RetroMania Wrestling Review
There are a handful of wrestling games that are lauded as all-time greats due to how they epitomised the period in which they were produced. With incredible visual fidelity that amplified the gargantuan personas of the Golden Era, Technōs Japan’s WWF Wrestlefest is widely considered a quintessential rendition of the sport in the ‘90s. After 30 long years, RetroMania Wrestling, the official sequel, has emerged, ready to dominate the squared circle and claim the title that so many recent games in the genre have haphazardly dropped. With pressure mounting, can RetroMania Wrestling deliver the main event that fans have been yearning for or will it be a botch filled nostalgia trip?
Stepping into the ring, Retrosoft Studio has developed on the foundation created by its predecessors. Rather than relying on button bashing, RetroMania Wrestling has introduced a reaction based mechanic which adds strategy and depth to the gameplay. Similar to the Fire Pro Wrestling series, when you enter a grapple, you need to time your input which can result in winning or losing the clash. Helpfully, a visual cue has been added to these situations to indicate when you have or haven’t been successful in the clinch. From there, you can perform several moves that are tied to three buttons. Due to the grapple meter, you are unable to just hit heavy slams throughout, instead, you are required to gain momentum via weaker attacks in order to build towards an epic conclusion.
The Innovator of Offence
The sheer range of attacks is impressive. Each character has a unique move set that replicates their onscreen personality. From Johnny Retro’s Starship Pain to Matt Cardona’s Radio Silence, all the big finishers and signature moves are present, making the moment to moment gameplay a thrill. Similar to previous titles in the genre, it can be difficult to decipher where characters are stood on the 2D plain, often resulting in fantastic flying forearms whizzing passed opponents.
Without the WWF/WWE banner, building a roster must have been troublesome. Adding to this issue is the fact that AEW has signed some of the most talented indie wrestlers who are now tied to their upcoming game. As a result, RetroMania Wrestling’s roster is a unique collection of legends and overlooked superstars that will entice fanatics but may deter others. Giants of the sport, the Legion of Doom lead the roster with their iconic face paint and attire. Accompanying them are other greats such as Nakita Koloff and ECW legends Tommy Dreamer and the Blue World Order. Current stars who also grace the squared circle include Brian Myers (WWE’s Curt Hawkins), Colt Cobana (AEW), Johnny Retro (WWE’s John Morrison), Matt Cardona (WWE’s Zack Ryder), Nick Aldis (Current NWA champion) and more, making for a truly great yet unusual time warp through professional wrestling. Unfortunately, the weight of characters and their movements appear to be identical to one another which does stifle the individuality of the roster.
Iconic venues are synonymous with the sport. The buzz and excitement that surrounds events held in classic arenas such as Madison Square Garden and the Skydome (now Rogers Centre) go hand in hand with the performances that take place in the ring. With an eclectic collection, RetroMania Wrestling gives you an array of venues to personalize your time suplexing opponents. From the faithfully recreated NWA Powerrr television set to High School Gyms and from wrestler-themed hellscapes, to the Hasbro inspired blue ring, each environment has been lovingly crafted to carry the essence of ‘90s wrestling games whilst also celebrating the modern-day independent scene.
Headlining the bill is the Story Mode which acts as both a tutorial and showcase of the options available in the game. You play as Johnny Retro who suffered a career-threatening injury but is now on the verge of a comeback. Having to re-establish himself as a main eventer, you must climb the ranks by defeating wrestlers from various promotions. Conversations are packed with references that will bring a smile to aficionados of the sport. Throughout these sections, you are given dialogue options resulting in whether Johnny Retro becomes a face or heel. Although I had a lot of fun in this mode, the climax is a little disappointing, even though it does tease future content. In addition to this is the 10 Pounds of Gold mode, which is similar to the traditional arcade mode on most fighting games. Here you fight through the roster with a character of your choosing to claim and defend the coveted NWA World Championship.
Match stipulations have become a staple in the world of professional wrestling. Not only do they change the dynamics of the bout, but they also act as a gateway into storytelling that imbues the industry. With a mixture of single and tag match variations coupled with customizable options such as elimination, tornado and steel cage matches, RetroMania Wrestling encompasses the variety that is essential to the sport. In addition to this is the chaotic and incredibly entertaining Retro Rumble which can support up to 8 local players. Most gamers will jump straight into exhibition contests, and it’s here where RetroMania Wrestling could support the gamer. Although the mechanics are clearly explained in the Story Mode, there is next to no guidance when moonsaulting into versus mode. A quick tutorial could have eased frustration that will surely plague many on their first attempt.
The Hoverboard Lock
Sending you to the ‘90s with a nostalgia-filled clothesline are the menus and graphics that harken back to classics of the genre. Characterizations of athletes fall in line with the over the top presentation of wrestling games from the era creating a pixel-based visual feast that will transport you back to days in the arcade. Complementing this is the guitar-based chiptune that chugs in the background whilst you pound in the face of your opponent. It’s clear to see that each asset has been designed with love and admiration for the greats that came before which helps to add authenticity to RetroMania Wrestling.
With the lack of online multiplayer and create-a-wrestler options, players may grow tired of the content which is currently available. Although Retrosoft Studies have promised future DLC with their first wave of characters already announced, the inclusion of the aforementioned modes is vital to the longevity of this great game.
RetroMania Wrestling is the perfect sequel to a classic. Not only does it maintain the essence of WWF Wrestlefest but it also develops the mechanics adding depth and strategy. Although there are a ton of gameplay options, the lack of online play and the niche roster may discourage some players. However, even with few missing elements, this is one of the best wrestling games currently available and a must for fans of the sport.
*** Xbox key provided by the publisher ***
- Excellent Grapple System
- Visually Stunning
- Captures What Made Predecessors Great
- No Online Multiplayer
- Lack of Create-a-Wrestler
- Only 16 Wrestlers at Launch