1, 2, 3. A Winner is You! Pro Wrestling for NES Review (Catch The ESCape Show #90 for the Retro Review)

1, 2, 3. A Winner is You! Pro Wrestling for NES Review (Catch The ESCape Show #90 for the Retro Review)

Nintendo, ever present to capitalize on gaming trends and somehow, more often than not, do it better than others do at the time (come on, look at Mario and his many iterations for proof).  Back when the only real game in town was the NES from Nintendo, wrestling was pretty popular and game publishers were quick to jump on the ship.  Nintendo being one of them that was more about substance than flash didn’t bother with an actual license (the big two being WWF, now WWE, and WCW, while there were others in operation they weren’t nearly as big.snap073
Pro Wrestling by Nintendo gets around not having a license by having reasonable facsimiles of popular characters featured (guys like King Slender probably being the Hulk Hogan here, though Giant Panther looks more the part).  My personal fave is Fighter Hayabusa and his insagury kick, called “Back Brain Kick” here, as his finisher (though funnily enough, you can perform these “power” moves at any time as long as you meet the distance or grappling requirements).  Recognized as the first wrestling game on the NES would probably lead you to think that it is not a great game or that there are surely better wrestling games available.  Read on and find out.  This 1986 release is full of surprises.snap80
You are out to take on the world after picking your character in a 5 round competition that yields you the V.W.A. Championship.  This leads to 10 defenses of the title ending with a special match against the Great Puma, who can use pretty much every move from ANY in game character (and as luck would have it, is not a playable character, go figure).  Beating the Great Puma results in your character becoming double champion for both VWA and VWF (and the game basically being over as you are put back at the title screen and must start over, presumably with another character).snap116
Graphics are actually pretty good for such an early release on the system (and beat out the graphics chosen for just about all of the WWF (now WWE thanks to a well publicized legal battle with the World Wildlife Foundation-Vince, you can’t win them all) games released on the NES.  WCW was pretty well represented on the NES though (they probably hired the artist from Pro Wrestling as the sprites are quite similar).  You get an in-ring referee, something that was missing from most wrestling games up till the 32-Bit days with the PSOne, an outside of the camera man (do they even attempt to have them in newer wrestling games yet?) and it is fairly accurate in how these two behave.  The ref has to run around the ring, keeping out of the way of the combatants (though sadly, you cannot do him or the cameraman any harm, no matter how hard you try).  He also realistically runs to where the wrestlers are for the pin count when appropiate.snap119
Controls are spot on, as usual for a Nintendo bred game, and make Pro Wrestling the gem it is.  This is the interesting thing that Nintendo was able to have some fun with, see, each wrestler has a different set of special moves, sure they each have a spin kick (though no standing kick, unless you count Kin Corn Karn) and a punch.  Pushing down and pressing your kick button with Fighter Hayabusa will result in a piledriver, or attempt if you don’t have your opponent worn down enough yet, but with Starman, it will result in a somersault kick.  Same thing for left or right and the kick button, one character may produce a back drop while another may give you a head butt (this is with different characters, they don’t change moves depending on environmental conditions or placement of your enemy).  Some moves that are pretty basic and missing, probably due to animation limitations include the Atomic Drop, any moves involving both characters on the turnbuckle in the corner (though you can perform a big splash type move) and any kind of submission moves whatsoever, so no Figure 4 Leglock (and as such, no recreating Ric Flair with say, Giant Panther) or taking Starman and going with a Sting kind of wrestler (besides the fact that you couldn’t do the Stinger Splash in the corner either).  These are limitations, sure, but this is also an amazing first effort on the NES and it set the bar high, possibly too high for the competition.pro (8)
The sound effects and music are straight out of the 80’s but they are decent and catchy so you may want to at least try them before hitting mute.  You get various themes, the winning theme is pretty cool, I am working on making it my text message alert on my cell phone (so if you hear it while in the store or something, it just might be me replying to it on that phone one isle over).
You simply won’t find another wrestling game that is this cool and fun to play, even going on almost 24 years later.  I have played many wrestling games and well, not many can hold a candle to Pro Wrestling on the NES.  If you are wanting customization, character creation and custom sound tracks and such, well, of course you are going to be out of luck here.  If you are looking for a game that you can enjoy, even if you are not a wrestling fan, well, here you go.  Come and get some.snap118

Our media partners, Gamer Network Radio, reviewed Pro Wrestling on one of their shows, The ESCape Show Episode #90, get it from their Podcast Archive available here. The ESCape Show airs on Wednesday night at 9 pm EST so why not drop in and catch the latest Retro Review?

Pro Wrestling by Nintendo for the NES is available on Wii Virtual Console and at most finer used gaming stores online and off

8 out of 10

Pro Wrestling by Nintendo
System: NES (also available on Virtual Console for the Nintendo Wii)
Released: 1986

Review by Carl “triverse” Williams
Follow triverse on twitter and facebook today.

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