Avatar games don’t get any respect – and they shouldn’t – but on rare occasion they can be fun.
When I see that an avatar game is the featured release for XBLA, I usually roll my eyes, give a big sigh and go on about my business, usually checking out the indie titles. However, this past week’s release caught my attention because of one simple thing: pro wrestling.
I’m not ashamed to admit my love of pro wrestling (unlike the rest of you). I’ve been watching wrestling since I was 5-years-old. I’ve seen the best and the worst the “sport” has to offer. I remember Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant. I remember when the Four Horsemen were all but unstoppable. And yes, I unfortunately remember The Demon. You may laugh at pro wrestling – as well you should – but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining, at least not more so than any other show on television. Compared to some of the reality crap that’s on these days, pro wrestling seems highbrow. Nonetheless, I’m a fan for life so anything that claims to be a wrestling game will get my attention.
Fire Pro Wrestling
Despite the typical appearance of Fire Pro Wrestling in terms of avatars wearing funny clothing and acting all Nintendo-ish, the promise of a simple, arcade-style wrestling game really had me interested. The previews I saw boasted hundreds of wrestling moves and the ability to customize your avatar in the latest luchador trappings. Not to mention a little Googling told me that Fire Pro Wrestling is a somewhat storied franchise that, to my surprise, has spanned several console generations…I mean, “Fire Pro Wrestling” sounds pretty generic, doesn’t it? And the XBLA release hasn’t done anything to make it appear exciting.
Nonetheless, I downloaded the demo to give it a try and found a simple-yet-fun wrestling game. Yes, the avatar is cute and cheesy but even then I found the impressive list of available moves and holds to be spot on with what I see every Monday night on television. One nice thing is that the moves are given their “real” name rather than making some fancy name up that you have to guess at. Fire Pro Wrestling isn’t licensed at all so you won’t find the “Stone Cold Stunner” but you will find a neck breaker. Nor will you find a “Sharpshooter” but a Boston crab is all yours to master.
I found the ability to assign your wrestler moves incredibly easy and refreshing. Fire Pro Wrestling uses a very simple control scheme that harkens back to Tecmo Bowl on the NES. You approach your opponent and try to grapple with them, when that happens you press one of your four main buttons to execute a move. Simple…however your opponent gets to press a button too and if he guesses your button, he counters your move and changes the tide of battle. Like I said, it’s easy but somewhat refreshing from the games that require elaborate combinations just to pull off a simple drop kick. I’m a gamer that usually favors the complex button patterns over the Wii-like one-button mashing, but in this context it works quite well. And since you can change your moves at any time, you don’t want to have to memorize combos to test out new moves. Frankly, just remember what I assigned to the A button is challenge enough!
The pace of Fire Pro Wrestling is a lot slower than big budget titles but given that this is a cheap avatar game, that’s not unexpected. You can upgrade your character with speed, power and other attributes, so the action will only get better as you progress, but even then the slow-mo scenes and taunts can really bog down a match. You can unlock new costume parts and other such avatar-enhancing as you go, and there will no doubt be some DLC on the way to take your money – wait, there already is!
I haven’t gotten very far in the game yet, just enough to start fighting in someone’s backyard ring. There are a few levels of difficulty and only a handful of match types like tag team, four way and battle royale. So far I’ve found tag team to be incredibly frustrating when playing solo since you don’t control your tag team partner, which leads to the computer playing itself, and while this can be humorous at times, it doesn’t help you complete challenges or level up. My suggestion is to just play the tag team by yourself as a 2-on-1 and use your finishing moves wisely to take care of business. Believe me, nothing is more aggravating than getting smacked by a grandmother avatar and then put into a piledriver.
Fire Pro Wrestling isn’t going to win any awards or amaze anyone with graphics, controls, music or even gameplay. At best this is an average game but if you’re a wrestling fan then you can appreciate the moves and the timing required to put on a good show. Sure, you can button mash and end up winning but we all know that wrestling isn’t about speed or moves, it’s about telling a story through actions…and my actions just told the story of me putting grandpa in the camel clutch followed by a moonsault for the pin.
Fire Pro Wrestling is $10 in the Xbox Marketplace. Yes, that’s a little steep for an avatar game but it’s not entirely without merit. Play the demo first. You might find your money better spent on Jet Set Radio.