By: Jared Black
Despite a recent
downturn in attendance numbers and viewership, the WWF license
remains one of the best licenses in gaming. Anything with the
"WWF" logo on it is guaranteed to sell extremely well, and
thus itís no surprise that less than six months after itís debut
the GBA has a WWF game of itís own. Itís also no surprise that
given the developer (Natsume, creators of the excellent Harvest
Moon series) WWF Road to Wrestlemania is a solid game,
and yet itís clear that theyíre mostly relying on the license to
do the majority of the selling.
At the heart of WWF
Road to Wrestlemania is, as the name implies, the Season mode.
In it, you pick on superstar and start out the season in the first
week of April. Youíll fight in a variety of matches, as you try to
make it to Wrestlemania and win the WWF Heavyweight Championship.
The other game modes include Gauntlet (face 24 opponents in a row),
Exhibition, King of the Ring (a bracket tournament), Ironman Match
(get the most pins in a set amount of time), Royal Rumble (four
wrestlers start out, when oneís eliminated another takes his
place), and Pay-Per-View. The Pay-Per-View is the most interesting
mode, as it allows the player to create his or her own PPV event.
The player sets up the type of matches, the number of matches, where
the event will take place, and the wrestlers who will be involved in
each match. There are an adequate number of match types to choose
from, including singles, tag, triple-threat, handicap, hardcore, and
The controls are
simple, and yet are able to convey a lot of depth. Each wrestler has
approximately 40 different moves to use. While most of these are the
same for each wrestler ("B" always performs a kick instead
of a punch), each wrestler has around five distinct grapple moves.
These are naturally shared between the wrestlers (such as simple
bodyslams), but for example The Rock has his Spinebuster move
intact. Grappling moves in this game work a lot like those in Fire
Pro Wrestling, where timing plays a big part in pulling off one. You
must wear your opponent down first (tracked by a meter at the top of
the screen) before attempting to pull off big special moves. If you
go for a finishing move too early, itíll most often backfire and
youíll end up on the mat. This result in a lot more technical
matches than youíll find in most arcade-style wrestlers.
There are a
total of 24 wrestlers to choose from, including most of the major
stars. Some pretty big mid-carders have been left out (whereís
Test?), but most wrestling fans wonít have a problem with this
roster. Each wrestler has his own entrance, although the entrance
usually only vaguely resembles the wrestlerís real entrance. There
are also six different arenas in the game, although these are pretty
much just different logos on the side of the ring.
All of this
sounds great, but there are still problems in the gameplay. First,
there isnít a standard punch to be found anywhere. The attack
button always results in a kick, and the only way to punch your
opponent is to first grapple with them. This is probably due to the
limited number of buttons the GBA has, but itís still distracting.
If youíve watched any WWF programming at all, you know that itís
probably the most-used maneuver. Secondly, everything moves slowly.
The game moves along at a reasonable rate, but it all seems slow for
a fast-paced sport like wrestling. As a result, things can get
boring after a few matches. Third, the difference between wrestlers
isnít nearly what it should be. Other than a few different moves
and different looks, they all move and act virtually identical. Each
wrestler is identical in height, and faster wrestlers move just as
slow as slower wrestlers. Worse still, differences in strength isnít
accounted for either. Tazz seems just as strong as The Undertaker.
Finally, the AI can at times be extremely stupid. Itís not unusual
for the player to be able to kick a computer opponent 30 to 50 times
(my current record) in a row while standing in the center of the
ring. The computer opponent will not fall to the mat no matter how
many times you kick them, and they will just mysteriously stand
there and take it whether theyíre trapped in a corner or not. All
this results in are easy matches and a sore thumb. Very unrealistic.
- The graphics
are good, with sharp sprites that are adequately animated.
- A pretty
decent move selection for a handheld game.
strategic gameplay than most wrestling games thanks to the
- The game
speed, while not too slow, is slow enough to drain a lot of the
excitement out of the wrestling.
- Generic sound
effects and music.
- Very few
differences between wrestlers.
- Whereís the
WWF Road to
isnít a bad wrestling game, but it lacks the polish and depth
found in most other grapplers. If you absolutely must have a
portable wrestling game, then get Fire
Pro Wrestling instead. If you absolutely must have a WWF
game, then this one does the job. Thanks to the slow gameplay and
lack of polish in virtually every area however, I canít recommend
this as any more than a rental.