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Legends of Wrestling
Review By:  Joe Rolfe
Developer:   Acclaim
Publisher:   Acclaim
# of Players:   1-4
Genre:   Wrestling
ESRB:   Everyone
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:   3-20-02

"Watcha gonna do, big man, when the Hulkster and these 24 inch pythons run wild on you!?!"

Ah, the glory days of wrestling. It has been quite a long time since we last saw "The Hulkster" Hulk Hogan, donning the red and yellow tights on WWF TV (and no, his stint in WCW doesn’t’ count). Classic wrestling was, is, and will forever will be the shining moment in professional wrestling’s history. While some of the newer fans may just say "huh?" when I mention the great names such as Piper, Steamboat, Rhodes and Andre the Giant, anyone over the age of 20 will appreciate the golden era of wrestling as we know it – back when wrestling really was "real", with its wide variety of characters and zany antics that just plain look silly compared to today’s more "serious" grappler. And recently, in an attempt to capture this drama and nostalgia, Acclaim, the creator of some of gaming history’s crappiest wrestling titles, is back at it one more time, but instead of flashing the latest license they’re bringing back all our old school favorites in Legends of Wrestling (LOW). However, while the look of the game will remind us of how to "say our prayers" and "eat our vitamins", Legends of Wrestling’s gameplay itself will make you wish the game went back into retirement.

I had high hopes for this game, really, but LOW ended up being one of my bigger disappointments in recent memory. The premise, on paper, sounded excellent: dozens of 80’s and early 90’s wrestling icons, authentic, larger-than-life graphics to capture the comic-book feel and matches that would highlight all of our favorite grappler’s personalities. Sadly, however, not everything promised made it into the game. And what did find its way onto the LOW is, at best, mediocre. LOW’s character lineup is rather suspect, highlighting such greats as Hogan, Snuka, and The Iron Sheik. Unfortunately, though, nowhere in sight are some of my personal favorites like The Ultimate Warrior, Rowdy Roddy Pipe, Ric Flair and Demolition. Even recent guys like Rob Van Dam (who is still in the prime of his career) made it into the game, which is a bit confusing considering the game is intended to display "legends", not Youths of Wrestling. At the same time, LOW shows a general disrespect for each wrestler’s unique moves, as there is very little difference in attacks between the 40+ superstars. Other than finishing maneuvers, each wrestler has a variation on the same sets of throws or grapples.

The fighting system is interesting at best, displaying a near Rock-Paper-Scissors method with the over powering character winning the battle of a lockup and forcing his opponent into the specified position. And while the grappling doesn’t ruin the game, button response time nearly does. With a fighting/wrestling engine, timing between button presses is crucial, and LOW can often be unresponsive and just lag like hell. Any fan expecting lighting fast gameplay like Smackdown! 3: Just Bring It will be bored within seconds. At first I thought Acclaim went all-out and included elderly response time to be realistic along with these ancient-superstars, but sadly found out it was just lazy programming. The collision detection can be a bit iffy at times too, which all in all just makes LOW unfun and too slow to play.

Visually, LOW failed to impress me as well. Initially I enjoyed the goofy, larger-than-life graphics in which Acclaim made a point to exaggerate on these steroid-induced brawn’s by pumping all the wrestler’s chests out and making their arms look like pumped up balloons. As a still image, LOW is fun to look at, but put in motion and it’s a whole different story. A questionable frame rate along with a camera system that is just plain rotten makes Legends of Wrestling hard to play and look at. The camera will often zoom around a move hoping to dramatize what's going on in the ring, but often the computer will pick the worst shot to look at (either too far away or zoomed in) to tell what the heck is going on! On many occasions I screamed at the TV since the game just tried too hard to set up a cool angle instead of letting me see from a safe distance. If Acclaim cleans up the camera issues and tightens the frame rate, then the next Legends of Wrestling could be a visual classic.

With no commentary and horrendous entrance and menu music, LOW just sounds lame too. Generic rock fills the game, but it just doesn’t do the trick. I would have appreciated it much more if Acclaim made an attempt to at least alter their original themes to have their opening songs match a little bit but no wrestler really resembles his opening track. There are recordings of Lou Albano and Jimmy Hart, though, but even those are worth passing by to just get the match started.

All in all, Legends of Wrestling just feels incomplete. It isn’t terrible like Acclaim’s older ECW games, but there is a lot of catching up to do in order for LOW to compete with THQ’s polished WWF titles. There’s just too much roughness and a general feeling of a lack of trying in LOW for me to appreciate its small nuances. A sequel to LOW, done right, could be an excellent alternative to those that want to look back on the grapplers of yesteryear. But for sure, Acclaim’s got their work cut out for ‘em.

HIGHS:

  • Lots of old-school wrestlers, all in one game!
  • Humorous graphics, highlighting classic wrestling's goofiness.

LOWS:

  • Slow, unresponsive controls
  • Camera angles never give best look at action
  • Sound is uninspiring

FINAL VERDICT:

If you must see your favorite 80’s stars in action, go rent a couple of videos. Otherwise, don’t bother with this headache of a game. Hardcore fans will want to rent, but don’t waste your money as a purchase.

Overall Score: 6.0

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