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WWF Road to Wrestlemania

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Natsume
Publisher:  THQ
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Wrestling
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  12-11-01

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 cage matches.

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.

Highs:

  • The graphics are good, with sharp sprites that are adequately animated.
  • A pretty decent move selection for a handheld game.
  • More strategic gameplay than most wrestling games thanks to the grappling system.

Lows:

  • 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 punch?

Final Verdict:

WWF Road to Wrestlemania 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.

Overall Score: 6.4

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