Legends of Wrestling is a game that takes the popular fake-wrestling genre in somewhat of a new direction, sporting classic favorites like Hulk Hogan, Rob Van Dam, the Iron Sheik, and Ted DiBiase. No less than 42 infamous grapplers of wrestling past have made the roster for LoW, and all the popular signature moves of these wrestlers are included in all their glory. Sadly, Legends of Wrestling fails to measure up to it’s wrestling-counterparts in so many areas that even gamers who have a hankering to play as the same wrestlers they grew up with may not find that much to like with this title.
The biggest issue that hampers the overall enjoyment of the game is it’s finicky and unresponsive gameplay. There is a noticeable delay between the time you hit a button to the time the on-screen wrestler actually performs the move. Some special maneuvers seem to only work at the discretion of the game and even if you know for a fact that you’re performing the correct controller sequences, the move will still refuse to execute. Also, expect a butt-load of unsightly collision detection issues. It’s unfortunate this is the case since if the gameplay had been refined and it’s bugs ironed out, it could have competed with the big boys of wrestling games.
Each wrestling legend in the game will be rated on strength, toughness, charisma, mat skills, recovery, and speed. The style of game you play will be largely based on the attributes of your wrestlers. Some are better at brute force brawling while others can dish out the most damage by performing precarious maneuvers. In addition, each wrestler will have an indicator that shows their health and finishing stamina.
The method of countering in LoW is the most strategy-based facet of the game. It works like this: a meter comes up whenever an offensive move is thrown, like a golf-gauge, and you have to hit the button when the indicator is in the middle green area. Doing so will counter the move. The person on offense also has this option and if he nails the green area, it doesn’t matter that you countered, it’ll still hit you. If you’re fatigued however, some moves will be completely un-counter-able.
You can also chain moves together assuming you keep an eye on your meters and make sure they stay in tolerable areas. The submission maneuvers are perhaps the best way to wear down your opponent, and the amount of time you stay locked in a move is dependant on your button-mashing abilities. In fact, button-mashing plays a large part in the overall gameplay as you’ll use it to get up when you’re knocked out and to throw the opponent off of you when you’re pinned. Weapons can be used at any time. They are conveniently pulled out from underneath the ring and include such bashing devices as chairs, a two-by-four and a kendo stick. The most devastating attacks come in the form of finishing moves. When your finishing move meter is charged, you’ll have around 15 seconds to pull off a special move. Doing this requires some practice and precision but once mastered, you’ll definitely have the upper hand on your opponent.
The visual style of the game is unique at best, boasting action-figure-esque character models decked out with enormous muscles and an exaggerated, superlative physique. Textures are colorful and sharp, though costumes are usually uniform and vary only by slight color-modifications and occasional design elements. This in itself isn’t horribly bad but when coupled with it’s painfully inadequate animation, it manages to only be fleetingly appealing, graphically. As is the case with far too many games, the crowd animations are woefully simplified, giving the impression that you are being watched by a crowd of cardboard cut-outs. The dynamic camera perspective is sometimes annoying and has a tendency to do more harm than good. LoW isn’t much better off in the sound-department either. Sound effects for punching and falling on the mat all sound appropriate, but generic and reused. The music is comprised entirely of in-house audio tracks that aren’t much to speak of, but do get the job done.
The roster of wrestlers is probably the most impressive facet about the game but unfortunately, these characters sometimes only feel unique relative to their appearance alone. The special moves for each character helps to quell this issue somewhat but other than that, these are pretty much vague representations of their real-life counterparts. There is an included create-a-fighter mode that helps to somewhat extend the limited lifespan of the game. The face models included in this mode are sorely lacking, and the costume color-scheme is limited to a mere dozen total designs. There are some worthy additions for the create-a-player mode however, like the create-a-stencil paint program and some cool aesthetic props. It’s an appreciated addition and it was executed fairly well, but it helps little for people who want to play as other more-popular characters that weren’t included in the roster.
Legends of Wrestling is undeniably a novel concept but considering that this game came out for the PS2 last year and has thus seen very minimal improvement in its GameCube incarnation, it doesn’t give gamers much reason to give the game a second chance, or a first chance really. All the issues that plagued the PS2 version are back in full force; simplistic, if shoddy animation, inconsistent frame-rates, and lackluster character designs are all present. This isn’t to say that the game is complete crap. Wrestling fans may get a few hours of enjoyment out of it, thanks to its stellar line-up of classic fighters, and the create-a-wrestler option is also fairly fleshed-out. If you’re a hardcore wrestling fanatic and dig the thought of being able to control grapplers of wrestling past than you might want to give this game a look-see, otherwise I’d advise you to steer clear.