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Fire Pro Wrestling

Review By:  Chris Lee

Developer:  Spike
Publisher:  BAM! Entertainment
# of Players:  1-4 (Link Cable)
Genre:  Wrestling
ESRB:  Teen
Date Posted:  7-5-01

What great timing BAM! entertainment has with the release of Fire Pro Wrestling. As of the time of this review the big WWF vs. WCW feud is brewing on our favorite TV networks and Fire Pro Wrestling is the first American release to feature many of the stars from both federations in the same game. Many of you have read my reviews and previews of past Fire Pro titles, but I'm going to approach this one a little differently because there's a slightly different audience this time around. The first thing I want to say is that when I first heard that they were going to be releasing a Fire Pro title in the US and of all things for a handheld system, I just assumed it'd be a fraction of what Fire Pro is all about. I was very wrong.  The American audience is getting not only an accurate representation of the series, but an installment that even manages to exceed some of it's predecessors. Keep in mind this is the first American release of the Fire Pro series, so any other versions I mention will be in reference to the import titles.

The real first hurdle and test for new American gamers and those who have never seen a Fire Pro game will be whether or not they can get past the 2D graphics. And with that, it's more of a 2 minute hurdle in that if you can watch or play the game for 2 or more minutes, the graphics become a real non-issue. As a matter of fact, the impact of many of the moves seems much harder than in previous versions, even the 128-bit DC version. The wrestlers walk, grapple, and execute moves in exactly the same way that they do in the rest of the series, and in many cases do it better. But graphically the game isn't too far a drop from the Dreamcast version, and just about on par with the Playstation version. 

The sound department is pretty darn solid in my opinion. The slams and slaps sound great and give a real sense of impact. Every time someone hits the mat you can almost feel the "WHAM". The great thing about it is that it's different for various moves. You won't get the same sound for a monster powerbomb that you get for a bodyslam, and something about that is satisfying. Not only that, but the in-ring music (optional) gives the game a brisk and flowing feel to it. But even more impressive is that they fit so many entrance music themes in the game. There's even versions of Austin's and Goldberg's much like the Dreamcast version plus many from the Japanese superstars. The crowd also seems to be more alive than ever before. They seem really into the moves and holds that are executed, or at least they react in some way to all of them.  I like that. All in all the audio is great, especially for a handheld system.

The meat of the Fire Pro series has always been in gameplay, options and features. Gameplay is exactly the same as it always was but with one new great feature. As always, it's based completely on timing and, sorry for you button mashers, you'll get no love from Fire Pro. To grapple, all you essentially have to do is touch another wrestler and you'll lock up. The instant that your wrestlers are doin' the ol' tieup you have to try and execute your move of choice. Sounds easy enough until you add in all the factors at work when you grapple. First there's the timing, depending on difficulty level you'll have to be pretty accurate about when you push the button (and remember pressing the buttons really fast just gets you beat down). Then you have to think about WHICH button you push because if you're opponent isn't physically wrecked enough and you attempt a big move, he can do some unnecessary damage to you by way of a reversal. The final factors are how hurt you both are when trying to grapple i.e. the more tired and beaten you are, the more difficult it becomes to do moves to your opponent. One of the best things about the series is the fact that you can go for any move any time you want to. So say you're Steve Austin, you can end a match within just a couple of minutes with a stunner. How is that possible you say? Ever hear of a little stocking stuffer called a critical? Criticals are exclusive to the FP series - if you execute your "Finisher" (can be different things to different people, more on that later) there's a chance that your opponent will be knocked completely out of commission.  That my friends is a critical. Hit em with a stunner, Pedigree, Rock Bottom, whatever, and if you see the word "CRITICAL!" flash across the screen then you've won! It's not as easy as just doing it but you get the point.

The amount of moves in any FP as compared to any other wrestling title has always been unparalleled. As more and more wrestlers from around the world have been added into the games, the more moves have been added to accurately portray them. So you not only have moves from "grapplers" but you've got moves from shoot fighters and grinders (submission specialists) like in the UFC. Which brings me back to my point about criticals not necessarily being restricted to finishing moves. Many of the Japanese wrestlers and shoot fighters in the game have criticals set to strikes and submissions, which is not only accurate but makes things very interesting when fighting them. One of the new things they've added in this version, which to my knowledge is totally new to the series, is ground reversals.  Most of you have seen them in games like No Mercy and Smackdown but I figured I'd mention it for current fans. It adds a great element to the most technical of wrestling games. What was pretty impressive to me is that they managed to fit almost every move that was in the DC game, smack dab into this little ol' handheld version. Oh, and did I mention that they have double teams that have yet to be featured in an American title? Not only that but they have new animations for some old moves so you truly are getting the latest, not just some watered down small screen version.

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