8-Bit Bodyslams #1

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by Martin Dixon

 

Welcome dear reader to what I hope will be the first in a series of articles where I take a look at the rather deep rooted relationship between the worlds of professional wrestling and Videogaming, wherever these crossovers may occur. These could be straight up wrestling games, (because followers of my twitter account will no doubt notice I’ve suddenly had the ability to play a lot of them recently), wrestlers in other games, wrestling moves in games and gaming moves in wrestling. So without further ado, grab your tokens folks for a silicon based smackdown, first up: One of my favourite wrestling games, and what it is may surprise you.

WCW Backstage Assaul–Hah! Gotcha! Although I imagine three are some out there who enjoyed that one, even if it was a very nice allegory for WCW as a television product and a business in 2000, I cannot in all good conscious recommend that to anyone. No, this is something all together better, but just as infamous: WWF WrestleMania, later known as WrestleMania the Arcade Game. Yes, that one.

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Designed by the same team behind Mortal Kombat, WrestleMania isn’t exactly a traditional wrestling game, the game does include digitised versions of actual WWF superstars a la Mortal Kombat itself and bouts do take place inside a wrestling ring, but this is as far removed from traditional WWF style wrestling game as it gets. Razor blades, baseball bats, giant hammers and even ghosts are all as commonplace as a Randy Orton Chinlock(tm) in this universe. More on that later.

Chances are if you’re reading this you are already familiar with WrestleMania, so I’m not going to spend time just reeling off facts about the game and quickly get down to the business of why I like it.

First & foremost, WrestleMania is Fun, with a capital F. Purists may hate it, in fact quite a lot of them seem to, but I like it. Wrestlemania successfully manages to take the absurdity of it’s concept & run with it, seeing The Undertaker breaking a tombstone over an opponent’s head and summoning ghouls to attack is somehow crazier than there being an undead mortician gimmick in the first place, but it totally fits here. Remember this is a game born of the arcade, instant gratification is the order of the day here, and in 1994s world of a thousand and one Mortal Kombat knock offs, I doubt a straight laced Wrestlefest style game was going to cut the mustard. That’s not to say WrestleMania completely ditches its source material, it’s surprisingly  authentic: Howard Finkel welcomes us into the game at the start, and the game features commentary from Vince McMahon & Jerry “The King” Lawler, although at times that’s a little too authentic….

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It’s the over the top aspect of WWF WrestleMania that draws me to it, and it’s something that we see all too rarely not just in wrestling games, but videogames in general. It does have a legacy however that spans to the present day.

The game itself was ported to a huge variety of home consoles, each with varying degrees of success, all are serviceable except perhaps for the Super Nintendo version, which for some baffling reason omits Yokozuna & Bam Bam. There was also a sequel, WWF In Your House, although it was awful in every conceivable fashion. Of greater interest is 2011s WWE All Stars, which shares more with WrestleMania than most people realise. Many commented on the similarities of the two at the time of it’s unveiling, both feature stylised visuals & physics defying moves after all, but digging into All Stars’ development reveals a few interesting titbits of info…

All Stars’ producer was none other than Sal Divita, a former midway employee who famously was the actor for Raiden in Mortal Kombat, and also worked on (you guessed it) WWF WrestleMania The Arcade Game, bringing a nice full circle to WrestleMania’s story.

Is WrestleMania The Arcade Game the best game ever made? No, not even close. Is it the best Wrestling game ever made? No, because you could argue it isn’t a wrestling game at all. But I’ll tell you what WrestleMania is: insane, flawed, disjointed, difficult, but above all, Fun. Even today there are a few smiles to be raised from playing this, but I’d be against a new version of this like the iOS version of WrestleFest, it isn’t worth that. Because I doubt an audience is there for it. It’d be better to get a hold of an original copy or emulator, and do as the song says & “leave the memories alone”.

As always here’s my usual “get in contact with me if you’ve anything to discuss about this article” and if you do want to get in contact with me if you’ve anything to discuss about this article, you can do so on twitter at www.twitter.com/BunnySuicida, and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts, comments & feedback. So until next time folks, I’ve been Martin Dixon, and this has been 4CR’s 8bit Bodyslam.

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