Review: WrestleQuest

Professional wrestling being a genre with many sub-genres has helped it gain global appeal for things like showmanship, skillful mat grappling and high-flying from stars across the world — especially lucha stars in Mexico or junior heavyweights in Japan. In gaming, we haven’t seen a lot of pro wrestling invading other genres, but it has happened with mixed results across the board. WWF Betrayal took pro wrestling into the world of beat-em-ups, but was hurt by sloppy controls and being limited to 8-bit hardware. Later games like WWE Crush Hour blended the then-current stars of WWE with Twisted Metal-style action while incorporating pro wrestling stipulation-inspired rulesets that actually had a greater influence on car combat as the final Twisted Metal game on PS3 incorporated things like the steel cage match idea into it. One thing we haven’t seen is a turn-based RPG using a pro wrestling framework, even with games like Final Fantasy VI having things like suplexes to trains.

WrestleQuest has you starting out in a gym before moving on to other territories throughout the land — a bit like the ’80s where you could go from place to place and topple that group’s top stars. Here, the top stars are people inspired by legends of the past and present. People with great global influence and followings like “Macho Man” Randy Savage and the Road Warriors/Legion of Doom are revered so much that there’s entire gyms of people inspired by their acts and there’s a lot of truth to that across the board. Everyone who has heard Randy Savage’s iconic voice has done an impression of it, while the Road Warriors’ influence in the game fits in with every territory in the ’80s having some knock-off version of the team — sometimes within the same company they were in.

The game does a great job of replicating that whole era and a time when you had Animal and Hawk as such an influential team that even copycat teams like Demolition and the Powers of Pain were made up of future legends, while teams like Mad Max and Super Max never rose above small-time territory status. You get a sense for the influence of the legends here and their lasting legacy on wrestling as a whole. The game aims to do as much as it can to replicate different styles of wrestling within a turn-based RPG format.

Things like showmanship allow you to get buffs, while having a manager run interference can do damage and give you a win if you time it right — just like an actual match. There are various other little intricacies to the gameplay systems that enable things like taunting to add another risk/reward element as you can get more damage done with better timing, while just hitting the button for an attack does a stock amount of damage. The timing-based damage system is a bit like Super Mario RPG or Paper Mario and stacking that with all the wrestling style influences makes for a game that is fun to play for wrestling fans who may have never played an RPG.

There are extensive tutorials, interactive tutorials and training modes available to get better and that helps even if you’re an RPG veteran because there are so many buffs and modifiers to keep in mind. Victory being done by a timing-based meter is similar to what we’ve seen in modern-day wrestling games as well and makes that aspect of it easy to grasp for newcomers to the game who have recently played the WWE 2K games. Every part of the battle system is easy to get the hang of, but like a job system in a Final Fantasy game, there are things to keep in mind with certain styles. Powerhouses can land critical hits with more benefits, but any usage of things like a manager costs more attack points and they’re prone to taking more damage per hit.

A showman-style has rewards for players that are attentive because you get a buff for properly-timing attacks with the attack meter, but face a greater risk in a larger party because their allies can take more damage if you taunt — so it’s a risk/reward style to use. Generally, you want to play it safe as a showman until either the end of the battle or risk taunting early and taking out rivals faster at the cost of possibly damaging your friendly units. Those looking for an easier time would enjoy the technician, who gains the ability to just hold a button to boost hype and having better timing enables double-damage, while having the risk of regular attacks doing less damage overall. There’s a lot to consider in the core game, but the gameplay loop is a lot of fun and going from battles to exploration to find goodies and gear throughout the world instead of having to rely on buying it is nice.

‘s combat being so interactive makes this one of the most enjoyable turn-based RPGs I’ve played recently — and coming from being a fan of the genre since the SNES days, having something that rewards players for more in-the-moment button presses makes the player more-engaged in everything that’s going on in the battle. When you have to be “on” at all times, you’re going to be more in-tune with everything else and that pans out with this game a lot.

Visually, it’s very much like a PlayStation-era RPG with its richly-detailed pixel art representing multiple eras of legends over the decades. Newer legends like Jeff Jarrett are mixed with Savage, Jake Roberts, LOD and Sgt. Slaughter as well to create a loaded licensed roster. The pixel art is great, but the zoomed-out perspective of everything does make it tough to see your characters’ position on the screen easily — especially during exploration areas in the legends’ stages. Still, the details are impressive and animation is surprisingly fluid when it comes to recreating pro wrestling moves in an RPG.

It’s a satisfying game visually and one that’s less impressive audio-wise in part due to the nature of having a roster of legends, but not having access to most of their theme music or a lot of sound bytes. There are some voice clips used for the legends and those influenced by legends to help keep a wall of sound going. The sound effect work is fantastic and I loved the sounds for move impact and the bell ringing to signal the end of the match. It’s a tough concept to make work without an epic soundtrack and that does hurt WrestleQuest a bit.

Closing Comments:

WrestleQuest does an excellent job at combining pro wrestling legends with a turn-based combat system that takes the best kind of cues from Nintendo’s more-interactive Mario RPGs over the years. Having so much real-time interactivity during battles makes them more engaging and fun, and while the game does suffer from small sprites and a soundtrack that’s weak given the legendary cast, what’s here is done well. This is a fantastic pickup for any pro wrestling fans looking to get into JRPGs or for JRPG fans looking for an excuse to play something involving pro wrestlers.

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