Release Date: November 11, 2008
Last year, Nintendo fans were waiting with bated breath for the arrival of WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2008 for the Nintendo Wii. For them, the arrival of the game meant that Nintendo was finally getting the best of the WWE video game offerings instead of just spin-offs like the GameCube received. It also meant that wrestling games on the Nintendo console could be fun again, thanks to the motion control scheme and a host of features they haven't seen since the wrestling heyday of the Nintendo 64. When the game finally arrived, however, the excitement quickly turned to disappointment. The graphics and the sound were no better than the PS2 counterpart. The control scheme was rather awkward to use and not as inviting as the old controller schemes. Worse yet, there were fewer modes than in the PS2 version of the same game. Saddened by the turn of events, Nintendo fans rejected WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2008, hoping something better would come along in a future wrestling title. After being burned by the 2008 iteration and not finding any solace in TNA iMPACT!, Nintendo fans finally have a wrestling game that they aren't going to be ashamed about with WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2009.
There are several different game modes that greet players when they first boot up SvR 2009. Unlike last year's version, however, every mode that PS3 and Xbox 360 owners see is also featured on the Nintendo Wii version. Exhibition, for example, has just about every type of match the WWE has ever seen for up to four players. Everything is represented here, from one-on-one and Tornado Tag matches to Hell in a Cell and Tables, Ladder & Chairs. New to this year's version is the Inferno match, where players have to beat their opponent senseless. Once the opponent gets into a dizzy state, it's up to the player to drag the victim into the sides of the burning ring, and whoever gets burned first is declared the winner. The gimmick match works well, but considering how many other match types there are in the game, don't be surprised if you only try this once or twice before going back to your favorite match types.
Road to Wrestlemania is the biggest game mode change in the series so far, and it's one of the more cohesive story modes since the one seen in TNA iMPACT!. Instead of just creating a superstar and taking him through the WWE to get a championship, you choose between six different story lines made for six different wrestlers (or teams, in one of those cases). Each one is original, dealing with different characters and goals in each one. John Cena's story, for example, has him dealing with MVP defecting the country and then trying to get revenge for the match at the Tribute to the Troops show. Triple H has to deal with choosing between re-forming Degeneration-X or Evolution, while CM Punk tries to get his ECW Championship back from Elijah Burke after a screwjob of a match. Each story line stays within the confines of the brand each wrestler belongs to, including the pay-per-view events, and lasts from a little before the Royal Rumble to Wrestlemania, making it long enough for people to enjoy before they get sick of it. Everything here is created exactly like a show broadcasts, with the commentary team talking about the events of the previous broadcast right down to the little logo that appears at the end of every show. What's more, the plots that play out all sound plausible enough to be in the actual WWE broadcasts, making this one of the best single-player modes a wrestling game has seen. The only story that seems to break this mold is for the Undertaker, whose story includes possession and zombies; it reeks of story elements that the WWE had before the Attitude era of wrestling.
For those who don't care for the pre-made story lines of the chosen superstars, you can always choose Career mode, where you can take a pre-made character or your own creation and take him or her on the way to various WWE titles. You work your way up the ranks and try to beat every superstar in your path, just as you would in any other fighting game. If you wanted to simply participate with your friends, you can also create a Tournament mode with selected WWE Superstars. Considering the single-player modes available in last year's version, these simplified modes are a much better alternative.
As alluded to before, the creation modes are back in SvR 2009. Create-an-Entrance returns, giving you the freedom to edit a wrestler's — or a team's — entrance any way you want. The system only lets you select from pre-made entrance move sets, music and videos, so it's a bit limited, though you can create some pretty good combinations from all this. The Create-a-wrestler mode is back, though largely unchanged from before. You can still make some good-looking creations here, but if you're expecting more options, you have to hope that it can be unlocked in Road to Wrestlemania mode. Create-a Move-Set is where the rest of your Create-a-Wrestler mode is located. Here you can assign any move to just about any general option given. Again, not many moves have changed, but what's here is good enough to create some devastating attacks.
Finally, the title features a full online mode. Just about every type of match can be playable online, whether it be a simple one-on-one match or an ECW Extreme Rules match for four players. Games can be played against friends or strangers, and there are separate leaderboards for each situation. When you get into gameplay, there is little to no lag, making the game enjoyable instead of frustrating. There is text chat present, but only in the lobbies, making it difficult if you want to taunt your opponents as you beat them down. Overall, online is handled well and since people are still participating in online matches, you're sure to find some good competition, even though most of your opponents will immediately quit once you get the pin on them.
The amount of good gameplay modes here is awesome. The problem of having a slightly outdated but beefy roster still lingers here, and while there is no option for downloadable content, the My WWE section allows for roster editing in case you want certain people to switch shows. The pre-made move sets are still huge enough that it will take some time to find just about every wrestling move available for the game. The special commands for the gimmick matches are still a pain to handle, however. For the most part, players will only want to do ladder matches or table matches when they have to do so in Road to Wrestlemania mode, since the perfect positioning is still slightly hard to pull off. One thing the Wii version lets you do, though, is attack the opponent after the match. This classic wrestling staple somehow doesn't appear on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, giving the Wii version a slight edge in gameplay.
The controls for the previous WWE title were a sore spot for gamers, but SvR 2009 features more responsive controls, thanks to a lessened reliance on both the Nunchuk and Wiimote for performing moves. The analog stick controls character movement, while the Z button pins your opponent and the C button handles taunts or triggers a special state. Swinging the Wiimote translates into strikes, with the direction of the swing determining what type of strike is performed. The A button and a swing of the remote handles quick grapple moves, while doing the same with the B button performs more powerful grapple moves.
On-screen prompts then kick in to help you perform different moves depending on the grapple situation, such as powerful slams or submission moves. The on-screen prompts are also situational, popping up whenever you're in the vicinity for a tag to your partner or when you need to get your opponent through a wooden table. For the most part, the game mimics the right analog stick controls of the other consoles and does so without being too complicated. One noticeable change, however, is with the entrances. While they don't have some of the filters used with certain wrestlers (the John Morrison slow-mo when he does his hand raise, for example), you can control entrance taunts using Nunchuk and Wiimote motions, something the other console version don't have.
The graphics in SvR 2009 are good, though a bit expected given the power of the system. The character models are the same as the ones seen on the PS2 version, and the texture work is fairly good, especially for the hair on the wrestlers' heads. Most importantly, the wrestler models are sharpened up and moving at a good 60fps and 480p. The crowd also moves well and looks lively enough to excite onlookers, even though they are very low-resolution sprites instead of low polygons. All of the arenas from the three TV series as well as all of last year's pay-per-views have been faithfully recreated in the game, and they also end up looking fairly good. Even the Wrestlemania facade is created well, though the fact that it's playing in a closed arena instead of an open one does take away the mystique of the event.
While this is all very good, the title does have some graphical flaws. The videos on the Titantron show up well, but the logo videos for the different shows appear as a pixelated mess. As for other parts of the arenas, the signs are too blurry to read. A sign that would read "Smack Pizza" in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions ends up being a blue and white blur in the Wii version. Clipping on the ropes and some entrance clothing is still an issue that has lingered since the beginning of the series. Finally, the issue of animation quality, something that plagued the other versions, is here as well, though a little more pronounced. The moves animate well, but the transitions need work. Going from one move to another is another story, since you see characters constantly warp from one position to another in order to start up the correct animation in the correct spot. Again, this is something that has been in the series for years, and one can hope that this lingering issue can be fixed soon in future versions.
The sound featured in SvR 2009 is pretty good, though there are a few areas that need some work. The sound effects are perfect, emulating everything you would hear in a real WWE broadcast. All of the punches, kicks and slams to the mat have the correct pitch to them, throwing out a good amount of bass and depth to each hit. The game menus are about the only place where you hear licensed music, and it consists of your typical hard rock material for which the WWE is known. Oddly enough, some of the more popular theme songs for some of the wrestlers in the game also populate the soundtrack, possibly indicating a lessened dependence on licensed music for the menu screens.
When it comes to the voices, we have a mix between something good and something bad. The cut scenes in the Road to Wrestlemania mode feature voices from all of the involved wrestlers, and their delivery is great. There are times when some of the lines fall flat but, for the most part, these guys deliver. The same goes for the announcing teams during the cut scenes; each team delivers the same commentating style here that they do during the shows. Jerry "The King" Lawler stands out the most, thanks to the enthusiasm he shows whenever Raw gets involved with the WWE Divas search. While the commentators are good, they are also the source of weakness in the audio portion of the game. The commentary during the regular matches is very limited and quickly gets old. For example, I've heard Michael Cole tell me how I delivered a vicious stomp way too many times. The same criticism goes to the ring announcers as well, whose delivery is sometimes unintentionally amusing. There are some names that, when called out, make it seem like they are questioning who came down to the ring or got cut off in the middle of a sentence. This is something that needs to be addressed in the next iteration.
WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2009 finally delivered on the promise of the previous game. Finally, a fully featured wrestling game has come to the Nintendo system, complete with all of the creation systems thus far and full online play. The controls actually work for the system, making it easy for people to pull off some of the more complicated maneuvers and even do things not featured on the other versions of the game. There are improvements that still need to be made, especially in the areas of character animations and audio commentary. When looking at the bigger picture, though, SvR 2009 works exactly as intended. If all you have is a Nintendo Wii and you're looking for a good wrestling title, look no further than SvR 2009. It will definitely fulfill your need for the squared circle until next year's version.
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