Here we go, my first step into the world of Fire Pro, a step that led to one of the most addictive games I can ever remember playing in Fire Pro Returns. GBA’s Fire Pro to get back on topic was a really fun game and it didn’t take long for me to get the hang of the timing-based controls, plus it’s always fun to rename characters! Let’s take a look then…
Diesel vs. Misawa, the international dream match you never knew you wanted!
Although far… FAR from the first entry in the series Fire Pro Wrestling A, as it was known in Japan, was the first to get officially localised in English. It was released in Japan on March 21st 2001 before arriving in the US and Europe on June 10th and 11th 2001, respectively.
Fire Pro Wrestling A had a sequel also on the GBA titled “Final Fire Pro Wrestling: Dream Organization Administration!” in Japan and just “Fire Pro Wrestling 2” in the US, but it was never released here in Europe, so I never had the pleasure…
(Obviously no roster run down here, as they were all fictionalised versions of real stars, rather than actual stars…)
As you can see by both Bam Bam’s colour scheme and the clock I just quickly threw on an emulator to take five screenshots and played my actual re-named and re-coloured wrestlers cartridge version otherwise…
The gameplay in Fire Pro are easy to describe but can take a little while to get down. Strikes are simple enough, in the case of this GBA game you have a single dedicated strike button with standing and running strikes, with running being the other face button, that’s not so bad. Where Fire Pro really comes into its own in grappling. A grapple is initiated when two wrestlers walk into each other, causing them to “tie up”, and you have to time the button press (or a direction and a button press, or pressing both buttons for your most powerful move) to pull the move off. Once you get the timing it’s great, but not a guarantee. For example, there is also a stamina system: do too many big moves in a row and you’ll find yourself gassed, standing in place trying to catch your breath and giving your opponent a chance to do a move. You can regain stamina by holding the R trigger to “breathe”. To kick out of a pin you button mash (though if you’ve taken a lot of damage no amount of button pushing will help) and if you’re caught in a submission move they you roll the D-Pad around to escape, but again you can just give up if the area the submission move is done to is weakened.
The other classic Fire Pro thing is getting a “Critical”. Randomly when you hit your finisher or submission a notice has a change to come up with the aforementioned word and your opponent is OUT. Either the ref will call the match off or you’re free to pin or make them submit. It’s very satisfying. There are a variety of different match types and rules, from singles, triple threat, four-way, battle royal and tag matches, though given the GBA’s power there is a maximum of four people on screen. You can also fight under different rules, ranging from traditional rules, “American rules” (basically your judged on showmanship as much as skill) and various MMA rules based on promotions like UWF (worked shoot), PRIDE (shoot in a ring) and UFC (shoot in a caged octagon). There are also Cage matches and Death matches, the latter of which includes the full FMW exploding ring stuff.
You then have the standard Japanese wrestling game modes of League, Tournament and a 5-on-5 Team mode where you actually fight in a series of singles matches. Lastly you have “Audience Match”, where you have to score a high match percentage depending on the type of audience your wrestling in front of, so weapon strikes and blood for hardcore crowds, taunts and close falls for American style, that sort of thing. Lastly we have the Edit mode, where you can not only edit all the existing character but make your own, and organise them into different promotions and factions within those promotions. Due to the simple nature of the graphics there are a lot of slots on offer, and if you’re anything like me, it’s where you’ll end up spending most of your time…
Graphics and Sound:
The referee shouting “Fight!” is about the only voice sample in the game… Also copyright-dodging UFC mode!
The graphics are good for a handheld, with recognisable sprites and a variety of rings. It’s not going to blow you away (especially if you play on a big modern screen rather than the tiny GBA one) but for the hardware it did its job.
Sound is good, some catchy background music, a few voice samples for pins and so on… it’s fine. No complaints.
Damn, a DDT right onto the tip of a giant blade, now THAT’S hardcore!
I picked Fire Pro up on a whim when I saw it cheap while waiting in… I want to say PC World, but I can’t exactly remember… Anyway, it ended up being played a lot over several weeks, and then whipped out now and then whenever I was away from my room and with my GBA on me. I loved the gameplay and the roster management side of things. Turned out to just be the tip of the iceberg!
A timed explosion caged death match? Pfft, it’s not exactly a giant blade DDT, is it?
Now? I mean, I have Fire Pro World now, so playing this on emulation (for screenshot sakes) was a bit… crap. Visually anyway, the gameplay is still tight and enjoyable, but there just isn’t any point in playing it any more, unless you still have your GBA and you take it somewhere away from other technology, I guess…