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Legends of Wrestling

Review By:  Roger Taylor

Developer:  Acclaim Salt Lake
Publisher:  Acclaim
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Sports
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  7-30-02

Question for the developers of this game: No one liked the slow, jilted, repetitive style of your previous wrestling games; so why are you feeding us the same tripe here?

Okay, so Legends of Wrestling for GameCube is not all bad. In fact, it shows a great deal of potential. But the fact that this game feels anything like the crappy WWF and ECW games that Acclaim has made over the past few years is completely inexcusable. AKI laid out the groundwork for what a wrestling game should play like with their excellent series of games for the N64, culminating with WWF No Mercy, still the best grappler available as of 7/22/02. But no one seems to have noticed the rave reviews, phenomenal sales and praise from the wrestling industry that the game received. And so we are left with a string of mediocre titles from THQ, and this one from Acclaim.

The concept of Legends of Wrestling is very simple: take all the biggest names of wrestling from the past 30 years and put them into one game, which centers around old-school ring work rather than "Attitude-era" gimmickry. The roster is fairly impressive indeed, particularly for fans of the mid-80’s WWF, as it includes Hulk Hogan, Jerry Lawler, the Road Warriors, Bret Hart, Ted DiBiase, Terry Funk, the Iron Sheik, Ricky Steamboat, Tito Santana (the legend lives!) and many more. There are a number of problems with the roster, the most prominent being the shunning of such huge names as Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Owen Hart and Andre the Giant. There are also a few odd things about whom they did include. Since when was Koko B. Ware a legend? And I have no problems with the Von Erich family, but I can’t imagine that more than 5% of the people who buy this game even know who they are. And why are Sabu and Rob Van Dam included? They may one day go down as legends, but they don’t fit with the style of the other wrestlers. But for the most part, the roster works, and it’s enough to make an old-school fan giddy with excitement at seeing their favorite stars of days past.

The gameplay is full of pretty good ideas, but it seems like the developers either ran out of time, or just don't care. The mix of simple moves done by a button/direction combo (think Wrestlemania X8 for GameCube) and a more complex grappling system like the N64 grapplers works okay…unfortunately there are so few moves to choose from that one ends up repeating moves about fifteen times in each match. The way finishing maneuvers are implemented is fairly well done – basically you work your way up to a finisher by whooping ass, and can store up to three finishers if you don’t use them early in the match – unfortunately, unlike in real wrestling, a finishing move doesn’t necessarily end the match. This is a shame. There’s nothing more frustrating then, when using Bret Hart, finally slapping on a Sharpshooter…only to see him relinquish the hold for no readily apparent reason, before the opponent submits. There were a few good ideas involving tag team matches, like the ability to call in your partner, and having the ref keep illegal wrestlers out of the ring, but the gameplay on the whole is still slow moving and sluggish. The controls are tolerable, but more complex than they need to be and somewhat slow to respond.

To be nice, the graphics fit the game's style. In other words, they aren’t up to par with the other stuff on the market. The graphics feature exaggerated character models, which I thought excusable; given the over-the-top nature of the wrestlers they mimic. The arenas and fans that fill them look as good as they do in any wrestling game: just south of average. The sound department of Legends of Wrestling is pretty poor also. Sound effects are generic, the music is kept at a minimum, and commentary is nowhere to be found.

Unlike most of today’s wrestling games, gimmick matches are kept at a minimum in Legends of Wrestling. While this may fit the old-time feel of the game, it also means the title loses a lot of replay value. True, there are the ubiquitous "Path to the Belt" and "Create-a-Superstar" modes, but that has become standard fare, and none of the modes in Legends of Wrestling stand out as unique.

Highs:

  • Solid roster of legends
  • Captures the feel of early-80s wrestling

Lows:

  • Slower than dirt gameplay
  • Poor graphics and sound
  • Lack of quality modes

Final Verdict:

If names like Jimmy Snuka and the Sheik fill your head with pleasant memories, Legends of Wrestling is worth a rental, mostly for nostalgic purposes. Otherwise, avoid this sub-par title as best you can. No Mercy for N64 must be pretty cheap right now.

Overall Score: 4.2

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