The rundown (finally) continues as the first licensed game appears. Again, I know there was a WWF game released before this (simply titled WrestleMania) and one after it (called Steel Cage Challenge) but as I said in entry one, this is all about the games I’ve played and can therefore give a then and now review on. I may later play some of the missed NES games and just give a “Now” review, but they won’t be apart of this rundown of Wrestling games I’ve played throughout my life. So, on to WrestleMania Challenge…
Famous wrestler Yourself makes his long awaited debut!
WWF WrestleMania Challenge was released in November 1990 in the US, and released over here the following year. It’s a follow up to WWF WrestleMania, and the second WWF game on the NES (and third overall if you count the text turn-based MircoLeague Wrestling on the Commodore 64 and Atari ST) Originally it was going to be released as “WWF Survivor Series”, but I guess they wanted to continue the momentum from their first game.
The roster features Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant and Macho King Randy Savage, who all appeared in the original WM game, and The Ultimate Warrior, The Big Boss Man, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Rick Rude, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan, all making their wrestling game debuts in this entry. It also includes a character simply called “Yourself”, who… well, is apparently yourself. Not exactly a Create-a-Wrestler, but still an interesting idea for the time.
Somehow Andre is hidden behind Boss Man… Who’s trying to fly away?
The gameplay system here is extremely simple, even more so than Tecmo. One button grapples (with only one move for facing front, and one for facing back), one button kicks or punches, both buttons at once does a special running attack, and then there is one grounded opponent attack, one turnbuckle attack, and that’s about it. You can leave the ring, not that there is anything to do there, and you can call your tag partner to interfere on your behalf if in the relevant mode. You and your opponent have a stamina bar (that neatly displays across the aprons of the ring) and once it’s gone down, you’ll be pinned (or do the pinning!) as soon as the opportunity arises.
The CPU is odd, and very annoying. It moves around the ring in completely random and erratic ways, causing you to constantly chase them, and then often get hit as they suddenly turn around and decide to do a move on you. It makes the game challenging, but not in a good way.
As for the modes, well you can have Singles, Tag or Survivor Series modes here, the latter being a gauntlet and three on three rather than a four or five on each team tag match. Still, it’s a nice touch, and adds a tiny bit of variety. You can also win a solo or tag championship by beating the roster as Yourself, or the roster in teams as… yourselves, with a second player.
Graphics and Sound:
Not quite so Ravishing… I mean, who wears brown attire?
The graphics are… well, they’re okay. They’re smaller than the Tecmo sprites, but you can generally tell who each person is (apart from Rick Rude, who seems to have short, brown hair and no moustache…)
If you can’t tell who they are then luckily for you a fun 8-bit rendition of each character’s entrance theme (or a made up theme for Andre and the two Yourselves) plays one after the other (for the two people in the ring) as you fight. Most of them sound fine, apart from Rick Rude (again!) who’s theme is accurate, but ear-piercing. The menu music is fine, if not very memorable.
Final Thoughts (Then):
At the time, it was great. Playing with my brother as people I recognised from TV was a treat, and unlike Tecmo I could actually get grapples on all the time. That being said, it’s easy to get walloped by the always erratically moving CPU, so single player wasn’t so fun…
Final Thoughts (Now):
Everyone does this weird “yippie!” monkey dance when they win. It’s hilarious!
Now, the unique “I’m playing as Hulk Hogan!” effect is off, and nostalgia glasses are also off the table (or my face, I guess?) it’s not great. There is very little variety and combat is a dull game of chase that normally ends with you getting pinned. A lot of 8-bit games still play really great and are still fun, but this is one of the ones which has aged badly, I’m afraid. Avoid unless you’re on some sort of wrestling game odyssey… whatever that is.