Review: Wrestlemania XIX (Nintendo Gamecube)

Game: Wrestlemania XIX
System: Nintendo Game Cube
Genre:Wrestling
Developer: Yukes
Publisher:THQ
Released:09/08/03

Okay. I’ll be honest up front. My three favorite wrestling games are AJPW vs. Virtua Fighter, Touken Retsuden 4, and Fire Pro Wrestling: Six Man Scramble. Note that all are on Sega Systems.

As well, I have not been a fan of any of the THQ WWE games. I think No Mercy is fun, but highly over-rated with a convoluted story mode. I find the second Smackdown to be quite possibly the worst wrestling game ever made, but the other ones to be quite fun to play against another person, even if the computer AI appears to be mentally retarded.

WMXIX is the follow up to WMVIII for the Game Cube. I didn’t mind the first WM on the Game Cube. Graphics were good, play control wasn’t too bad. I thought the “champion” mode was a bit too long, that Ladder matches were far too easy to win, that even of the highest level of difficulty that the game was far too easy, and that the CAW mode was pretty limited. Still, as the only wrestling game for the GC, it was worth picking up and playing against friends with. Cute and simple. Nothing mind blowing, but a decent game with a few minor flaws.

Now we have the completely overhauled sequel in WM19. With more wrestlers, more modes to choose from and a brand new “Revenge” mode, WM19 makes WM18 look like THQ rushed the game out to the buying audience knowing even a skeleton of a game would sell like hot cakes. And it did. But now 15 months later we have this game jam packed full of many different options, from the aforementioned story mode, to a detailed CAW which is probably the most impressive I have ever seen, to a shop zone.
The question remains however, are any of these modes any GOOD? And therein lies the rub my friends. Because to be quite honest, they’re not.

Okay. That’s not exactly true. But I was severely disappointed with this game. But only in terms of actually playing it.

The opening game demo is amazing. It really is. From various wrestlers commenting on the importance of Wrestlemania to the actual footage of WMXIX, it got the mark in me excited and ready for a wrestling game that could possibly compare with Touken Retsuden 4. Just to hear the Rock and Angle and Hogan talk up the importance of WM to sports entertainment, you get the feeling it’s more than hype. That these men truly would live and die for the business. And it makes you want to believe this game will let you capture ever the slightest taste of that emotion and energy. After all Yukes made that game, and it was near perfect. They have to be able to do it a second time, right? RIGHT???

Let’s just take each of the modes one by one and go into detail about what is good and bad about each.
Let’s hit Superstar Profiles first. With each WWE Superstar you get a photo of the wrestler, a mini bio, a list of his or her specials, and titles that they have held in the past. As well, if you let the game sit for a bit on a particular wrestler’s bio, it will show you a mini-movie of the wrestler doing their main special move. I do hate however, they only list their WWE title history. Hello! Ric Flair here! Goldberg! RVD! If the WWE owns ECW and WCW, show their titles as well. God I’m glad Ultimo Dragon isn’t on here because of that.

Next up is the Tutorial. Now this is a nice option I’m glad to see, as god knows THQ is generally shit when it comes to putting how do a lot of move options in their books. I’ll admit WM19’s book is pretty detailed, but stuff like dragging an opponent around in the collar and elbow tie-up isn’t there, and it’s used a lot by the computer. God knows Al Snow’s voice makes you mute the damn thing after the fifth lesson though. Oh my god, it’s worse than fingernails on a blackboard.

The tutorial is a godsend though. It teaches you everything under the sun, including things you wouldn’t have guessed were possible in the game. I especially recommend going and spending some time with all the counters. Like most Yukes games (except TR4), the ability to counter is shaky at best. Even if you hit the button at the exact time the computer tells you to, there’s still a chance it won’t happen. But at least after spending time with the various tutorial counter sessions, you’ll be prepared for it. As well, the ability to counter a counter is excellent. Chain wrestling is something that’s been overlooked by a lot of wrestling games for a long time.

As for Exhibition mode? Well, it’s your standard WWE game. Single, Tag, Triple Threat and 4 Corners wrestling. You have various modes such as ladder, HitC, and iron man. It’s all the standard stuff you’ve come to expect from a wrestling game in all honesty. Nothing ground-breaking or innovative at all. Just prettier and with a different roster. Seven types of matches with seven different modifications. Hooray?
King of the Ring mode is similar to the old tourney the WWE used to put on and then discarded for Bad Blood. You can have a non title tournament with allows 4, 8, or 16 wrestlers to compete for the title of KOTR. You can also have a tag tournament in the same vein. There are also SD! And RAW specific tournaments where the winner of a 16 man tournament fights either Brock or HHH for the belt.
Again, this is nothing fancy. It’s as cut and dry as most wrestling games. You beat the crap out of a lot of guys in order to get a title shot. What more do you need to know?

Then we have the much talked about Revenge mode. Before playing it, I had mixed emotions. It was a weird concept. A WWE Platform/Streets of Rage type setup. Your particular wrestler (I used both the Hurricane and my homebrewed Magnum TOKYO to see if there was much of a difference. There wasn’t) is fired for no particular reason from the WWE by Vince. But then a very BADLY DESIGNED Stephanie McMahon comes and decides to help you out. If you agree to ruin all sorts of Vince’s plans for Wrestlemania, he will lose a lot of money and thus be forced to sell the entire WWE to Stephanie.
Now even in the poorly written world of Pro Wrestling, there are a few flaws here. Stephanie is the general manager of SD! Wouldn’t she be more about attacking RAW? And as we’ve see Austin and Steph hire people on their own, why not just rehire the guy? And why not just go to Japan or The Jarrett’s instead of committing homicide, grand larceny, vandalism and more. What’s the point? And why would you commit these acts dressed up as say, a Green Lantern knock-off? It’s pretty damn obvious who you are then! And why would you trust ANY McMahon? You know it’ll be a swerve in the end, anyways. And hell, if you really want to f*ck with Vince, why not kidnap Steph or Linda or Shane and hold them hostage or send a digit from one of their hands to him every week or something like that?

No, the story for story mode makes no sense. Even in the world of Professional Wrestling, it’s too unbelievable. And the stages and gameplay are even worse. Most of the stages you have barely any idea of what you’re supposed to be doing. And the difficulty level goes from either far too easy to no way in hell can you beat this without cheezing.’ And the thing is, there is no rhyme or reason to said difficulty. One stage will be super easy, then you’ll have a hard one, then another easy one. In fact, all of the Revenge mode stages are super easy. At least the beating the snot out of people parts are.
You see, even on EXPERT difficulty, the computer’s AI is laughable. It has no rhyme or reason and I have yet to have an actual match that lasts longer than five minutes (Except Iron Man of course). It’s like fighting a blind paraplegic. The problem comes when you have to fight three on one at a time with unlimited opponents. You see, you use the Z button to switch targets, and there is a 1-3 second pause before your character registers the change. In that time you’ve most likely been hit. As long as the Z button actually responds, beating the 3 on 1 odds is pretty easy. But then like in Docks level 3, there is an unlimited supply of cronies that you have to beat along with climbing up a gigantic cage about 5 times larger than the HitC cage, where you then have to climb a giant pole as well. It’s not the fighting that’s hard, it’s getting up the cage before one of the idiots gets back to his feet and shakes you off it that is damn near impossible. But I’ve never liked how climbing cages or ladders have ever been implemented in a wrestling game.

Overall, if you like a third rate Double Dragon, than you will enjoy story mode. But if you want to wrestle instead of have a five minute time limit where you have to destroy WM logos while wrestling RVD and a police officer, you should stay the hell away from Revenge mode.
The problem is that Revenge Mode and SHOPZONE go hand in hand. In order to buy any of the stuff to unlock, you have clear Revenge mode stages. Ugh and double ugh. And the money you earn is about 6-10K a pop so it takes forever to unlock everything. Have fun going into bouts of profanity. I just gave up and decided only to unlock moves and ability points and the rare occasional item. As Chuck Platt puts is, “Fuck Revenge Mode.”

And Shop Zone is annoying if only for the Cyber Stacy Keebler. Here’s a hint Stacy: Your voice is NOT why people keep you around. Oh my god, it’s worse than being in a room full of banshees. “Good Choice! Good Choice! Check your wallet!.” Arrrgh. I hate Shop Zone. I hate Revenge Mode. I just wanted to make Misawa and Kobashi! And Chono. So in order to make some decent guys, I had to use both. Kill me now.

Finally we have the create a wrestler mode. It’s pretty damn complex. You name it, you can make it. Some of my CAWs are Magnum TOKYO, Ultimo Dragon, Dragon Kid, Stoker Ishikawa, Demolition Ax and Smash (Complete with optional Repo Man outfit), Misawa, Kobashi, Chono, Muta, Zombie Owen Hart, and Ultimate Warrior. I’ve seen CAW’s for everyone from Space Ghost to Golum to Vegeta to Ryu from Street Fighter. There’s even a Mask and Face Paint creation kit. If you have the lack of a social life and the insane desire to try and make La Parka, you certainly can. The problem is you’ll have more fun making a wrestler than actually playing as him. Because for your guy to be any good, you have to unlock some ability points. And to get them…that’s right: REVENGE MODE! Bleck. Unless of course you like your home made Bret hart to have a stat of 2 in everything out of a possible ten.

So in truth, everything in the game that could be excellent is dampened by the god damned Revenge mode. It really is. In truth, Wrestlemania 19 is a game better suited to a rental or waiting until the price drops from the full 50$. The CAW and playing with your friends are the reason to buy the game, but even those get old after two weeks of playing.

I know, I know, you want stats.

Gameplay
Gameplay is the usual standard wrestling fair. One button for grapples, one for punching. One for running. One for picking up weapons. Two for blocking. Meh. My bitchiness is with how long it takes you to switch between opponents. And with the fact that even in Revenge mode, your character is forced to run always towards another wrestle unless you really force the controls. If you can cycle between opponents, why not a “no opponent” selection so you can pick up weapons and items? As well I hate when you’re trying to kick someone off a ledge and the first two times you hit the B button you throw punches at imaginary opponents before your guy realizes you’re trying to stomp. Every time! Annoying as hell again! And you’ve already heard me bitch about the problems with reversals in this game.

I was looking forward to the fact that guys supposedly would finally sells moves. The SD! Series is notorious for having a guy get up the second after being pummeled by a top rope move or a power bomb. Here? A guy lies on the ground for 30 seconds from a head butt or punch while you wiggle the control pad furiously. I do like that the game does sell, but it oversells like Curt Hennig a lot of the time, god bless his rotting perfect bones to the point where once you’re down, you STAY DOWN. First guy to even remotely lie on the ground for a short period of time is not going to get back up unless the other player screws up. It is seriously that lopsided of a game.

And of course we have the blood. Yay! Everyone likes blood, right? Bust HHH’s big honker right? Make Vince bleed dammit! Well, in multi-player mode, blood adds a fun aspect sometimes to the game. However, in Revenge mode, the fact Yukes and THQ made blood totally and utterly random will leave you swearing your ass off. Watch what happens when you have to do a Revenge stage where you have to make five people bleed, the first two take for f*cking ever to bleed, one guys bleeds after the first move you do to him, the fourth bleeds after you hit him with a sledgehammers 56 times (I counted) to no avail but then a simple superkick gets him to blade. And then you have two minutes to take out William Regal. Six Vertabreakers? No go people. But a Camel Clutch? It comes a flowing! The problem is that Yukes has taken something that is totally and utterly random and made it an essential part of gameplay. Which is exceptionally stupid. It is no longer gameplay. It’s luck. You could be the world’s greatest WWE player going against a person who has never played a video game before in their life, and yet they get one lucky punch in on you, and you’re the one wearing the Crimson Mask. That’s fine and fun unless the whole point of the game HINGES ON THAT. Bleck.

So yes, there are a lot of problems with this game. A Lot. But as long as you stick to multiplayer or CAW making, it’s okay. But seriously, Revenge Mode was both poorly designed and conceived. I’d have rather had a non ending season mode than this pile of crap. And don’t worry, I won’t ruin the ending for you. I’ll just say once you’ve gone through the insanity, you will SO wish you hadn’t ever played Revenge Mode.

Graphics
This game is beautiful. I’ll give it that. Perfect titantrons and captures of match footage. Realistic rings and arenas. But then the actual wrestlers. That’s where some problems occur. Guys like Rey Mysterio looks so perfect it’s frightening. Angle is incredible. But then there are some than look as if they are from a different game like Hurricane, Randy Orton, and RVD. Others just look like crap, which is most of the girl wrestlers. Very few of the ladies actually look like themselves. And it makes me wonder if they had the wrestlers divided between specific artists, because the difference between them all is incredible. Some are jaw dropping. Other are nose turning.

And that’s so fitting of the entity that is WMXIX. Some things are unbelievably good. Others are just plain horrific. Thank god for the insanely detailed CAW mode. The only problem is I’m noticing CAW is going from just a neat little addition, to almost insane levels of concentration and detail needed. The majority of your time playing WMXIX is going to be making guys, not playing.

Sound
Again, some things are really great. A lot of music is note for note what we’ve come to love as WWE Superstar entrance themes. Others are not. Why could they get Voodoo Chile’ but not All the Thing She Said?’ And all the official music is great. It’s nice to hear Booker T’s Harlem Heat music instead of the crap they put on WM18. Now if only they had the nWo theme or Real American for alternate Hollywood songs.

But oh my God are the sound effects and background music horrible. I just mute the TV for the whole Revenge stages, the music is that awful. It’s elevator music for hair metal fans bad. And the ugh ugh ugh’ noises when you hit some one? Why bother. I mean, as long as you have the guys posing for texturing there in house, how hard is it to get each one to make a noise of pain?

Maybe I’m just looking for more than there is. But I want some major crowd reactions. I want to actually believe the wrestlers are fighting. And would it be so hard to have better music while you’re actually wrestling? Why not some of the wrestlers theme music? Or even better, classic music for guys not in the game. It would CAW mode even more fun. You find the Honky Tonk Man theme, so why not try and make him. Or Muta’s NWA theme!

Again, we find that like the rest of WMXIX, there is no middle ground, only extremes of excellence and crapulence.

Fun Factor
Well, I can’t really say this game is fun. When you first get it and play KOTR or a few exhibition matches, it’s fun to watch all the different entrances and see how well THQ captures the look and feel of the WWE. It’s neat to look through the shop zone and see what you can eventually unlock and find. It’s cool to make weird guys or classic grapplers with the CAW mode. But two weeks later I find the game boring at worst and a five minute brain waste with some friends at best. And Revenge Mode is akin to profanity with myself and the other 411’ers who have played it.

Seriously, this game is a rental. Get a few friends together and beat the crap out of each other. See how far each of you can get in Revenge Mode without swearing. And then return it. If you really need to see how many wrestlers you can make, or actually find the AI challenging, than I’ll point at you and snicker, but I will then, and only then suggest you buy the game for the full 50$, but again, there are so many better ways to spend your time than deliberating on what nose looks best on your home brewed Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living or Cobra Commander.

Ratings
Gameplay:6.0
Graphics:8.5
Sound:7.5
Fun Factor:4.0

Short Attention Span Summary
Wrestlemania is supposed to be the granddaddy of them all. But the problem is, THQ and Yukes are showing their age as creators. With wrestling competition this side of the Atlantic, except for FPW on the GNA, wrestling games in general have become stale and humdrum. I applaud WMXIX for taking a chance and trying something new with Revenge Mode. EVERY video game company should take risks and try something innovative. But the downside to the risk-taking, is that sometimes, the risks end up sucking wang. Much like Revenge Mode. Yukes got it damn near perfect with Touken Retsuden 4. So why in the 4+ years since the game has been out, haven’t they been able to capture lighting in a bottle twice?