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THE FINAL COUNTDOWN - Top 4 THQ WCW/WWE Nintendo 64 Wrestling Games (in honor of Bankrupt THQ)
By Mr. Tito
Dec 27, 2012 - 12:52:03 AM
IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN! One of my favorite "BLOG is TITO" (remember that?) type entries from 2011 was to write Top 10 lists or other type of countdown lists. Thus, with creative energy to burn, I figured why not bring it back? Moving forward, to get my Mr. Tito fix here at LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com, I'm going to create another column gimmick called THE FINAL COUNTDOWN which will basically rank a certain wrestling topic. Yes, it's been done to death, but not with the "Excellence in Column Writing" touch. Like the "On this Day in Pro Wrestling History..." column, I'll remove "Mr. Tito" from the column title to push it as a more serious, informative column. When I'm feeling the rage to bark about something current WWE wise, I'll put on the Mr. Tito mask and the full swagger will be in effect to "strike back".
To introduce today's FINAL COUNTDOWN, as I will for each column, I'll write an introduction to the topic, provide background or history on the topic, and then add insight that will feed right into the "countdown". For today's column, it will be about wrestling video games... I'm a big handheld gamer. In fact, I'm a Nintendo handheld loyalist. Huge Gameboy player, loved the Gameboy Advance, adored the Nintendo DS (especially with Gameboy Advance port!!), and now I have a Nintendo 3DS in my possession (scored for Christmas, oh yeah!). I personally like the handheld systems because I'm always on the road and they're perfect to bust out whenever the time is right. I often lose myself at Lunch, for example, to play some handheld games. As a huge mark for the NES and SNES as a kid and teenager, I'm a Nintendo fanboy. Nintendo could make a Mario crossover game with My Little Pony and I'll probably be interested.
One thing that bothered me about handheld gaming was the LACK of good wrestling handheld games. The only handheld wrestling game that I enjoyed was WWE Superstars #1 for the oldschool Gameboy (game made by RARE, imagine that), as the control and gameplay was simple yet fun to execute. Every other WWE game, in particular, has been awful. I tried and tried to play the various Nintendo DS WWE games but they sucked. Slow gameplay, awful controls, and graphics that embarrassed the system. Completely baffling to me considering that the Nintendo DS was bragged to be the equivalent of the Nintendo 64. Thus, I suppose, the Nintendo 3DS is the GameCube? I did buy WWE All Stars for the 3DS... Overall, it's pretty good and probably the best handheld wrestling game to date... But that's not saying much. Some of the moves are a bit crazy, but I guess the WWE was going with the arcade vibe. However, if the Nintendo DS or the Nintendo 3DS can at least emulate the Nintendo 64... Why can't it bring back the N64 style wrestling games from THQ? With WWE All Stars' roster, an N64 like game on the 3DS would be awesome!
After all, both the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS are bringing back several Nintendo 64 games. Shall I name them? Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Star Fox 64, to name a few. If those games can be imported to the DS or 3DS, why can't THQ bring WWE fans games that resemble Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy, the impressive WWE wrestling games for the N64? Does THQ, who happened to file bankruptcy on December 19th, even realize how much fans adored those games? Wrestlemania 2000, released during October 1999, sold 1.2 million units in the United States while No Mercy, released during November 2000, also sold 1.2 million units. Better yet, the THQ released WCW/NWO Revenge, released during October 1998, sold a staggering 1.94 million units. (credit VGChartz.com for sales info) Numbers don't lie...
So why not put the highly successful Nintendo 64 style games onto the handheld systems? Hell, you could name them "Wrestlemania 2013" or "No Mercy 2013" for all we care.
Younger wrestling fans, these days, have no idea how NICE they have it video game wise. Back in the day, wrestling games SUCKED. Unless you got lucky with an off-brand version of a wrestling game like Nintendo's Pro Wrestling or Tecmo Wrestling, you had to PRAY that Acclaim/LJN would figure it out with their WWF license. WWF games sucked back in the day. Complete disappointment after disappointment on the NES. I can remember getting my first NES and with it, my parents also bought me Wrestlemania. What a pile of shit! It wasn't until the Super Nintendo (SNES) that Acclaim/LJN started getting things right. With a few games released, Acclaim/LJN finally got things right with WWE RAW for the SNES and it was compatible with the new NES 4 player adapter. But of course, just as Acclaim/LJN finally got the wrestling formula right, Acclaim follows up with "WWE RAW" with the botched port of Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game. Mortal Kombat meets the WWE... Somewhat fun to play, but it wasn't a wrestling game. Acclaim also put out WWE: In Your House for the Playstation which had similar Mortal Kombat gameplay.
Sorry, but I'm no fan of WWF Warzone for 1998 and WWF Attitude for 1999 by Acclaim for the Nintendo 64 and Playstation. The controls and gameplay take a while to master, as Acclaim just seemed to be in over their heads for the games. Wrestling games, as with many sports, should be open for wider audiences. The idea of picking up a game and immediately playing, regardless of skill level is quite appealing. The Tecmo Bowl series did extremely well because the controls were so simple yet highly effective. Warzone and Attitude were not easy to play for the novice gamer. Once you got the hang of the controls, they weren't that bad... Create-a-wrestler was decent and the games marketed the WWE product well.
World Championship Wrestling (WCW) saved the video game business for professional wrestling, in my opinion. WCW signed a deal with video game company THQ to create WCW based games for the consoles of the time. The first BIG game was WCW vs. the World for the Playstation during February 1997 and it turned heads. The game featured 3D rendered wrestlers with a unique wrestling engine that was easy to pick up yet very effective in creating the feel of actual pro wrestling. THQ was smart in their deal with WCW. The acquired the services of Japanese gaming companies Asmik Ace Entertainment and AKI Corporation to assist in producing WCW games based on the Japanese released Virtual Pro Wrestling game released in Japan during 1996. The game featured a smooth grappling system, thanks to AKI's gaming engine, that would influence games for years. THQ/Asmick/AKI group would release WCW vs. NWO: World Tour for the Nintendo 64 during November 1997 to continue to polish the successful formula but it wasn't until WCW/NWO Revenge during October 1998 that it caught the WWF's attention. In addition to the grand AKI wrestling engine, the game now featured larger WCW rosters and arenas set at WCW's Pay Per Views. Gaming perfection was in place...
WWF noticed WCW/NWO Revenge's success and pounced. For 1999, THQ was out of the WCW deal and began their long relationship with the WWE starting with Wrestlemania 2000 during October 1999. Funny how the Monday Night Wars between the WWF and WCW might have inspired major changes in wrestling video games, including WWE's love for the Acclaim company. WM 2000 perfected WCW Revenge's formula even further with the Create-a-Wrestler feature and more specialty matches. Then, the WWE struck gold again a year later with WWF No Mercy.
The AKI Engine based games for THQ were video game perfection... Yet, with time, THQ began to use other gaming developers for future wrestling games. AKI would move on to Def Jam games and the future M.U.S.C.L.E. games, both of which were decent... But nothing caught the magic of pro wrestling like the games released during 1997-2000, notably for the Nintendo 64. While the Nintendo 64 gets ridiculed for being a "kiddie system" compared to the Playstation, the N64 was the party system with the built-in 4 player controls and all-time great games. Gamers couldn't get enough of the THQ/AKI WCW/WWF games, Golden Eye 007, Mario Kart 64, Mario Golf 64, Super Smash Brothers, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, etc. The Nintendo 64 set the stage for great 3D rendered games that were fun to play with 4 players.
Thus, for today's FINAL COUNTDOWN... I'm going to rank the TOP 4 Nintendo 64 THQ games. Note again that this is just my opinion and is not in stone for the entire wrestling world.
Oh, and if you want a better effect for this column, I'd recommend playing Europe's FINAL COUNTDOWN in the background as you read this column... Better yet, you should check out this "awesome" COVER of Final Countdown...
TOP 4 THQ Nintendo 64 PRO WRESTLING GAMES
Before I write this, I want everyone to know that I thoroughly enjoyed all 4 THQ Nintendo 64 wrestling games. Not a clunker! Thus, when my list doesn't match yours, don't take it personally!
#4 - WCW vs. NWO: World Tour - This game suffers only from THQ/AKI perfecting the wrestling engine and not fully giving American wrestling fans an overall wrestling experience. It feels like a wrestling game but is limited on the full blown WCW marketing of arenas and doesn't have a complete roster of wrestlers like future THQ games would present. The game laid the groundwork for what was to come.
#3 - WWF No Mercy - This is where my countdown gets controversial, but hear me out. No Mercy is a great game... But sometimes, "less is more". It felt to me that the WWE and THQ tried to cram in as much "bells & whistles" into the system as humanly possible. Sure, the gameplay is great and some of the added modes are impressive... However, THQ seemed to take away smooth gameplay in favor of making the game look better, graphically. It just feels that sometimes during matches, the action feels slower as the game tries to decipher through all of the graphical enhancements. It seemed to me that the WWE was more concerned with how the Titantrons and menus looked in the game than caring about the gameplay itself. These nitpicks aside, I still played the crap out of this game thanks to its additional match modes and inclusion of 2000 roster wrestlers not on Wrestlemania 2000 (Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, etc.).
#2 - WCW/NWO Revenge - This IS the top selling pro wrestling game on the Nintendo 64 and for great reason. It took merged great marketing of the WCW product with the strong gaming engine of WCW vs. NWO: World Tour. This was the first game that truly felt like a legitimate pro wrestling game. You could wrestle at various Pay Per View themed arenas, fight over Championship belts, and the roster was THICK. WCW 1998 had a loaded roster and it was a thing of beauty to behold. Seems like they had the early 1998 WCW roster locked in so that you basically have everybody BUT Ric Flair, who was having legal troubles with WCW at the time. Back during 1998, I thought this was the pinnacle of pro wrestling video games until the WWE took THQ's successful formula and ran with it in 1999.
#1 - WWF Wrestlemania 2000 - This IS the game that defined the industry. It took everything great about NWO/WCW Revenge, added its own WWE touch, but gave the wrestling world the most awesome Create-a-Wrestler imagined. In addition to a wrestler's looks (I added my own Tazz and Kurt Angle, for example), the selection of the moveset was extensive. You could truly build a powerhouse wrestler that could work their way through the "Road to Wrestlemania" mode. In particular, the Royal Rumble mode is amusing to play with 4 players... It's always hilarious when a friend is FORCED to wrestle as Gerald Briscoe as the next Royal Rumble entrant.
I'd argue that Wrestlemania 2000 is the best wrestling game of all time, but a friend of mine showed me Virtual Pro Wrestling 2, the Japanese wrestling game that AKI developed and used parts of for WCW/WWE Games. That game was highly impressive... If you're still rocking your N64, it's worth buying a N64/Japanese adapter to play that game!
So there you have it... 4 great games, ranked 4 through 1 here on the FINAL COUNTDOWN. If only THQ realized the magic that they had, maybe they could have produced better handheld wrestling games and maybe even better ones for the consoles. Regardless, THQ filed for bankruptcy and things could get interesting if the WWE is a free agent on the video game market.
Makes you wonder why TNA Wrestling hasn't used the AKI Corporation to make their games? WCW was beginning to die by late 1998 yet wrestling fans flocked to its video game WCW/NWO Revenge. The blueprint for success is there...
IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!
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