Let me just start by saying that this game is huge in Japan. I am not exactly sure of the reason, but the Japanese are eating it up. My best guess as to the cause of the Fire Pro madness is the fact that the game is packed. Since there is no memory being taken up by complex 3-D polygons the free space allows for an immense amount of options and features and that is what really makes the game.
The first thing that you will notice when you boot up the game is the graphics. All of us took one look at it and said, "When did we start regressing back to the SNES?" Yes the characters are pixilated, not polygonal like all of the recent wrestling games. It takes me back to the days of Saturday Night Slammasters and Fire Pro's 6 Man Scramble on the Saturn. At first I was a little disappointed. It is a step backwards from the recent gems like Giant Gram on the Dreamcast and WCW Revenge on the N64. However, with all of the slow and sucky polygonal wrestling games on the Playstation, I was glad to see that at least they tried something that actually works. After playing for a bit I couldn't help but think, "Damn, this is fast!" The animations were very crisp and clear too, unlike some games where you can see the collision engine failing before your eyes as body parts pass through each other. All of the characters are designed pretty well considering they look like they belong on a past system. Also, there are a ton of moves that each character can perform and the action moves so quickly, you will barely have enough time to yell at the screen (an essential action while playing a wrestling game).
The one thing that I found difficult with the game is the control. Three buttons are used for various attacks (small, medium, and strong) and to perform moves once you are in a tangle. The fourth button is used for running and throwing your opponent against the ropes. The shoulder buttons are used for taunts and movements. But, there is no control to grab the opponent. It seems that it happens randomly when the fighters run into each other. This means that you will not know who has the upper hand until your opponent slams you against the canvas or you perform a devastating move on him. It is really unclear how to execute an attack so that you will be sure of getting it off. This is especially annoying when the opponent continually gets his moves off without you ever having a chance to gain the upper hand.
Options! Options! Options! Like I said the characters are designed very simply but that does not mean that the game is simplified--far from it. There are tons and I mean tons of wrestlers from all over the world. You want WCW vs. WWF? Yah, right, not in the states. But this is the next best thing. Fire Pro has rip-off leagues with a bunch of look-a-likes complete with their special moves and taunts-. There are also fighters from Ultimate Fighting Championships and a bunch of famous Japanese leagues and some I have never heard of. Each fighter comes complete with a choice of authentic outfits. And if all of this is not enough for you, you can create your own damn wrestler in the edit mode. But wait that is not all. There is a tournament mode as well as a steel cage death match, the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon, an "Every Man for Himself" option and even a training mode so you can practice getting your ass whooped. Each fight also has a slew of options controlling the match from fall count to time to outer ring assistance. Like I mentioned before, the game is packed. You can even be a bad-ass and continue to pummel your opponent after you win.
If you do not know Japanese you will still be able to play this game. The editing mode will be a trial and error nightmare but you may get the hang of it after a while. It is pretty easy to figure out what to do in the other modes though. Basically it is all about getting in the ring and beating the other guy into a dying wheezing pulp. For die-hard wrestling fans, this game will be welcome addition to their collection. However, for those that have to have everything on the cutting edge of graphical excellence, you will be sorely disappointed. On a closing note, there is no other game available where you can put Goldberg up against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin or Kevin Nash up against the Undertaker. That in and of itself is worth the purchase.
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