Reviewed: February 17, 2005
Released: November 9, 2004
If you think this review is using gratuitous shots of scantily clad females posing as wrestlers then you’ve not only summed up this review but Rumbles Roses as well. That’s not to say this latest wrestling opus from Konami is devoid of substance. Surprisingly enough, there is a very substantial wrestling game lurking beneath the mud-coated cleavage. It just might take you a few matches to find it.
Rumble Roses is one of those naughty games that you’re likely to stash under the couch rather than prominently display in your game case next to the latest WWE title. One only need to have stood at the Konami booth at last year’s E3 show to see the affect the trailer (opening movie in the game) had on the throngs of fans. As people got up and stretched after the long Metal Gear 3 movie the thumping beat of Van Halen’s “Panama” kicked in complete with gorgeous bouncing babes sporting enough cleavage to make Lara Croft consider a boob job.
The movie and the crowd reaction was nothing short of hypnotic and at that very moment I knew Konami had a hit on their hands even if the gameplay totally sucked. Frankly, they could have put the opening movie on a disc and sold it for $20 and hormonally challenged gamers would have been lining up at the bargain bins.
Hot chicks wrestling in the ring is nothing new though. The Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas pioneered the concept back in the 80’s with the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) and spun the concept into late night TV before the fad met an untimely demise. The GLOW girls were mostly strippers and semi-pro mud wrestlers, while Konami ups the ante with naughty nurses, schoolteachers, cowgirls, and catholic schoolgirls…OH MY!
Rumble Roses not only impressed me with a solid wrestling engine but there is a story to be told for each of the female contestants, and many of these stories intertwine much like the DOA and Tekken franchises. Your choices for girls are few at first, but as you win matches you will unlock specific counter-characters to each wrestler, each with their own sorted past and reason for joining this tournament.
Even though you’ve likely come for the girls and been moderately entertained by the stories, the aspect of Rumble Roses that will keep you playing for countless hours is the solid yet simplified SmackDown wrestling engine and control scheme, a concept that eluded myself and a few other reviewers who attempted this game. It was only after GCM wrestling guru, Dave Larson grabbed the controller did we all learn the error of our ways.
Rumble Roses is not meant to be played like a traditional fighter. This game is all about the grabs and the holds and the flips, slowly wearing down your opponent with submission and humiliation moves before finishing them off with a spectacular Killer Move.
Damage is location specific so you can target head, arm, leg, and body and do concentrated damage. When you get into a potential pin position you furious tap the controller in a battle of reflexes to either inflict damage or go for the three-count.
The gameplay can be quite cryptic for someone unfamiliar with the wrestling genre and the complicated control scheme takes at least a few matches to master. With strike and grab moves combined with guard and dash then having all these enhanced with counters and humiliations using the shoulder buttons, there is a lot to memorize for each character.
Game modes include the standard Exhibition and Story modes, the latter being used to unlock new characters. Another interesting concept is the Vow System, a voluntary system where each wrestler makes certain agreements prior to the match then by honoring those vows you can earn points to enhance your personality and ultimately unlock alter-ego characters.
As far as multiplayer, you have support for two-player matches but there is no multi-tap support for four-player skirmishes, then again, with four girls bouncing around the ring exposing cleavage and butt crack, most guys would just fall into a worthless heap on the floor.
For those of you who are in this just for the skin, you will revel in the deliciously naughty 22 character models made up of more than 10,000 polygons each right down to individually modeled fingers and toes. The texturing is stunning with tattoos and birthmarks, and the cleavage is abundant with a bounce that defies lunar gravity. You can actually see the breasts straining at the thin halter straps. If you think the DOA girls are hot you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.
Each girl also comes with her own grand entrance movie along with several intermittent cutscenes between the various matches. This is where the thin plot unfolds even if it is something as simple as a sexy teacher trying to get her sexy truant student back into her sexy class by kicking her sexy ass in the ring. All of the movies are fantastic and the opening movie is one that I am strangely compelled to watch every time I start the game, even though it’s 3-4 minutes long, it really sets the mood for what’s to come.
The various environments aren’t that original. You are either wresting in the ring or in a pit of mud on the beach. The mud wrestling only serves to fuel additional “dirty” thoughts, not so much for the suggestive positions, grunts and moans, but because the mud has the unique property of making the women look naked, at least until the mud slowly drips away. And it’s a weird kind of mud, shiny, almost like the liquid Terminator, only flesh-tone brown.
The voice acting is really quite terrible featuring a lot of that high-pitched anime voiceovers that works if they are speaking Japanese but just sounds goofy in English. The content of their dialogue is just as weak, like a poor translation or perhaps just a dismal story to begin with, at least for most of the characters. Some have an addictive soap opera-like quality to them.
Sound effects are atypical to wrestling with a slightly suggestive nuance about them. There are plenty of grunts and groans and even some moans that you’d easily dismiss if there were two 300-pound guys in the ring, but when half-naked strippers are unleashing their own custom kung fu and making these noises, anyone in the next room will think you are watching porn.
The soundtrack is kickin’ with a great female rendition of Van Halen’s Panama that is synched to the opening movie with expert direction. The rest of the licensed soundtrack may or may not be familiar to you depending on your musical preference, but all of the songs are excellent and fit with the wrestling theme of the game and the girls they introduce.
With 22 wrestlers, 11 good and 11 evil (or naughty), and 10 available to you when you first peel off the shrink-wrap, there is plenty to keep you playing Rumble Roses for months to come. You’ll come for the girls but you’ll stay for the action with a game that only gets better the more you play and the more experienced you become.
The multiplayer is a lot of fun and it might help smooth over that bruised ego when the computer thoroughly kicks your ass. Yes, Rumble Roses is brutally hard, especially for newcomers to the genre and even those who have played Yuke’s previous WWE games.
Veterans of the THQ wrestling games will have an additional learning curve as you overcome the reversed control set as well as other changes, most of which are intended to simplify the interface. A lot has changed, so don’t sign-up expecting easy access to a skin show. You’ll have to work if you want to see these ladies, but it's undeniably worth it..
Rumble Roses is a not-so-subtle attempt to blend sex, or rather sexiness, with wrestling, but it does so in such an innocuous way that it doesn’t ram the concept down your throat like BMX XXX. Whether you are a hardcore wrestling fan or just like to ogle hot babes getting down and dirty and unleashing their own custom can of whoop-ass, Rumble Roses is one sporting event that you won’t want to miss.