Release Date: September 8, 2003
Buy 'WRESTLEMANIA XIX': GameCube
I feel as though I should mention that I am a wrestling game fanatic. The amount of hours I’ve spent with my friends playing various wrestling games over the years is quite staggering. We’ve spent days creating custom wrestlers and storylines that we play out in game, so, you could say I’m rather picky when it comes to judging a wrestling game. Thankfully, THQ and Yukes have delivered, in my opinion, the most solid wrestling game in quite a while.
Like many wrestling game fans, my favorite stateside grappler has been No Mercy for the Nintendo 64 ever since the day it was released. Sure, the new generation of wrestling games came into light but they all failed to impress me. I thoroughly enjoy simulation-style wrestling games as opposed to fast paced arcade-like wrestling games, so, I was a little worried when saw Yukes’ logo on the back of the box. Famous for the Smackdown series of games, I was afraid that I was about to play an arcade-styled game once again. Fortunately for me, Wrestlemania controls like a dream.
The game play controls are a mix between Smackdown’s quick-grab action moves and the No Mercy grapple system. Tapping the A button while near your opponent will result in a quick grapple move. Holding your analog stick left, right, up or down and tapping the A button will produce different moves than just hitting A by itself. Holding the A button for a few seconds will have your wrestler performing a strong grapple. Once you connect with a strong grapple you and your opponent will be in a lock up, in which you can apply the same direction plus the A button system of control that the quick-grabs use.
Hitting the B button will allow you to use your strike moves like punches and kicks. These are helpful in making your opponent groggy enough to get in a strong grapple. The game also has running moves and running grapples and the usual top rope moves. After beating your opponent down enough to gain your special move state, tapping A and B at the same time will activate your special state. Once active all you have to do is stand in front of your opponent and hit A and B again to perform your finisher.
Another feature that reminded me of No Mercy is the way the game handles health meters. You and your opponent both start off with a green colored ‘spirit’ bar that will change color depending on whether you are getting pounded or are the one dishing out the pain. Your green meter will change closer and closer to red the more you beat down your opponent, whereas it’ll turn blue when you get the beat down. Beneath your health meter is where you’ll see a bar that tells you how much you’ve built up for a special move. When the bar fills up completely you get one special state that you can activate whenever you like. You can have up to three special states saved during a bout.
Another big feature in any wrestling game is the Create-A-Superstar mode. This year Yukes really went to town and improved upon the extremely weak CAS mode from the previous game. When you get your blank template of a wrestler you start of by naming him/her and then getting down to everything else. That includes a plethora of clothes, masks, and hats, accessories like sunglasses and bandanas and stuff like that. You can also make your own designs for your shirts if you have enough patience and artistic ability. You can also customize small details like how big your eyes are, the size of your nose, head, thighs, chest, and things like that. The only thing I found lacking was the selection of different hairstyles, which, while disappointing is only a minor gripe.
After your looks are complete you’ll need to spend some ability points on your wrestler’s attributes. Pumping some points into grappling and you’ll grapple easier and cause more damage, while putting some in submission will get your opponents to tap more often. Next up would be choosing all your moves, this is by far the longest part of character creation next to entrances (or maybe it was for me because I am meticulous.)
Each section of the moves features a ton of moves for you to choose from. From striking moves to back and front grapples, apron to outside of the ring, apron to inside of the ring, off the top moves and so on. Yukes included a lot of moves from the Japanese federations of the world (something Smackdown and Raw didn’t do too much of) and even included my custom wrestler’s, move the Emerald Fusion (Frosion). You’ll see all of the moves from the WWE stars as well as Mexican-inspired moves along with the mentioned Japanese moves. The only thing I didn’t see was the Ganso bomb, which is kind of disappointing, but not a huge deal. Wrestlemania also sports a bunch of new double team moves that look awesome and are easy enough to pull off with a friend while playing.
The next step in making a wrestler is creating the perfect entrance for him/her. WMXIX gives you a ton of options like choosing your walking animations, on ramp taunts, pyrotechnics, in ring poses and your music. Since there is no hard drive on the system ripping your own tracks for an entrance theme is out of the question, however, Yukes included some pretty decent original music to walk down to the ring with. After picking all of this you can then manipulate the many camera angles that make up the game’s entrances. You can choose close shots, crane shots and arena shots, it’s all in there for you to tweak and with.
The graphics in WMXIX are a mixed bag. For the most part the character models sport a good amount of polygons, but lack decent texturing. Muscles look painted on and somewhat fake in the game, and the usual over-buffing of certain wrestlers is also present. The character animation for the actual wrestling moves look amazing and realistic, however, the walking animations do not. Wrestlers look stiff and slow as the putter to the ring and move around inside the squared circle. The clothes that the wrestlers wear are also pretty low-res and overall kind of bland.
The crowd is also a little boring, flat sprites with a few frames of animation each as they hold up signs that display different things depending on who is wrestling.
The sound is average in the game. The ring sounds like a ring, punches sound meaty as do chair shots. The crowd will cheer you on or tell you that you suck if you’re a heel all the while generic rock-type music is pumping in the background. The sound works well for this game but is bland at best overall.
As for game modes, the single player portion of WMXIX is called Revenge, in which you are stripped of your title and fired by Vince McMahon. You are offered a deal from his daughter, Stephanie McMahon. She promises you complete revenge if you can stop Wrestlemania from happening at all. You’ll fight at construction sites, malls, parking lots and docks in an effort to stop WMXIX from ever airing. Aside from the money you earn in Revenge Mode and the fact that you can play the unlocked levels once you beat the mode, I found it kind of annoying and pointless as far as the story goes.
Speaking of earning money, when you have a good amount you can head over to the Shopzone where you can purchase new moves, clothes and random items.
The meat and bones of WMXIX is the multiplayer modes that you can play with your friends. Matches like Hardcore, Tables Ladders and Chairs, Hell in the Cell and Table matches make this game worthy of a buy and many hours of your life wasted on it. I always say that the perfect wrestling game will have WWE Raw’s graphics, Smackdown’s season mode and WM’s game play. Until that day comes we’ll all have to enjoy what Yukes and THQ have brought to us in the form of WMXIX.
Score : 8.5/10