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Xbox Review - 'Legends of Wrestling: Showdown'

by Geson Hatchett on Aug. 3, 2004 @ 8:35 p.m. PDT

Legends of Wrestling: SHOWDOWN is the exclusive supercard of the immortals! Battle through the annals of time clashing with the greatest grapplers to set foot in the squared circle. Create dream matches, unlock classic feuds and travel down the path of pain in the first-ever era-based career mode to see if you have what it takes to beat the icons of professional wrestling!

Genre: Sports
Developer: Acclaim Studios
Publisher: Acclaim
Release Date: June 22, 2004

Buy 'LEGENDS OF WRESTLING: Showdown': Xbox | PlayStation 2

Picture a professional wrestling game featuring all of the high-profile greats, past and present, living or dead. Names, entrances, techniques, signature moves, everything that makes them famous is slated to be crammed onto a single game disc.

A game like this deserves all the respect and care that can be given to it, and the task fell to Acclaim to provide this respect, care, and detail.

Did Acclaim deliver?

Um… well… erm… give me a minute…

...hmmm…

…oh, what the heck. I’ll give it to them. Good job.

Please note, however, that the reason I like this game is most likely because I went in with no expectations whatsoever.

The last Acclaim wrestler I ever played was ECW Hardcore:Revolution for Dreamcast, and after that monstrosity/atrocity/insert disparaging adjective here, I’d sworn off any wrestling game that bore their name ever again. It would seem that they’ve learned their lesson over the years, and from what I’ve read up on their efforts since then, this is really the first time they’ve gotten their act together in so many years. Way to come in under the wire, guys.

At any rate, what we’ve got here is a wrestling game that, while not perfect, or even just under perfect, does fall under the “just above average” category, and is worth, at the very least, a passing glance.

The second most important aspects of wrestling games are their appearance and presentation, which go hand in hand. Over the past decade, “sports entertainment” has been ingrained in the minds of the masses, with its flash and glitz, its overblown poses and loud music, and its character. The recreation of that atmosphere is what a lot of people still look for, first and above all.

These people have nothing to fear, because things look good here, and they sound quite nice as well. The models are detailed and spot on; they all have full introductions and videos (however generic the latter are), theme songs, and poses—though oddly the wrestlers themselves are largely mute. Anyone looking for Hulk Hogan’s “whatcha gonna do?” speech (not to mention the “Real American” song by which he is universally recognized) going to be quite disappointed—but hey. At least he plays well.

Ninety-nine percent of the speech has gone to the announcer, and to the commentators—Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Tony Schiavone. Sadly, even their presence is lackluster, and the “commentary” that they provide, while original and fun for the first few minutes of the match, quickly gets repetitive on a literal level. It’s easy to predict what their comments will consist of, and when they will make themselves known. First they’ll introduce themselves (with the same lines every time), then they’ll say what type of match it is, then they’ll start varying lines regarding the chosen wrestlers and the types of moves used. The wrestler-specific commentary is very sparse and you’ll hear a lot of the same lines over and over again. Odd how that in this age of DVD-based games and RPG voice-acting, we can’t get any more than this.

Oh, well. There’s little use griping any more about the commentary. The rest of the game, as stated above, looks and sounds quite nice; the sound effects are believable, and when a big move or toss is pulled off the game treats the player to the overused, yet still fun, stop-motion rotation, Matrix-style. This isn’t the WWE, but considering that retro is half this game’s gimmick, Legends recreates the atmosphere that it should very well.

Now that we’ve covered all of that, it’s time to get to the most important of wrestling games (or any video game, for that matter). The gameplay is where the whole “pleasant surprise” thing comes into play. I don’t know what Acclaim did, but the game…. flows. Moves flow into others, advanced techniques are simplified, timing is refined. I can pull off off-the-turnbuckle moves with ease, as well as whips and tosses, and I can even do quick throws and slams without going through the trouble of grappling first if I so choose. I can vary the strength of my moves with simple flicks of each analog stick, and each character contains both common and unique moves that keep matches interesting and fresh. Legends actually plays like a simpler Def Jam Vendetta, but with a bit more quirkiness (both of the positive and negative type) and a style its very own. Sadly, I saw no way to target individual limbs—submission is done the old-fashioned way, by wearing down your opponent’s overall stamina instead of doing so by parts.

The game gives you plenty of ways to get your beatdown on as well: single matches, multiplayer, submission and hardcore/weapon matches, cage matches, ladder matches, and win modifiers on top of these. You can even pick your arena, which is just an awesome touch, right up there with the season mode allowing you to fight throughout he decades and cement your place in the annals of time itself as a true wrestling legend. The career mode tries to ape the story mode of the Smackdown games, but it does so very badly and thus isn’t worth paying much attention to. Just come to fight—you’ll be doing a lot of it.

Finally, there is the create-a-wrestler mode, which both excels and falls flat on its face.

On the outside, Legends’s Create-A-Wrestler Mode seems rich and complex. Then you remember that we’re talking about a game that came out well after Tony Hawk’s Underground. Why, then, is it so tough to modify a character’s physical appearance, or even accessory colors? Why does this game (and so many others with create-a-character modes) contain model modifiers and accessories that have so little to do with their genre? Where are my slide-bars? Why, in this day and age, do I still have to pick pre-programmed colors and body physiques (no matter how many of them there are)? Thankfully, characters can be given any move that they wish via a complex wrestler move editor, and in both appearance and moveset, existing wrestlers can be cloned and modified.

Give this game a chance. Yes, it’s got the Acclaim name on it, and the engine is less refined than others. However, the incredible cast alone is with the price of admission, and the game itself is fun enough. It still has a ways to go to beat the Smackdown franchise, or pretty much any Aki-engine-based wrestler on the market, but the Legends of Wrestling name has finally become a contender in the market, and it’d be a shame for it to be underrated after coming so far, and taking so many lumps to do so.

Score: 7.5/10

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