Release Date: 02/11/2003
Pride FC is the most popular mixed-martial-arts competition making the rounds in Japan today. American’s with a desire to watch fighting action that doesn’t play out like a cheesy soap opera have been getting their fix from pay-per-view-based Ultimate Fighting Championships which, while startlingly aggressive, look like a high school wrestling competition when compared to Japan’s Pride FC series of fighting events. Pride FC is simply a more brutal take on no-holds barred fighting than UFC but has seen somewhat limited success in the western market despite more than 20 DVDs made available by Dream State and satellite transmissions via DirecTV for over half a decade. THQ hopes to propel the process of popularizing the vicious sport of Pride FC by ways of their new game appropriately titled Pride FC. The same development team who made the critically acclaimed Dreamcast version of UFC, Anchor Inc., are the same folks responsible for this game and fans of the series will undoubtedly be pleased with their work on the title. It isn’t perfect, but Pride FC stands out in the Fighting Championships franchise as one of, if not the best, rendition of the sport thus far.
Pride’s extensive line-up of more than 25 real-world fighters run the gambit of mixed-martial arts personalities like Ken Shamrock, Igor Vovchanchyn, Kazushi Sakuraba, and Carlos Newton. Along with a multitude of realistically recreated fighters comes a nice assortment of fighting styles, all of which bring something different to the table but none of which really change up the basic foundation of the game’s engine in any way outside of theatrics. Each character handles very similarly, which is good in some ways since once you are accustomed with the game play you can pretty much transition what you’ve learned from one fighter to another. But Pride’s simple fighting foundation won’t win over too many gamers who are expecting the level of variety in terms of fighting style found in more popular brawlers like Tekken or Street Fighter. Nevertheless, it boasts a solid and cohesive game play system that is more than entertaining enough in its own right. Plus the essential uniformity of fist-a-cuffs strategy ensures that no one character will reign supreme thanks to cheap moves or contemptible tactics.
Pride FC isn’t a surprising departure from its predecessors but it does add quite a bit of new strategy to the already-solid mix of fighting possibilities from UFC. In the past Fighting Championships games each of the four face-buttons on the controller was mapped out to a different limb on your fighter, and when these buttons were coupled with different directions on the D-pad you’d be able to execute different types of strikes. Hitting two different face-buttons simultaneously would perform take down attempts, countermoves, and submission holds. This style of fighting has remained pretty much untouched for Pride, but the multitude of new submission holds, knockdown punches, and the introduction of on-the-mat offensive moves that allows you to swipe at the opponent’s knees when you are knocked down, make Pride the most fleshed-out brawler in the bunch.
It goes without saying that Pride FC is best played in the company of real-life opponents, if you can manage to get a friend in on the action you’ll have a much more rewarding experience with the game. Nevertheless, Pride does come equipped with a few entertaining single-player modes of play that should be enough to hold one’s attention for quite some time. Survival mode allows you to compete in a tiered 16-man competition where it all comes down to two fighters in a ultimate fight that will dictate who is the Pride Fighting Champion and who will go home the loser. Survival mode is your standard fight-till-you-lose style of play and One-match mode gives you the option to quickly set up a fight and jump right into the action. There is also a training mode that allows you to test out your fighter against a customizable computer-controlled sparring partner. But the biggest problem with Pride FC is its lack of a career mode. The ability to work your way up through the ranks before actually competing in the final Pride Grand Prix tournament would have been great.
While Pride FC comes stock with loads of different real-world fighters, fans of the sport will be glad to know that an extensive create-a-fighter option is available. Players will have the ability to piece their creation together from head to toe choosing from myriad statistical options like height, weight, facial and body appearance, and other aesthetic attributes. You’ll be given the option to choose not only the fighting style of your character but also specific moves and combos, making the customization process as fun to play around with as it is useful.
Visually speaking, Pride ups the ante with an assortment of character-specific traits that are based off their real-world counterparts, a slew of new submission-holds, finishing animations, and lots of pain-purporting facial animations. The character models boast impressive amounts of polygons and it seems like the developers tried extra hard to make sure every fighter stays true to their popular namesakes. The textures are a tad generic, though -- each character is suitably proportionate and eerily similar-looking to the fighters on which they are based but things like body-hair, attire, and tattoos tend to look a bit out of place in contrast to the otherwise-excellent depictions. Fighter introductions are nearly frame-by-frame identical to the ones we’ve been watching on DirecTV since 1997 and there is also a cool full-motion snippet of that fighter in action before they get in the ring – a commendable effort at keeping it real to be sure but it won’t be long before you are hastily bypassing the three-stage introduction sequences so you can get right to the action.
Pride’s audio presentation delivers nearly all the aural accompaniment of the real thing with excellent announcer introduction for the fighters, a crowd that reacts with progressively more vocal aggression accordingly, and painfully accurate depictions of crushing strikes and blows. Every fighter comes with his own theme music that plays as they are being introduced too, definitely a cool addition.
The great thing about Pride FC is it doesn’t really matter if you’re a fan of the sport or not, you’ll inevitably end up digging its seemingly-simple control system that allows for lots of strategic thinking in order to successfully pull-off counter moves and submission holds, not to mention Anchor’s almost-perfect collision-detection system that really gives you the impression that a punch brutally connected when you land it. It is something of a niche game in that it is being marketed towards a lesser fan-base who watch this Japanese-derived take on the franchise, and the obvious lack of a career mode may be enough to dissuade some would-be fans of the series, but Pride offers up a tight, visceral overall presentation that few wrestling games can match.