you are fanatical about 80’s wrestlers, Legends of Wrestling has way too many flaws to recommend, even as a weekend rental.