WWF No Mercy (N64) Review

Well… here we go then. A few months ago I reviewed GoldenEye on the N64, now I get to the other biggie: WWF No Mercy, a game I played for literally years after the console ended. The main draw was me and my friend playing 40-Man Royal Rumble matches with Hardcore, pin and submissions on. There nothing quite like brawling to a bar backstage, pinning someone, hearing a countdown to the next entrant who then walks into the bar to continue the match. It’s a fun, usually hour-long multiplayer experience I have yet to be able to recreate in a game since. Beyond that though, what else is great about No Mercy? Let’s find out!

Background:

Steven Richards shows the world why he’s the biggest star in that ring!

WWF No Mercy was released on November 17th 2000 in the US, with the PAL release arriving December 15th 2000, which I remember distinctly as my Dad was worried he wouldn’t be able to get my main Christmas present that year because he couldn’t find it early in the month. I think he ended up paying the nasty full retail price at a WH Smiths in the end… *shrugs* At least if any game was worth £60 it was this, I certainly got my money’s worth!

No Mercy shipped with a now infamous big that reset your data after a certain period of time, and sadly I had one of those carts. The crushing disappointment when my CAW came out and it was reset to a default CAW skin with the default music on and I knew it had happened again is easily brought up in my memory. My Dad phoned a number in the instruction booklet and was given a free address to send the cartridge back, so I was without the game for a week or two in early January 2001, but we soon received a fixed copy back in the post. The bugged copy actually had blood appear in it, but it seems this was part of the glitched nature of the cart as the “fixed” version once again had people hold their foreheads and check for the invisible blood… (again, I believe this is just a UK thing, but it’s worth mentioning… because it annoyed the hell out of me!)

Finally! A game where I can play as a geriatric woman in a small purple leotard! The dream has been realised!

As for the roster? Safe to say it’s jam-packed thanks to the amazing roster the WWF had when the game was finalised, plus they added a couple of legends as well as a playable announcers and a Ho from The Godfather’s Ho train… cool? Anyway, in terms of actual wrestlers it featured Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker, Kane, Mick Foley (and his many faces), Shawn Michaels, Andre The Giant, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Edge, Christian, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Bubba Ray Dudley, D-Von Dudley, Tazz, Chyna, Dean Malenko, Ken Shamrock, Rikishi, Test, The Godfather, Val Venis, X-Pac, Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, Mark Henry, D’Lo Brown, Perry Saturn, Al Snow, Albert, Big Boss Man, Bradshaw, British Bulldog, Hardcore Holly, Debra, Grand Master Sexay, Scotty 2 Hotty, Viscera, Steve Blackman, TAKA Michicnoku, Ivory, Jacqueline, Terri, Jerry Lawler, Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco.

It also features the wrestling game debut of Trish Stratus, Lita, Steven Richards, Crash Holly, Bull Buchanan, Essa Rios, Funaki and The Kat, plus the one and only playable game appearances of The Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young and Linda McMahon. I guess other games weren’t big into giving the player the ability to beat up old women…

Gameplay:

Good old “clean cut, three I’s” era Kurt Angle, doesn’t get enough love! Though given how amazing the rest of his career was it makes sense

So, for the last time, let’s have a quick look at the AKI engine. A grapple button that if lightly tapped with give you a choice of several different moves depending on which direction (or no direction) you press along with the button again, and then if held down with give you a second set of more devastating moves to use, but if your opponent isn’t worn down enough you won’t be able to get them on. Apply the same light and heavy mechanics to the strike button, and then throw in your ground moves of both varieties, corner moves, top rope moves and running moves. For the longest time I used to think this was the game that introduced running grapples to the AKI engine, though it turned out it was Virtual Pro Wrestling 2, but hey-ho. Then, of course, the Spirit Meter (or Attitude Meter) where the more momentum you build up the closer you get to being able to activate your “Special” mode, which means you can then hit any one of many finishers from different positions, while the more damage you take the closer you get to “Danger” which will make you more likely to get pinned. Plus one shoulder button makes you block strikes, the other makes you step back out of the way of grapple attempts. You can finally run with a weapon in your hand in No Mercy, which includes a running strike with a weapon, my favourite being with smaller weapons like title belts and bells as you do a full jumping lunge with the object that looks particularly devastating.

Speaking of new things to do with the weapons, they now make sounds when you land on them, one of my favourite tricks being the “raming someone’s head into the floor” head grapple move while they’re resting on a bell, leading to “ding-ding-ding-ding-ding” as you repeatedly bash them into the object. I can’t remember if this was the game that introduced the ability to toss weapons around the arena or whether I just forgot to mention it so far, but I definitely remember doing that A LOT in this game as well. This is also where they introduced breakable tables, which even though you can’t pick up a table and set it up where you like, you can put people through the announce table, the locker room table and the pool table in the bar as well… which brings me to the fact that you can now fight backstage, and as mentioned in the opening paragraph, you can do this in ANY mode where count outs are off, including the also previously mentioned favourite hardcore rules Royal Rumble match…

If I was going to show off the Tag Team Ladder Match, who else would I pick?

What was also new was the Ladder Match, which included both singles and tag team varieties. Unlike the Ladder Match in Smackdown! 2 it actually has a knack to it, even if it is just tapping a button to make your character slowly climb the ladder, but at least it made the match go on longer. Beyond the new match type is the same choices of exhibition, tournaments and a career-like mode, though instead of wrestling a years’ worth of shows as your chosen wrestler it operates like a mix of Revenge and WrestleMania 2000’s modes as you pick a championship to go for but instead of a straight gauntlet you’re put into a storyline, with cut-scenes and “surprise twists” before you eventually capture the chosen title, normally at a PPV event. The kind of people you face is determined on which title you pick, with the Hardcore title being the lowest and the WWF title obviously being the highest. It’s fun, but again 90% of my time with the game was spent in exhibition with friends and family.

Finally let’s look at the create-a-wrestler suite, which is greatly expanded, with loads of clothes and moves to pick from (the moves especially as it includes loads of new ones plus all the moves from VPW2 and earlier!), plus much like other games, not only are their CAW slots but every in-game wrestler (and CAW slot) has four attire spots, meaning if you don’t mind people sharing movesets you can go pretty crazy with the amount of people you can have (and boy, me and my friends sure did… It’s a shame I can’t screen grab my actual cartridge copy of the game…) Some attire pieces, moves, wrestlers and even objects to pull out of the crowd during matches are locked in the “Smackdown! Mall”, forcing you to “buy them” with currency earned via the story mode, plus a few other modes as well.

So there it is… Fire Pro Wrestling games have come close to matching the fun and impactfulness of the engine, and MDickie’s 3D games have come close to matching the insanity of the matches and general look, but nothing has managed to match No Mercy as a complete package, even as I type this in 2021. I doubt anything ever will…

Graphics and Sound:

The APA brawling in a bar? Now there’s out-of-character behaviour!

The graphics have come a long way from World Tour but are obviously still limited by the N64’s power, or lack thereof. Still, the arenas are well designed, there is plenty of action on screen and the load times between areas during matches are pretty damn quick, so it’s a good package, even if compared to today the characters are blocky with “painted on faces” (not that it ever bothered me personally).

Music is great! … for the N64, which means it’s mostly low-quality due to the compression to get the themes on the cartridge, though I would like to point out the infamous “dig-dig diggidy, dig-diggidy dog!” music that plays during the menus, plus the game’s intro. Those weird rap tune… things are clean, and will be in my head forever. The crowd sounds, strike and weapon hitting sounds and the twisting rubber submissions-being-applied sounds are all top notch though!

Thoughts Then:

Not pictured: The action going backstage, because I can’t capture N64 footage and needed to find it elsewhere. Was I really the only person who did this?!

What else can I say? No Mercy was the pinnacle of wrestling games for me and was played to death, then routinely dragged out of mothballs for another few weeks of 40-man Hardcore Royal Rumbles between myself and a friend for many years afterwards. It wasn’t until I got my hands on Fire Pro Wrestling Returns on the PS2 that it didn’t get played yearly, and even then it still got pulled out here and there. One of the easiest fives I’ve ever given out…

Thoughts Now:

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the endless amounts of Mods the game receives yearly. This “New Generation Mod” is pretty much my childhood dream game…

No Mercy is as fun to play now as it was two decades ago. The AKI engine is still extremely satisfying and well built, the additions to the gameplay making it that much better than its predecessors, and as I mentioned, it’s still the only game where you can play a 40 man Hardcore Royal Rumble that can be taken to a large multi-room backstage and still continue on. There isn’t a day where I wouldn’t be perfectly happy playing WWF No Mercy.

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