Twenty years ago, WWF WrestleFest was THE multiplayer arcade experience. Okay, that’s not entirely true. There was this other game called Street Fighter II that was pretty popular around that time, but it was certainly the best wrestling game at the time. Moreover, the presentation was, for its time, top notch. Mean Gene Okerlund provided commentary between fights that advanced the story mode, wrestlers had entrance animations as they made their way to the ring, and wrestlers were introduced by a ring announcer before the match began.
I have a lot of fond memories of playing WWF WrestleFest with my friends. While Street Fighter II got more playtime courtesy accurate console ports, the memories of sitting around and feeding quarters into Technos’ little slice of the squared circle will forever remain a fond one. It was a four-player, button-mashing blast.Since then, a lot of things have changed. Wrestling games got better courtesy of the Nintendo 64. Wrestling became a fast-paced, high-impact form of entertainment with flashy finishing moves. Hulk Hogan turned heel and then kept wrestling way, way, way past his prime. Oh, and the WWF somehow lost its name to the World Wildlife Foundation.
So, twenty years later, how does a basically unchanged WrestleFest engine feel? When you’re in game, yeah, it’s pretty good. It’s still a button masher. The animation is still shoddy at best. And wrestlers still have a limited move set that, meaning only John Cena feels right. (Wrestling fans know what I’m talking about.)
However, a lot of the presentation that made WWF WrestleFest solid have gone missing. Gone is the original game’s repetitive announcer, but part of the charm went with it. Mean Gene Okerlund may show up between fights, but there’s no voice acting accompanying it. A ring announcer does introduce wrestlers pre-fight, but it’s inexplicably drowned out by crowd noise. To top it off, the game’s sound effects seem to have gone missing. Anyone who’s ever watched wrestling is familiar with the amplified “thud” when a wrestler hits the mat, but that’s not to be found. All-in-all, WWE WrestleFest is inferior to the original in every way.
Moreover, as a game as decidedly retro as this one is, the switch to “realistic” character models is questionable. The 1991 Technos original used sprites that resembled their work in Double Dragon. This would be time-consuming, admittedly, but surely could have been done considering how few frames would actually need to be made. Instead, what we have here appears to be sprites a la Street Fighter IV on iOS, where they took 3D models and simply digitized them. It looks awful and lifeless compared to the original.
Take a look at the screen below for a comparison of the two games and then try to defend the new look. Retina display iPhones and high definition consoles deserve better than that garbage on the right.
This lack of direction just leads to the game feeling all wrong. The people from the NBA Jam revival at Electronic Arts picked Mark Turmell’s brain before actually moving forward with the re-make, but there’s no way anyone at THQ consulted with developers from Technos before making this. They likely just picked up the license and went about their merry way programming this game.
Nostalgia can cloud your perception. WWE WrestleFest will likely get a pass from people like me, who grew up punching friends while mashing buttons on the arcade cabinet. People who grew up watching G.I. Joe and couldn’t wait to see Sgt. Slaughter on Saturday Night’s Main Event. People who remember Macho Man marrying Miss Elizabeth fondly and tied bands around their arms pretending to be the Ultimate Warrior. Hulkamaniacs, brother.
WWE WrestleFest was rushed. It reeks of it. Missing and drowned-out sounds, lifeless graphics, limited move sets, long loading times, a laughable “lightning” effect when using a submission move, and day one DLC with the promise of more to come makes this seem like a conscious effort to grab as much cash with as little effort as possible. This game is like a cover song. Some people will say it’s better than the original, but most will find it lacking.
I wanted so badly to like this game. Even as I sat down at the computer, I was ready to say good things about it. Then I realized, as I was writing, that WWE WrestleFest is a shell of what it used to be, unable to decide if it wants to adhere to the past or be relevant in the present, and ends up an average-at-best game because of it.
(WWE WrestleFest Premium features four game modes with eight wrestlers, but lacks GameCenter leaderboards or achievements. The iPhone version costs $2.99, while the iPad version costs $3.99. Five additional wrestlers can be unlocked via in-app purchase for $.99 with a promise of five more DLC character packs in the future.)Tweet
About the Author
|Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming.
Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.
Fade to Slack has written 308 posts on Delta Attack.