Legends of Wrestlemania
Release Date: 03/24/2009
Hey, kids! Remember when wrestling used to be fun? When angles simmered for four to six, really allowing them to build? Remember when Wrestlemania wasn’t a throw away card put together at the last second and both world title matches revolved around the champion’s wives? Remember when wrestling wasn’t scripted by Vince Russo?
Well, that’s what Legends of Wrestlemania is all about. With drastically changed gameplay from the Smackdown Vs. Raw series and a roster of people who, in real life, are either dead or over the hill, LoW promised to be a harkening back to the golden days of the WWF from Wrestlemanias I – XXV.
Of course I haven’t been a fan of THQ wrestling games in a long time. 2k6 was the best the had been in years and it was followed by a few more years of mediocrity. Then there was TNA Impact which made me long for WCW Thunder and WWF Wrestlemania XXI. Still, I had fun with the demo, so I decided to review Legends of Wrestlemania in hopes that after three and a half years, I was in for a decent wrestling game. Besides there’s only so long I can play 2k6 with CAWS like La Parka, Jushin Liger and Ultimo Dragon without wishing for next-gen graphics.
There is no story/season mode here in Legends of Wrestlemania. This is not a game where your wrestler is given an in-depth storyline ranging from Undertaker burying Eddie Guerrero alive a few days before he died in real life or where Trish Stratus wins the WWE Championship. No , LoM is an arcade style wrestler more reminiscent of Wrestlefest or WWE Royal Rumble than either of those games. For those of you who haven’t played Wrestlefest, trust me, you should.
There are four playable modes. The first is “Legend Killer Mode” where you take your created wrestler (In my case MACHO MAN RANDY SAVAGE! OOOOOOOOH YEAH! SUCK ON THAT VINCE!) and run them through a series of ten man gauntlet matches. For each gauntlet match you beat, you unlock another tier until you’ve beaten them all. With each match you earn experience points for your CAW, which means you’re going to have to do this for EACH CAW. Before you ask, no, there is no way to unlock unlimited experience points either. That’s a big negative in my opinion. This is actually my least favorite mode even though I’ve already made Vader, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Ax, Smash, and Savage as it’s too damn repetitive and it’s too slow a process to earn experience points. Unless you are planning to make a lot of CAW’s and you’re willing to devote about three hours to each wrestler, you want to beat this mode once to unlock match types and extra costumes and then never return to it.
The next three modes though are simply awesome. They are: Relive, Rewrite and Redefine. Each mode is described perfectly with their name and as a bonus, you get a five minute (or so) montage of actual video clips from the match and the angle that led up to it. This was a wonderful touch and it reminded me why I loved things like WMVI with Warrior cleanly defeating Hogan or the Bret/Michaels Iron Man Match. The video clips are unlockables as well so if you just wanted to watch these, you have the option. The actual Relive mode offers particular move sets and moments that are exclusive to these matches alone. The goal of each match is to recreate as many memorable spots as you can before winning the match. For each spot you recreate, you earn points. Earn enough points and you receive a gold medal and with it, some unlockables.
Rewrite lets you change the results of a match from the past. Here you’ll be playing as the loser of a specific match and trying to win the match, thus changing history and destroying reality as we know it. Okay, well, maybe things don’t go that far. Again, this is a really neat concept and it definitely sets up for both nostalgic and fanboy moments alike.
Redefine is an odd duck. Remember in SD vs. Raw games where you would have specific matches you would need to play to unlock things? Well, this is similar. It’s the same wrestlers from classic (or not so classic) matches from the past, but with a new twist on things. Ravishing Ric Rude vs. Jimmy Snuka is now a Steel Cage match instead of a normal one on one encounter. This mode isn’t as good as the other two “r” modes, but it’s still more fun than “Legend Killer.” This just feels kind of tacked on so that lots of wrestlers in the game could be highlighted.
The only problem with the three “R”‘s is that there’s just not enough of them. There’s only about a half dozen matches for each type. Which each match only lasting about three to five minutes means that you finish each mode in an hour or so. That’s…a bit of a letdown. Still, you can always go back to try and beat your high scores, but once you have the medal for each match, that’s something only the most anal of gamers would bother with.
Finally, there’s your general Exhibition Mode. Pick a match, pick a wrestler or two and go at it. Nothing new here.
In all, Legends of Wrestlemania is a neat idea and there are some fun new outside the box modes. The only problem is that the best modes are too short and that Legend Killer never seems to end. Still, it’s a fun time, and I absolutely love the video montage packages.
Modes Rating: Enjoyable
Again, this is an arcade wrestling game, meaning that the graphics are focused more on larger than life slightly cartoonish character designs than realistic re-creations. For characters like the Road Warriors and The Ultimate Warrior, this works perfectly. For wrestlers like Ric Flair or Michael Hayes, it’s not that great an idea. Still, all the characters look good and I actually prefer the character designs in this game to 2k9 if only because Yukes and THQ are trying something new and it stands out from the pack of other wrestling games.
The audience graphics are terrible and the big weakness here visually. They are pretty much just blobs and at times, shots of the crowd can really take you out of the game. Thankfully, all the different arenas more than make up for that. I loved seeing all the different WM graphics being showcased. The game even has those cute mini rings people rode to the squared circle in WM’s like III and VI! Yes! Why did they ever get rid of those?
Legends of Wrestlemaniais a pretty game featuring a fun new look for a lot of classic wrestlers. If you’ve missed everyone from Bam Bam Bigelow to YOKOZUNA, you’re going to adore seeing them walk down the aisle one last time.
Graphics Rating: Good
Sound is actually the weakest part of the game. You would think that with 40 classic wrestlers, that the musical tracks would be the best part. Well, sadly, someone at THQ and Yukes screwed up. There are a lot of tracks that are either slightly or completely off. Koko B. Ware, for example has “Piledriver” as his entrance when anyone and everyone knows it should be “Bird, Bird Bird.” Ric Rude’s “The Stripper” if off in tone and tempo. Mr. Perfect’s “Exodus” is off pitch. Michael Hayes doesn’t even have “Badstreet USA.” What the hell? The song he enters to isn’t any of the previous Freebird tunes and I should know seeing as I have Hayes’ record and tape (Actually multiple copes because Hayes was my favorite US based wrestler until My Olympic Hero burst onto the scene and was still sane.) How the hell did these mistakes get into the game? Even weirder, King Kong Bundy and Andre the Giant have music know when they never had them before. This confuses me greatly and has me wondering how the WWE missed these glaring errors. At least the majority of the songs are intact.
The commentary is pretty poor too. As much as I love JR and Jerry Lawler, some of their announcing clips have been recycled for years now. There are clips from 2k6 in here! As well, it just feels weird to here the WWF Attitude era guys commenting on matches that were called by Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon or Tony Schivone and Jessie Ventura. Thanks to the video packages, you really find yourself wishing for the real commentators to go with the matches. Would it have been that hard to take audio bits from the actual matches and time them to go off with specific sequences? Really, who out there doesn’t miss the banter between McMahon and “The Body?” If you’re going to give these wrestlers one last moment in the spotlight, why not do that for your announcers as well?
Finally, Howard Finkel does ring announcing instead of the crappy triad they currently have in WWE programming and that is honestly the highpoint of the audio in the game.
Hopefully we can get some downloadable tracks to correct the music. Otherwise I’m taking full advantage of the customizable soundtrack options and fixing several of these things in addition to uploading Muta’s awesome entrance music and “GO GO GO – TOKYO!” What can I say? I like Puro.
Sound Rating: Mediocre
4. Control and Gameplay
This is truly the most important aspect of the game considering that there is little to nothing in common with this engine and the previous Yukes wrestling games. I’m happy to report that although the movesets are a little weak and you don’t have as many options as in the SD Vs. Raw series, the controls are a fun new way to play the game and there are only a few minor quibbles that I have.
The interesting thing is how retro the gameplay feels. You’ll only be using the shape buttons and the left joystick. No shoulder buttons, no d-pad, nor the right analog stick see any use at all. This makes the game VERY easy to learn and it feels exactly like your controls for Wrestlefest. Your square button controls striking attacks and the X button is for grappling moves. Tapping a button is a light but quick move and holding it down is a slow but strong move. The only problem is that your choice of moves are VERY limited and what type of move you do depends on your momentum meter. This meter raises with moves that you do and it shrinks when you do a taunt or a special move.
The biggest thing that annoys me in this game is how running works. The manual says you need to double tap the circle button or the left stick away from your opponent twice quickly, but only the O options actually works. Even then, whenever you run you have to bounce off the ropes and it’s very awkward compared to previous wrestling games. Even after beating every option in the game it still doesn’t feel right to me.
In comparison, LoM offers the best taunt system in the history of wrestling games. In previous wrestling games, taunts were just for show. Here they actually do something. You can use a taunt to double your momentum meter speed, do more damage, regain health, or make it so your moves can’t be blocked. I love this and hope this remains the future for taunts.
Speaking of blocking…. Blocks and reversals are all done using the triangle button. The computer is very adept at blocking although your blocks never seem to work quite right. Reversals RARELY work for either of you, and it’s weird to have a blocking option in a wrestling game. You don’t see a lot of rope-a-dope in sports entertainment.
Finally there is the other new gameplay element for LoM, which is known as chain grappling. If you grapple a dazed or groggy opponent when they are against the ropes, in the corner, or Irish Whipping them, you set off a chain grapple. A chain grapple gives you either two or three buttons to hit at specific moments in the combo. If you hit the button first or in time, you’ll keep doing the combo. If you mess up or your opponent hits it first, they will reverse the combo on you and become the aggressor. There are also a few odd points where you have to button mash, like in a test of strength or when you and your opponent are down on the mat. This is the worst system in the game, as no matter how fast you jam the buttons, it feels like 95% of the time, your opponent will win – even with a Street Fighter IV turbo stick. What the heck?
Really, my only complaints are the button mashing mini games and the way you run. Everything else is really neat and I love the Ladder/HitC/Steel Cage controls as well. Although long time wrestling fans might dislike the control scheme simply because it is new, after playing the game for some time, the new control scheme will really grow on you.
Now if only we could have matches longer than three to five minutes. That’s one thing I really do miss.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Enjoyable
Because so much of Legends of Wrestlemania revolves around recreating and winning specific matches from history, there’s not a lot of replay value in this game. You beat World Tour Mode (the three “R’s” and the somewhat boring Legend Killer mode and all you have left is to go online and fight friends and strangers. The only problem with this is that if you make a CAW with the “logos” option, you can’t go online with them. What the heck?
One good thing is that you can import the Smackdown Vs. Raw 2k9 roster and that doubles the amount of playable characters. However without a season mode or Monday Night Wars simulation, there’s not much you can do with this either unless you and your friends are wrestling video game junkies. Even if that proved to be the case, the limited move sets makes the game get old fast.
This is great for the novelty and trying all the options or watching the movies. As a long term purchase, it’s hard for me to recommend.
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
The only time you will ever have trouble with your computer controlled opponents are when you first bring a CAW into Legend Killer Mode. Two hits and your wrestler will be out of life, while you’ll be doing over two dozen moves or strikes just to get your opponent prepped for a pin. Of course, you’re a brand new character without any experience and so of course you are at a disadvantage but as long as you get over your aversion to running and learn the strike-strike-grapple combination, you’ll be pinning Hulk Hogan with the big elbow in no time. OOOOOOH YEAH! Take that Wrestlemania V!
The only other time I had any problems was button mashing in the WMVI match. Now I’m a very good button masher. In the crappy Star Soldier R game for WiiWare where all you are supposed to do is button mash, I was at the top of the charts for some time. Here though? I have no idea how you’re supposed to beat the computer. I jammed on a single button. I lost. I jammed on all four buttons. I lost. I rotated between two buttons. I lost. I used both hands for four buttons. I LOST. It was insane. WMVI’s two button mashers are still the only pieces in the game I have left to do It’s infuriating, especially when the rest of the game is so bloody easy.
There’s not a lot of substance to Legends of Wrestlemania. it’s fun sure, but like all of THQ’s wrestling games since WCW Vs. The World, there’s not the slightest bit of challenge to be found in the computer’s AI.
Balance Rating: Bad
I really loved the new modes in LoM, but I can’t believe how short they are. With two dozen Wrestlemanias out there, you could have easily done a dozen matches in Rewriter, Relive, or Redefine. It’s just too short, which is all the more shameful as this is such a great concept that THQ and Yukes really should have exploited.
It’s also nice to see an arcade style wrestling game for the first time in nearly a decade. If this game only had one of the announcers saying, “You’ve got to give credit TO YOKOZUNA,” I’d be back in 1996 with Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game in terms of match speed.
There are scads of wrestling games out there these days and now we have two WWE and one TNA impact game released for the PS3 in the past year. This is the only game I can honestly say is worth purchasing however, but even then it’s mostly for of the same as Legend Killer mode is basically the same thing at WWF War Zone for the PSX that Acclaim put out in the mid 1990’s (Although without the awesome Ahmed Johnson FMV sequences) and exhibition mode is just more of the same.
Originality Rating: Mediocre
If you are an old school wrestling fan, it’s going to be hard to put down your Dual Shock – at least at first. There’s something about the recreation and rewriting of history that you can’t help but enjoy. To re-create the Chi-Town Rumble with Flair and Steamboat is just freakin’ awesome, even if it was a NWA match, not a WWF one. The ability to import the current WWE roster is yet another bonus. You’ll find yourself replaying Austin/Michaels from WMXIV over and over again to get that gold medal or finishing off yet another boring Legend Killer just because you want to get all the unlockables. You’ll watch each and every video montage and some of them more than once just for the flood of memories they bring back. If there is one thing Legends of Wrestlemania does better than any wrestling game I’ve ever played, it’s cherishing the actual history of professional wrestling and reminding you why you love sports entertainment, even if you’ve drifted away for the past eight years or so.
Even though the replay value is lower than other wrestling games, this offers the best short term experience I’ve had with wrestling in years.
Addictiveness Rating: Very Good
9. Appeal Factor
This is actually a tough category to judge. Pro wrestling games sell quite well, but the audience for LoM isn’t necessarily the current demographic for wrestling. It’s for older wrestling fans who enjoyed the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. With a completely overhauled control scheme and new gameplay it’s going to be interesting to see how hard it is for gamers to adapt to this new game that has little if anything in common with the Smackdown Vs. Raw series.
I enjoy LoM more than recent SD Vs. Raw entries if only because it feels a bit fresh and I love seeing characters like Greg Valentine, Double A, and even the Honkey Tonk Man back in a playable video game where I haven’t had to make them as CAWS. Even though I generally am a bit creeped out about using dead wrestlers, this is still the best overall roster I can think of for a wrestling game save for Raw 2 which had Goldberg, Lesnar, Angle and Flair. That reminds me – I’m going to have to make a Goldberg and a Captain Charisma.
I have a feeling LoM won’t fare as well as THQ’s longer running series, but that’s because the matches are too quick and the gameplay is so different. Since the average gamer (aside from me, and I’m obviously not average) hates change, I can see LoM selling, but leaving SD Vs. Raw as the current king of sports entertainment gaming.
Appeal Factor: Above Average
On one hand, I want to give bonus points for using the WWF logo instead of WWE or just WW. Heck, they even SAY WWF in some of the video packages. On the other, I want to take away points because this is Legends of Wrestlemania and THERE’S NO RANDY SAVAGE IN THE FREAKIN’ GAME! Vince – get over it.
There are other notable missing wrestlers, but that’s probably because deals couldn’t be reached, but not being able to do Savage/Steamboat, Savage/Hogan, Savage/Warrior, Savage/Flair or even Savage & Sherri/Dusty & Sapphire? That’s just wrong.
I love that THQ and Yukes have FINALLY tried something new. That they didn’t just do a roster change or screw up the controls more than the year before (which was becoming a running theme). We’ve got a quality arcade wrestling game featuring so many of my childhood favorites that it’s hard not to play this game without a big poop eating grin plastered on my face. Yes, it could use some tweaking, both in terms of control schemes and with the new modes (Three are too short and one is far too long), but this is definitely a step in the right direction and I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Legends of Wrestlemania is a fun throwback to games like Wrestlefest and Saturday Night Slammasters. The roster is arguably the best ever to appear in a wrestling video game and while the new engine might be off-putting to long time Yukes fans, it’s nice to see them trying something different for the first time in nearly a decade. My only real complaints revolve around how awkward the running controls are and the strange quality control issues with the music for specific wrestlers. Other than that, Legends of Wrestlemania proved to be a fun nostalgic look at some of the best moments of WWF history. Now if only we could get more Macho Man next time. OOOOOH YEAH!