Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#128 – Tag Team Wrestling

It’s the Ricky Fighters versus the Strong Bads … over and over again.

Scores look so weird on this screen

To Beat: Win 35 matches to become Super Champion
Played: 5/18/19 – 5/23/19
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
My Video: Tag Team Wrestling Longplay

Well, I was wrong. Here is yet another NES wrestling game. I am starting to wonder if these games ever end. I mean, I know they do of course, but I have been receiving what feels like a steady diet of these titles for a little while. As soon as I get a bit of a breather, bam, another NES wrestling game. Tag Team Wrestling naturally turned out to be a real grind of a game too.

Tag Team Wrestling was first an arcade game that released in late 1983/early 1984. It was developed by Technos Japan and published by Data East. The game was ported to a few different home computers, as well as to the NES and Famicom. The Famicom version came first in April 1986. There it was called Tag Team Pro Wrestling and it was published by Namco. The NES version released in October 1986, published by Data East and developed by both Data East and Sakata SAS. The NES port was only released in North America. Tag Team Wrestling is very likely the first third-party title released on the NES in North America.

Wrestling yay!

Tag Team Wrestling is just what it sounds like. You play as the team Ricky Fighters against the bad guy team the Strong Bads. You can also play a two-player game where each player controls one of the teams. To win a match, you either need to pin your opponent, have them tap out by submission, or have them lose by countout when out of the ring. As you win matches, you rise in rank and eventually earn some titles. You beat the game by rising all the way to the top by becoming Super Champions, but you need to win a whopping 35 matches to be the very best.

The controls in this game are different from other wrestling games I’ve played. You move around the ring with the D-pad. You use the A button to punch and grab the opponent. Grab your opponent and initiate the grapple. Now you must select your move with the B button via a pop up menu. Tap B quickly to cycle through the moves and then press A on the one you want. There are eight different moves for each wrestler but there’s only a three second timer to enter your move before the opponent does a counter move himself. I learned pretty quickly to rhythmically tap out the button to get the move I wanted. Once the opponent is low enough on health and knocked to the ground, close in on him and press A to pin.

Seeing as this is Tag Team Wrestling, you can call on your partner to pitch in. Simply walk over to the lower left corner and press B to tag him in. Each wrestler has his own health bar displayed when he is activated. Naturally your opponents can do this too, so try and finish the job quickly when he is at low health. Your partner can also step in and break up a submission hold by pressing A when you are stuck. He will run in and smash the other guy so you can get back in the action. This is the only way I found to get out of the move.

Picking moves from a real time menu seems advanced for 1986.

You can also fight outside of the ring. This happens automatically if someone is hit with a move into the rope, typically by being either flipped or slammed toward either side. The referee begins a 20 count and you fight as normal with a few changes. First, you are locked on the same plane so you can’t run circles around each other. Instead of eight moves, there are only three moves available on the outside. You still need to tap B seven times to get to the last move. Sometimes there is a chair lying on the ground that you can pick up and slam into your opponent. Press Up to get back into the ring before the ref finishes the 20 count or you automatically lose the match. If you leave your opponent out there and get back in in time, then you win by disqualification.

The Strong Bads have a special anger mechanic that you will contend with all the time. After some time, one of the opponents will turn red. When this happens, you will always be grappled and attacked no matter what you do. A lot of the strategy in the game revolves around managing the opponent’s anger. One little trick I learned is that if the opponent becomes angry while laying on the mat, you can pin him and that mellows him out somehow. He also never gets angry while outside of the ring. That may not be realistic, but sure, whatever. As play continues and you win more matches, the time between angriness decreases, making those matches much harder to win.

There are a couple of special instances that occasionally come into play. Each wrestler has an original super move. This move is the last in the move list, and you can only do the move against the opposite wrestler from the start of the match. The Strong Bads also have super moves in that same manner. The Ricky Fighters have an occasional, unique ability of their own that goes against the Strong Bad anger. During certain rounds, if you tag your partner in a number of consecutive times, you will flash for the duration of the match. I believe this makes your attacks more powerful. It’s too bad this can only be done a few times a game.

You won’t like them when they’re angry.

Beating the game requires winning 35 matches. Along the way you will obtain smaller titles on the road to Super Champion. After each victory, you see a screen showing the next title you are going after and how many wins you need to get there. The listing of titles in the game manual is incorrect. Clear Round 3 to become Regional Champion, Round 8 for American Champion, Round 15 for European Champion, Round 25 for World Champion, and Round 35 for Super Champion. Winning a title serves as a checkpoint and you don’t lose rank. For example, winning the first three matches earns you the Regional Champion title. If you lose a match while gunning for American Champion, you go back to Round 4 at the start of the American Champion ladder. You have unlimited continues, making the quest for Super Champion a little easier.

This was my first time playing through Tag Team Wrestling. I am not much a fan of wrestling anymore and I never cared for wrestling games at all. This is a common cart that can be found for a few bucks. I have had several copies of this game on my journey to own them all.

The exploit for winning this game became evident after a while. Early on I play the matches straight up. I got a feel for the right amount of opponent’s health to shoot for. You need it low enough to successfully pin but not too low so that he doesn’t go back to tag his partner in with a full health bar. This works for several rounds but eventually the anger kicks in faster and you need a new strategy. Knowing that the opponent never gets angry on the outside, the goal becomes to shift play out there as soon as possible. I can get him out there in two moves. The first knocks him down to set up the suplex that throws him out. From there, do a post smash to move him into the corner. With good timing when he gets up, you can always win the grapple for another attack. Then I establish a cadence of moves to set up the timing so that I can knock him down as close to a 19 count as possible. That gives me enough time left to get back into the ring so that I win by disqualification. This is not an easy setup, but I was able to do it enough through repetition that it became easy.

“Always grab the weapon on the floor” is some sound advice.

I had a few struggles and close calls. I am not a perfect player so mistakes will happen in my routine. Normally this isn’t an issue until the final matches. The Strong Bad anger becomes constant only a few grapples into a match. Should that happen, either I get lucky and get knocked out of the ring to stage a comeback or I’m toast. This came into play on my final attempt one night. After almost two hours of grinding, I finally reach Round 35. Right away it turns into disaster when I miss the suplex that would throw him outside. The anger loop happens, and I’m done for. After kicking out of a pin, miraculously I get knocked out of the ring. I start working my outside strategy, but my cadence is off. At the end of the count, I panic and fire off a move only to struggle getting back into the ring. I get called out as my feet are hovering above the mat. Game Over. I’m pretty sure after my shock wore off, I threw the controller, turned the game off, and went to bed. Two nights later, I’m back at Round 35 after almost 90 minutes of attempts. It starts off well enough, however somehow I miss a grapple on the outside and get beat up for a little bit before we both head back into the ring. This time I kept my composure enough to grapple him just before he tags his partner. Lucky for me, Strong Bads aren’t in anger mode when attempting to tag in their partner. I attack and get the win by pinfall. It wasn’t how I drew it up, but it works just the same. I ended up playing a couple more matches. You always get the Super Champion message past this point, and naturally I didn’t have any issues winning the extra matches. Looking back, I’m glad the ending was a little bit exciting since it’s a better story.

Tag Team Wrestling is more notable for its influence than for its gameplay. Not only was it probably the first third party NES game, but it also directly inspired the Strong Bad character from Homestar Runner. Aside from that, this is a lackluster game. The graphics and music are simplistic, though that’s not too unusual considering it is such an early effort on the NES. The menu-based move system is a novelty at first that soon becomes tedious. Matches are quick but the road to Super Champion seems to go on forever with very few opportunities to spice things up. The Strong Bad anger is absolutely unfair by the endgame. I don’t think it would be entertaining for a two-player game beyond a match or two. Tag Team Wrestling, while completely playable, is not fun to play. There are far better wrestling games on the NES.

#128 – Tag Team Wrestling

Posted In: Finished

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