The Wrestling Game Rundown finally reaches the N64 AKI Engine games, my personal choice for the “Golden Age” of wrestling games. WCW vs. n.W.o. World Tour blew me away back when I first got it, it was a more solid and impactful feeling “Vs. The World” but with four people in the ring! Between this game, its sequel and Goldeneye, I was stuck on the N64 pretty solidly for a couple of years… So let’s take a look!
The artwork Flair looks unimpressed, in-game model Flair looks thrilled!
WCW vs. n.W.o: World Tour was released in the US in November 1997, with a European release the following February. In Japan an altered version of this game, with an entirely different roster based on Japanese wrestling stars was released in December 1997, titled “Virtual Pro Wrestling 64”. I actually never owned VPW64, though I will be covering its sequel down the line…
In terms of the roster, well it has 42, but many are fictional facsimiles of existing Japanese stars, so I wont list who’s who, though I will say most are obvious if you’re familiar with Puroresu (Japanese Wrestling) as they didn’t bother to change the skins of the selectable characters. In terms of actual people it has Hollywood Hogan, Ric Flair, Sting, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Lex Luger, Syxx, Steven Regal, Dean Malenko, Scott Steiner, Rick Steiner, and Ultimo Dragon, plus the wrestling game debut of Rey Mysterio, Buff Bagwell, Scott Norton, nWo Sting (his only appearance too, for the record), and Eric Bischoff.
There are also unlockable characters: Macho Man Randy Savage, and making their wrestling game debuts, Diamond Dallas Page, Glacier and Wrath. Two other characters are renamed actual people, but oddly they’re Joshi (Japanese Women’s Wrestling) Legend Manami Toyota renamed as Black Widow, and “Joe Bruiser”, who is actually Muhammed Ali, oddly enough! Comes from the infamously bad “match” between Ali and Antonio Inoki, which… yikes, no idea why you’d want to recreate that, not that you can this version anyway due to the lack of Inoki!
The in-game debut of the Diamond Cutter!
The AKI engine works like this: you have grapple moves, and you have strike moves, with different strikes and moves depending on what direction you hold at the time, and more powerful strikes / moves coming if you hold the corresponding buttons down. You can block strikes with the right shoulder button, and reverse grapples if you have higher Spirit than your opponent, or just get lucky with the shoulder button during your opponent’s grapple attempt. The Spirit Meter charges through multiple moves in a row, or by taunting, and once you have enough Spirit you can active Special mode by taunting, which then gives you the ability to hit your finisher by initiating a strong grapple and then flicking the analogue stick. In World Tour only front and back grapples can be finishers, this is something obviously addressed in later games…
You also have top rope moves, ground moves, corner moves, diving-to-the-outside moves, fighting around the outside of the ring, and the ability to grab a weapon from the audience: either a chair, a broken table piece (jab ‘em with the pointy end!), a black Sting-like baseball bat or a very un-WCW barbed wire baseball bat. You can also bust your opponent open during gameplay, a first if I’m not mistaken.
The modes on offer are singles, tag, handicap (two on one) and a battle royal, which is four people in the ring at the same time, and pin/submission, so if we’re applying modern lingo, it’s really a Fatal Four Way match with elimination rules. There are also various tournaments and leagues on offer, clearly thanks to the shared code with Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 as, leagues especially, are a very Japanese wrestling thing. It also has “WCW vs. n.W.o mode”, which is actually just 5 v 5 in a series of singles matches, where you can only pick one or the other companies/factions.
There is also “League Challenge”, where you fight a bunch of wrestlers from either WCW, n.W.o or one of the fictional companies in a row, with Heavyweight, Cruiserweight and Tag available, and if you win you unlock a new character. Beating all four companies allows you to fight in the World Wide Wrestling leagues, which are longer and have the two most unique hidden characters as mentioned in the Background section of the review.
Graphics and Sound:
A very special hug.
The graphics are smooth textures over very blocky bodies, with the old undetailed and jagged background images for audience members and the railings around the ring. It looks fine, but future AKI N64 games improve the formula greatly, making revisiting this an eye-opener really…
In the sound department, the game performs, again, fine. Background music is often catchy, but not exactly memorable, and sound effects are admirable and somewhat cartoony (especially the groans some wrestlers make!), but again are bettered down the line.
How this happened I have no idea, but it was a good laugh though!
I enjoyed my time with WCW vs. The World, but it was brief. This game? I was addicted! Not just me, either, me and three friends would often have battle royals all the time, fond memories with one friend picking the Mohammed Ali-alike and then the rest of us just stood in the ring holding the strike-blocking button, meaning he literally couldn’t do anything. Great times, only coming to an end when WCW/n.W.o Revenge came out the following year…
Rey Mysterio in action against Great Sasuke, Super Delfin and Hayabusa… no, wait, sorry, I mean against Black Ninja, The Unknown and Hannibal. That’s the one.
It’s still fun to play, the AKI engine is still a good time even if it’s more basic than later offerings. The menu, music and graphic style still fill me with great nostalgia, so I had a really good time with it again. That being said, if you want a WCW game, Revenge is the better one, so there isn’t really any reason to pick this up, other than collecting.