I think the first time I became aware of pro wrestling was through games — specifically, the first issue of Nintendo Power I received, which had a feature on WWF Wrestlemania for the NES. Having no idea who anybody was in the game, I thus had no real interest in wrestling, and pretty much ignored it throughout my childhood, never quite getting it. But I came to realize there was real passion for the sport since it was televised, by people as smart and nerdy as I am, plus nearly 30 years of video games to fuel that passion. And that’s pretty much the focus of this week’s episode, requested by backer Alex “krae_man” Forsyth — who, if you were ever on the 1UP message boards during the Retronauts heyday, probably saw his demands for a “Wrestlenauts” episode. Well, Kickstarter can make dreams happen on either side, and I guess it works out that this is releasing close to Christmas.
Joining us are Dave Rudden and returning guest Henry Gilbert, both from Laser Time and their associated wrestling show Cheap Popcast; and Michael Donahoe, whom you may remember from EGM and 1UP (and respective podcasts). All three are experienced wrestling nerds who played most of the games that were released on this side of the world, and more, and as I guide everybody through a chronology of wrestling games, I more or less leave it to these guys when it comes to discussing them in greater detail.
Sure, there’s the typical going-down-the-list treatment, but we really get rolling once we get to Fire Pro Wrestling, the premier Japanese-made series filled with customization and realistic fighting system, and the 3D/polygonal era, when the developer formerly known as AKI made some of the best (and best-remembered) licensed wrestling games of all time. Those are times when Japanese developers were honing their skills and making the best wrestling games, becoming a sort of latent golden age for the genre. There’s plenty more to be said about certain arcade games, too, like Midway’s Wrestlemania game with the real digitized wrestlers, and as we reach the present day, some talk about where the genre could be going, perhaps always being led by the WWE and developer Yuke’s.
Maybe this won’t be the most relatable episode of Retronauts — even for me it isn’t, on the whole. But again, it’s filled with information and enthusiasm, and no matter what your interest in wrestling is (if you get lost by any jargon, don’t forget this handy glossary), it’s still pretty fun to hear people who really know what they’re talking about share their expertise on games that can rise above the much-maligned sport they’re based on. Don’t shy away from this one!
This episode’s breakdown:
- 00:00-10:41 | Introductions
- 10:41 |Music: Famicom Band: Pro Wrestling (From the “Big Huge Nintendo Medley”)
- 11:10-37:43 | NES, Master System, and arcade wrestling games (Pro Wrestling, MUSCLE, WrestleFest and more)
- 37:44 | Music: Virtual Pro Wrestling 64: Empire Wrestling Federation
- 38:09-54:31 | Fire Pro Wrestling series
- 54:31 | Music: Goldust’s Theme from WWF War Zone
- 55:07-1:29:54 | 32/64-bit wrestling games: WWF, WCW, ECW; AKI’s legacy
- 1:29:55 | Music: Menu music from WWF No Mercy
- 1:30:25-1:52:31 | The “next generation:” Early 2000s; Yuke’s rise to prominence, and the future of wrestling games
- 1:52:36 | Plugs and outros (Music: Million Dollar Man from Wrestlemania NES)
- Michael Donahoe’s Fire Pro Wrestling review
- FPW Returns on PSN
- Wrestling With Pixels: The World Tour of Wrestling Games
- Video Game Championship Wrestling
- Magweasel: Fire Pro Wrestling
- Video: Ahmed Johnson’s promos from WWF War Zone
- Video: WWF Super Wrestlemania on WWF Prime Time
- Video: The “making of” Wrestlemania arcade with Bret Hart