Reviewed: July 21, 2004
Reviewed by: Daniel Sayre
Showdown: Legends of Wrestling, or Showdown for short, is the third in the “Legends of Wrestling” series. Designed by Acclaim, this series focuses more on wrestling before the popularity explosion during the mid eighties.
Many of the games characters are probably from well before most of the general gaming audience’s time. Although, for balance, some more “recent” characters have been thrown into the mix as well. For most of the cast, this is the first time they’ve ever been featured in a video game as some had their “prime” during the seventies.
Showdown: Legends of Wrestling offers an array of exciting new features, including:
As a wrestling game, Acclaim had always done it’s own control schemes. I’m of the opinion that the system present in AKI’s titles is, hand’s down, the BEST scheme of all time as far as wrestling games go. Acclaim’s does a reasonably good job. Not the best by any means, but certainly passable.
You get a block/reverse, grapple, ready move, and strike. The arsenal of moves is pretty varied, different attacks depending on the position of the opponent. You also get a finishing move, which can only be activated after you’ve built up enough “momentum.” Momentum is won, or lost, depending upon your performance in the ring.
There are a variety of match types. Most anything present in the WWE type games can be found here. Hardcore matches, first blood, table matches, etc. You can also choose a ”quick match” from the main menu that immediately puts you into the action; unfortunately, it also skips character selection so you are whomever the game chooses.
There is also a “classic” mode that allows you to relive classic matches from yesteryear. The matches are prefaced by a text story explaining the match and then you’re thrust into the action, usually with some kind of deficient you need to fight back from. These same matches *can* be imperfectly duplicated in the versus mode (but both players would have full health.)
Create a legend is also included but it pales when compared to most other wrestling games. There just aren’t enough customization options available to set it apart. You can alter a character already in the game, an option a lot of games don’t offer, but you still have the same paltry choices.
As far as bonus content, you can unlock matches in classic mode, there is a (non-interactive) tutorial narrated by Bret “the Hitman” Hart and a memorial montage to stars who appear in the game but have passed away.
Matches are a little slower then “Smackdown” and probably closer to RAW in terms of match progression. You can pick up weapons and attack the referee, although both of those are pretty much standard these days. You can also “cheat” and have a random wrestler or manager come to your aid if you find yourself in over your head (and in a match type that allows run-ins.)
Normally glitches are usually slight graphical problems but in Showdown they are VERY prevalent and occur with annoying regularity. It is by far the most glitches I have ever witnessed in a retail product. You can punch someone, nothing happens, and then six seconds later they will react as if hit. Same goes with grappling. The timing and hit detection are really, really dismal.
The main single player aspect involves you wrestling through the ages. Starting in the seventies and ending in the nineties you can guide your chosen wrestler through the best that decade has to offer. Different match types help liven things. The story mode is really paltry and told pretty much entirely through text. Upon completion no bonus content is unlocked so it’s largely passed for your own amusement.
The roster is quite large and most of the older talent is showcased. The menu system is a big board with no designated sides so it can become quite confusing to navigate through if you’re looking for someone in particular. Spaces are left open for created characters so it does make them more inclusive looking.
Far from a graphical powerhouse, Showdown still looks decent enough. The wrestlers generally look like themselves; there are rudimentary hair and cloth physics. If damaged enough, the wrestlers will bleed (as is the point of a “first blood” match.) Each wrestler also gets four costumes.
The arenas are different enough that they can’t be mistaken for each other, but they lack any kind of presence beyond one as simply a stage. No huge gaudy sets like those you would find in a current WWE game are present, since Showdown harkens back to a simpler time their exclusion is understood but I wished they could’ve added a little pizzazz.
The menu’s themselves are done using an old matinee motif to guide you through the options. It is easy to read, easy to navigate through and pleasant on the eyes. All the hallmarks of a good system.
The Player entrances are also quite cool. Certain wrestler have their trademark entrances, be it Ultimate Warrior’s mad dash to the ring or Bret Hart’s cocky strut, complete with jacket. The opening also tells the type of match and location, all fairly standard.
The menu song gets you ready for action and a lot of wrestlers have their original theme. In a puzzling move, the game says it supports custom soundtracks but you are only allowed to pick from ten entrance songs in the “create a legend” feature instead of importing your own. The custom soundtracks can only be used during a match and not for entrances.
The match commentary is done by Tony Schiavone, Larry Zybysko, and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. It is also very well executed, some of the best I’ve heard. It contains some neat little tidbits about the wrestler’s themselves and is generally free of the stuttering that is usually present. Stuttering does sneak in every so often (usually when dealing with weapons) but for the most part it’s pretty natural interplay between the three men.
Well, you get a wrestling game with several match types, a huge plethora of wrestlers, a tutorial, a “classic” mode, and full single player storyline (which is always the same unfortunately.) You get several costumes per wrestler and great announcing.
All of that is basically available from the start and there are no real unlockable or extra content. The roster is large (over seventy wrestlers) but it would’ve been nice if they had added something, extra costumes, extra wrestlers, etc for you to unlock.
Legends has nostalgia going for it. Now usually that wouldn’t be enough, but this time a reasonable control scheme, decent graphics, and a huge roster back it. I got a real thrill pitting some old stars from my youth against each other. It just harkens back to my days as a boy when I regularly watched the old WWF.
The fact there is nothing there to really shake me out of the reverie (except the glitches) helps me to conclude it’s a pretty good game if you’d like to relive wrestling’s bygone days. By the same token, it doesn’t aspire to be anything more. It’s a pretty solid wrestling game but if you don’t really care about the “legends” you’d probably be better off going with a game from the Smackdown series.