Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fire Pro Wrestling Returns - We Didn’t Start The Fire

Whenever I’m not singing the praises of Grand Theft Auto and Dynasty Warriors, I love playing wrestling games. Sure, the WWE games haven’t been good since Smackdown Vs Raw 2006 and after being burned so many times, this march into perfect simulation since WWE 2K15 has been a march off a cliff. Unless I and a legion of other wrestling game fans are incredibly wrong, WWE 2K17 would just be average at best.

“Ralphy, you keep mentioning WWE 2K17, are you even gonna review it?”

I bloody hell won’t because I’m not spending $79.99 on a sports game, especially a yearly WWE game. Even 3 years ago when WWE 2K14 was released, I bought it when when it was on sale in EB Games for 30 dollars. Since WWE 2K17 is being released soon like how a rabid dog or a useless Pokemon is being released, let’s take a look at other better wrestling games. As usual, expect a bit more wrestling references so I apologize in advance.

Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is a 2D wrestling game that is basically for the hardcore wrestling fan with access to a lot of resources in order to make the most of the game. It’s not for the casual fan who’s used to the modern WWE games or even the Playstation One era WWF games. This is a game where it basically says “Pick two guys, let them fight.” The series has been going on since 1989 in Japan and has a lovely cult following to this day.

Specific match types are fewer than a typical WWE game and being able to customize the rules gives you more variety. These rule customizations include no countouts, lumberjack rules, submission only, and 2-count only, among others. Aside from normal matches, we get steel cage matches. Not in the same levels as Hell in a Cell, Lethal Lockdown, or War Games but a typical steel cage nonetheless. One chaotic match type that hasn’t been done in WWE games is a 10-man tag team match so finally, your dream of a traditional Survivor Series match with 5 clones of AJ Styles against 5 clones of Kevin Nash could finally play out, you absolute lunatic.

What’s that? You want something different? Well, you got it! Freakin’ deathmatches fresh from Japan, brother dude jack! You get two kinds - barbed wire and landmine. It’s Christmas for the bloodthirsty. Barbed wire deathmatches have the ring ropes replaced by electrified barbed wire. After a certain time, the bombs surrounding the ring will explode which can lead to one or several competitors knocked out or they would just stand like nothing happened because it’s Japan and no one sells a lot of moves there. Landmine deathmatches have the ring surrounded by exploding barbed wire landmines so if you throw someone out of the ring, expect a small explosion but then they just stand up and get back in the ring like nothing happened because it’s Japan. It’s chaos. You can add a number of weapons in the ring along with choosing barbed wire or light tubes set up in the corners. The problem with these matches is that top rope moves are eliminated from the equation so a wrestler with a diving elbow, diving double stomp, or any top rope move as a finisher wouldn’t be able to use their full potential.

Gruesome fighting is basically an MMA match complete with imitation UFC octagon. The only ways to gain a victory is by knockout or submission. The funny part about this kind of match is the longer it goes, the more likely a wrestler can be knocked out with any move such as a clothesline or a small package. A wrestler could even knock themselves out performing a move they do.

SWA rules matches are basically no disqualification matches focused on knockouts and submissions instead of pinfalls and can be set to play out in rounds like an MMA fight. A weird fusion of pro wrestling and MMA match type that I personally never played.

An S-1 Rules match is more like boxing so you’d have to rely on strikes more which are already hard to aim with the isometric camera angle. Going for a grapple in this match would just have you hug your opponent so that means no flashy wrestling moves, as amazing as it would’ve been to have Floyd Mayweather beat Manny Pacquiao with a piledriver.

The game definitely gets better with customization but that requires either a lot of effort or some money. Creating a wrestler in this game is a long process. Creating dozens and dozens of wrestlers is a real arduous effort. Not only do you have to set every move of the wrestler including how they pin their opponent, you’d have to set their AI, their voice, their stats and their optional biographies. If you don’t know what you’re doing, creating a wrestler would take at least 25 to 35 minutes if you go through a hundred different strikes, a hundred different grapples, and want everything to be perfect or at least accurate. It’s that kind of “create your own fun”.

What’s that, Fire Pro Wrestling Returns? You have a create-a-logo feature? That’s great! With no tutorial? Yeah, no, not gonna talk about that then. Instead, we can talk about create-a-ring match where you can customize a wrestling ring to look like a certain promotion’s or a blended mix of colors and insanity from your mind.

To be able to get a great save file filled with wrestlers, logos, and rings from past and present eras, you have to download a save file that someone else made and transfer it onto your memory card. Sure, you can just download the ISO and emulate this game on the PC but some of us like to play it authentically on the PS2. This means buying a used copy of an Action Replay disc from eBay which can cost up to 22 to 30 dollars Canadian.

Is it fun? To an extent, yes. Even if this entire game is 2D, the gameplay is more fun than a 3D WWE game. There are different modes for you to create your own story in your head. Tournament mode can be set with up to 32 competitors ranging from singles to 5-man teams competing to the top.  

Match Maker mode is basically a management mode where you have to book the best cards you can and draw the most money in 12 months. It sounds easy but you have to consider who you book, what matches you book, what matches the fans want to see, and how well it draws money. What’s worse is that Match Maker mode forbids you to use created wrestlers so you can’t have a headline of John Cena against Nathan Drake in a landmine deathmatch or The Ascension main eventing anything. You’d have to stick with the 300 Japanese wrestlers in the game’s original roster and only 25 of them are American and known to the above average wrestling fan
Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is definitely a  fun wrestling game, but do I recommend buying it? No, but with a huge pulsating asterisk of terms and conditions. Don’t buy it unless you know what you’re getting into. There are no tutorials for this game. It’s basically a father throwing their kid into a pool and shouting “Do something, you little punk. I thought you wanted to swim!”

There’s no season mode so storylines would have to be written from your imagination and then rewritten constantly because Vince McMahon doesn’t like what you wrote and you didn’t make Roman Reigns look strong, you horrible writer. 

I don’t recommend buying this if you don’t wish to indulge with the customization that this game offers. However, if you do know how to have fun with this game and you know what you’re getting yourself into with the hours and hours you’d spend creating the 2014 WWE roster, go ahead. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is honestly pretty awesome. It’s not a punch-and-kick button masher like a 2D fighting game. You have to strategize and time your moves properly, wearing down your opponents while conserving your own stamina. If that doesn’t sound fun for you, stay away because you’ll get bored easily. Use it for specific purposes such as WrestleBets, a stream gimmick that NewLegacyInc did last year. Use it for your e-federation and simulate matches for your wrestling forum. If you have an Action Replay disc, download a save file where other people have already included a thousand wrestlers from mainstream WWE to independent wrestlers from Lucha Underground or Ring of Honor. After you have customized and downloaded more familiar wrestlers into your game, it’s a great wrestling game limited by how much the community updates the save files.

So play Fire Pro Wrestling Returns, a shining star of pro wrestling games!