WCW Wrestling (NES)

WCW Wrestling Box Art

WCW Wrestling

System: NES

Release Date: April 1990

Developer: Nichibutsu

Publisher: FCI

Genre: Sports

The precursor to my favorite wrestling company of all time enters the squared circle in WCW Wrestling! Like the most successful games from the N64 era, this is a localization of a Japanese title. You can choose your favorite wrestler and fight your way through a twelve man roster to earn the World Heavyweight Championship, or pick your favorite team and enter a three round league to become the World Tag Team Champions.

Who are you going to take to the title? Each wrestler has a finishing maneuver that can be used once in a match by pressing the A and B Buttons in the middle of the ring. You can choose from the six time World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair. The hottest young prospect in the NWA, Sting. The Total Package Lex Luger. The great foil to Flair’s dominance, Ricky Steamboat. There’s the most dominant tag team of the 80s, Road Warrior Hawk and Animal. The Varsity Club is well represented, as the Gamesmaster Kevin Sullivan is joined by his captain, Mike Rotunda, Dr. Death Steve Williams, and the Dog Faced Gremlin Rick Steiner. Eddie Gilbert joins in before he kind of fades out of the national spotlight. And the leader of the Freebirds, Michael P.S. Hayes rounds out the roster.

If you have a friend, you can play against them, but the meat of the experience comes from the single player mode. I picked one of Michigan’s favorite sons and took Rick Steiner through the gauntlet of matches. To begin, you choose four moves to map to the different directions of the A Button. Though I always put a piledriver as the down move, I have a tendency to mix it up with the rest of them. Wrestlers all have the same attire, but their heads look different so you can tell who is who. I don’t understand why everyone had to have colored tights, why couldn’t Luger have only black trunks, or Flair with blue?

Matches revolve around strikes to set up grapples. Punches are short range with the B Button and kicks are longer range with the A Button. Everyone shares the same bodyslam, head butt, and hammer throw mapped to grappling with the B Button. If you hammer throw an opponent near the ropes, you send them to the floor with the chance to get a wrench to bash their skulls in! You can run horizontally by pressing the A and B Buttons simultaneously and have two attacks. Depending on your wrestler, you will have some combination of clothesline, headbutt, big boot, jumping knee, spinning heel kick, and dropkick. It’s criminal that Rick Steiner doesn’t have the clothesline. When you use one of the moves attached to the A Button, you get a meter that shows how much health your opponent has. You want to stop this meter at the far right end for a more powerful move.

The pool of moves aren’t tailored to the wrestlers in the game, but their Japanese counterparts, instead. When did you see anyone, let alone Ric Flair, use a jumping back brain kick in America in the 80s? There were some lucky coincidences, such as Riki Choshu and Sting, but the finishers should give you an idea of who they were in Japan. I mean, I don’t remember Eddie Gilbert ever ending a match with a running elbow drop. If you make it through the single matches twice, the final battle is against the WCW Master, who looks an awful lot like Giant Machine. You can’t do any moves to him, so you have to punch and kick him and take him down with a running move. If you do enough damage, you can finally get a pin!

Sullivan Hayes Irish Whip battle

Graphics: 2.5

The character models are all the same, with differences to the head. The character portraits are all digitized very well.

Sound: 2.5

The music tracks are generic and not particularly memorable, but there are some digitized voices that I appreciate. Is that Paul E saying World Championship Wrestling?

Gameplay: 2.0

You need to do a lot of punching and kicking. Too much. It makes every match too repetitive.

Difficulty: 3.0

I lost three times in about 40 matches, all to Lex Luger. He was modeled from Inoki, so I’m not mad.

Fun Factor: 2.0

It’s too repetitive to be incredibly fun. It’s certainly not boring, but it could be a lot better.

Overall Grade: 2.4

WCW Wrestling earns a C+. I think if there was some more care placed toward the localization, this would have been a better title. As it is, it’s fine.

WCW Wrestling Video Review on YouTube