WWE WrestleMania X8 (GameCube) Review

I remember being really excited for WrestleMania X8, assuming that since it was a Nintendo console exclusive it would be like the AKI games on the N64… Boy, was I ever wrong. I can’t say it was terrible but given the Smackdown! series on the PS2 was about to hit its stride I can say that I only played this for a month or so… What’s it like now, in 2021?! Well, the answer may surprise you… Okay it won’t.

Background:

“It’s Booker T! In a WWE Game!! So weird!” That was literally me when I first played this game…

WWE WrestleMania X8 came out exclusively for the Gamecube on June 9th 2002 in the US, and oddly September 6th 2002 in Japan then finally in Europe September 27th that same year. Why there was such a delay between the US and European releases I have no idea.

This was the start of WWE game overload as each year for the next three or four there would be an exclusive game for the PS2, Gamecube and original XBOX, plus some handheld titles. Thankfully I never had an original XBOX so those games won’t be covered here, otherwise I’d be eternally stuck in the early 00s!

The roster is the first to feature some of the WCW and ECW stars in a WWE game, but in terms of overall game debut there isn’t anyone to talk about. The roster features Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Hollywood Hogan, Ric Flair, Triple H, The Undertaker, Kane, The Big Show, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall (making his only non-Legend WWE game appearance under that name), Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Booker T., Rob Van Dam, William Regal, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Edge, Christian, Bubba Ray Dudley, D-Von Dudley, Chris Benoit, Raven, Rhyno, Rikishi, Tazz, Test, Albert, Bradshaw, Faarooq, Lance Storm, The Hurricane, Scotty 2 Hotty, Jacqueline, Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly, Stacey Keibler, Shane McMahon, Vince McMahon and Stephanie McMahon.

Gameplay:

Three titans of the ring battle on top of the Hell in a Cell!

The gameplay is an extremely stripped-down version of the AKI engine. You still have a grapple and a strike button, where quick and heavy strikes can be done by holding the button down, but grapple is just the button or the button and one of the four directions, giving each character only a total of five front grapple moves and five back grapple moves. The L and R buttons are still to dodge strikes and grapples respectively but this time if timed right (and the right button pressed) you can perform a counter move… of which there are very few, so more repeated animations! You still have ground strikes and grapples, running strikes and top rope moves and a finisher, but overall it’s extremely limited in variety.

To make matters worse the new engine isn’t anywhere near as satisfying or smooth, with collision issues and badly animated, erm, animations. I do like that if you step in front of someone powerbombing someone you get knocked over by the move yourself, that kind of collision detection is fun, but actually grabbing your opponent not so much. Picking up a weapon is a right pain as well, not only is it two buttons at the same time but you have to push the analogue stick towards the weapon as you press them! Way too fiddly, especially in match types where you need to pick up weapons all the time…

Speaking of match types, hats off in that regard at least. You still only have up to four people in the ring but alongside singles, tag, three way, four way and tag match you have rule sets like ladder, hell in a cell, table, TLC and Hardcore, though for the record you can’t go backstage like you could in No Mercy. You also have battle royal (four way with over the top rope rules…) and Royal Rumble mode. The HIAC has breakable roof squares though, so some things from the Playstation games made it across…

As for modes? Not much… Exhibition, “Path of a Champion” (beat a gauntlet of people to win each major WWE belt), “Battle for the Belts” (fight just one person for upwards of 50 entirely fictional titles, with each one being held be a different wrestler or under different rule sets/difficulty), and a create-a-wrestler mode, which frankly is right up there with the original two Smackdown! PS1 games in terms of complete lack of options. That’s it! Either an Arcade ladder mode or a exhibition fight with a random title on the line. Not even a standard tournament mode to play!

Graphics and Sound:

I always loved the design of early 00s Kane. It’s right up there with his original look.

The graphics aren’t bad for an early Gamecube game. The models are a bit… square around the shoulders but they look alright otherwise, and the arenas and entrances all look perfectly fine. Again, I’m not saying there isn’t an improvement from game to game coming up, but purely for a 2002 Gamecube game it looks good. Goes without saying that in 2021 not so much, but you know…

Sound is a bit off. A lot of entrance music is missing and replaced with really poor replacements (I can understand the n.W.o theme being missing, but the Hardy Boyz theme?) and some of the background music that plays during matches was a turn-off. The menu music wasn’t much better… at least they didn’t try and do commentary and end up “Just Bring It-ing it”. The soundeffects are quite fun, in a cartoony “thud” kind of way…

Thoughts Then:

I played as Kevin Nash and Scott Hall a LOT. Especially Hall given I was convinced this would be the last WWE game to feature him…

At the time I enjoyed it for a few days, the weird collision detection being funny and the modes amusing, but I soon lost interest as there wasn’t anything to do and multiplayer frankly wasn’t that fun. I soon put it on my shelf and eagerly anticipated the next Smackdown! game that was getting previewed at the time…

Thoughts Now:

I’d love to see Hulk Hogan of any era climb right up to the top of a ladder and perch on it like that…

Well, this was an interesting experience as I could barely remember anything about it, apart from the “only game to feature contemporary Scott Hall in it” fact that for some reason never left me (I think I was really excited about it, he was always a favourite since the Razor Ramon days). It’s honestly a featureless and often frustrating experience, not even remotely worth tracking down. Hell, it doesn’t even feature the game debut of anyone, so it’s not even interesting from a wrestling game perspective. Best avoided!

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