Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#96 – WWF Wrestlemania

Whatcha gonna do brother when Hulkamania runs wild on you?

Shiny colors!

To Beat: Win the Tournament
Played: 8/6/18 – 8/8/18
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
My Video: WWF WrestleMania Longplay

I was a teenage boy and for a season I was really into professional wrestling. I happened to get interested in WCW during the time when it overtook WWF in popularity, and then I unceremoniously got out of it sometime before WWF acquired it. The NES wrestling games vastly favored the WWF license over WCW with four NES titles to one. I am familiar with many of the WWF stars from this period as they eventually crossed over into WCW. Hulk Hogan on the cover of NES WWF WrestleMania, for instance, was a huge part of the nWo and his entry into that group was very shocking for me as a young fan. Playing this NES game rekindled a lot of nostalgia for that period in my life. Of course what matters now, nostalgia aside, is if the game is any good.

The current WWE began in 1952 as Capitol Wrestling Corporation and was created by Jess McMahon and Toots Mondt. It was part of the broader National Wrestling Alliance, or NWA. The owners at that time, Mondt and Jess’s son Vincent, withdrew from NWA in 1963 over a dispute and created the WWWF, which eventually rejoined in NWA in 1971 and was renamed to the World Wrestling Federation, or WWF, in 1979. Vincent McMahon Jr. created Titan Sports in 1980 and bought Capitol from his father in 1982. Vince Jr. helped usher in the WWF Golden Age in the 1980s. WWF acquired its main competitor, WCW, in 2001. In 2002, WWF was renamed to World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, after a dispute with the World Wildlife Fund. WWE is currently the biggest professional wrestling promotion in the world.

WWF WrestleMania is the first of four WWF licensed NES games. The other three games are WWF WrestleMania Challenge, WWF WrestleMania: Steel Cage Challenge, and WWF King of the Ring. WWF WrestleMania was developed by Rare and published by Acclaim Entertainment. It was released in January 1989 on the NES in North America only.

Awww yeah, wrasslin’!

WWF Wrestlemania is a straightforward professional wrestling game. There are six characters to choose from: “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Bam Bam Bigelow, The Honky Tonk Man, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, and Hulk Hogan. Matches take place between two wrestlers in the ring until one of them wins by pinfall. The game supports up to six players though only two may play at one time. One or two players can play a standard match, or one to six players may compete in a Tournament format. To beat the game, you have to win the Tournament mode in single player.

At the start of the game you will choose the number of players and the corresponding mode. A name entry screen appears for each player after the mode is chosen. Use the D-pad to move the cursor and press A to make selections. Names are up to six characters long. For multiple players, odd numbered players use the first controller and even numbered players use the second controller. After name entry, choose from one of the six wrestlers. Press Up or Down to choose. You will see his profile picture and some short stats. Press A on the one you want. After all selections are made, you will see the Pre-Bout screen with the participants of the next match. Now the fun begins!

Fights take place on a single screen with the stats on top and the match on the bottom. On each side of the top of the screen are the character portraits and the vertical energy bars for each player. In the center is the match timer and the bell that rings at the end of the match.

Bam bam on Bam Bam.

The controls are a little more complex than they first appear. You walk around the ring with the D-pad and you can walk in all directions. You can press either A or B to do some basic strikes against your opponent. From here it gets more complicated as some wrestlers can’t perform certain moves. I won’t go into all these details, but the manual has a couple of charts detailing all this and I suggest you look that up before trying this game. One more thing all wrestlers have in common is running mode. Press and hold either Left or Right, and then hold A to engage running mode. You can let go of the D-pad, and then let go of the A button to stay locked into running mode without touching any of the buttons. You will rebound back and forth between the ropes until you press a button to get out of the mode or your opponent gets in the way.

The remaining moves can only be performed by some wrestlers. While in running mode, you can press A or B to do a running attack. You can do a different move by pressing either A or B while holding Up or Down. One of these, usually with the B button, is how you pin your opponent when they are laid out on the mat. If you have your back to the opponent and press A and B at the same time, you will do a strong back move. If you are facing your opponent and press A and B together, you can do a bodyslam. However, you need to have more energy than your opponent to pull off the bodyslam, otherwise you will default to the back move. Finally, some wrestlers can do a move off the turnbuckle. To climb up on the turnbuckle, you need to engage running mode while all the way at the bottom of the screen. Just as your approach the corner, press B. If your timing is good, you will climb onto the turnbuckle and then dive off all in one move. Even though there are turnbuckles at the top of the screen, you can’t climb on those. Weird, I know.

To win a match, first you need to drain all of the energy from your opponent. When he’s down, you need to pin him. Stand next to him and press either Up or Down combined with either A or B depending on your wrestler to pin. A three-count will start, and if your opponent is still down at three, the bell rings and you win the match. Often, just getting the energy bar emptied is not quite enough to keep him pinned down. Sometimes he will get up right away and other times he will stay down for quite some time. You can get a feel for when he will stay down longer than usual with some experience. On the flip side, your opponent is also trying to drain your energy and pin you too. You will rise automatically if you are knocked down with energy remaining, but if you don’t, mash the Up button on the D-pad to get up as quickly as you can.

High octane pinning action!

There are a few additional mechanics and things to look out for in the game. Energy meters slowly grow over time. You have to keep up the offensive or your opponent can get back into the game. There is an additional way to earn back some energy in the form of a powerup. That’s right, this game has a powerup called the energizer. Each wrestler has his own energizer listed in the game manual. Energizers appear from the top left of the screen, go across the top of the ring, and then exit on the right side. You want to collect your energizer if you are near it, and likewise you want to keep your opponent away from his. There is also an anger mechanic. If someone gets hit a bunch, his skin will change color from pink to red. Moves do more damage while in this angered state.

The timer is of some importance as well. There is no timer in a standard match, either single player or two-player. In fact, a two-player match with one person is a great environment for practicing moves and timing, all without worrying about the timer. The timer runs in tournament mode only. It counts up to three minutes, and if there isn’t a winner to that point, the match is considered a draw. You will get an instant rematch, and these will continue until there is a clear winner.

To win single-player Tournament mode, you pick a wrestler and then you have to win against all other wrestlers in order. You can tie via the timer as many times as necessary, but lose once and you’re out. A multi-player tournament functions more like an actual tournament. The computer controls the remaining wrestlers and everyone plays each other once for a total of fifteen matches. Whoever wins the most matches wins the tournament, and the tiebreaker is whoever has the quickest average match time over matches won.

Ooooh, that’s gonna leave a mark.

This was my first time playing WWF Wrestlemania. This game was originally on my deferred list, but I can’t remember why I put it there other than my general disinterest in sports games. This is one of the most common NES games out there. Right now, I have four extra copies I haven’t bothered to sell yet. It only costs a few dollars if you want a cart.

I did not have the easiest time beating this game. I decided to go with “Macho Man” Randy Savage (RIP) as he was one of my favorite wrestlers growing up. Taking the wrestlers in order means The Million Dollar Man is the first wrestler, and he really is a pushover for the most part. For a while I couldn’t beat anybody else. I found trying to beat anyone else in a fist fight is useless. Those guys can rifle off back moves quickly before I could barely get out one. Running attacks are more useful especially if you can knock the guy down with them. You can go right into another running attack and knock him down as soon as he gets up. This strategy doesn’t work on the heavier wrestlers. My path to victory was abusing turnbuckle moves. The problem then is getting the opponent into the corner with you to get in range for the move. I try to get the opponent to run after me into the corner so I can climb the turnbuckle. Knocking him down gives me enough room to back up and run again. I tried to time it so that I was climbing up when he got up. That way he will chase me into the corner, trying to take advantage of having my back to him. I can get into a loop, but it doesn’t always last. Your timing has to be really good too so that you don’t miss the turnbuckle climb. I think the presence of the timer, combined with energy regeneration, encourages repeating powerful moves over and over to win. It might be a cheap way to win but it worked for me. I can win most of the time with this strategy, but even then, winning all five matches was a little harder than it seemed.

Take this opinion with a grain of salt because I haven’t played any other wrestling games on NES, but I don’t think WWF Wrestlemania is all that good. Rare usually makes fun games but not this time. The level of presentation and polish from a Rare game is still there. There are some nice graphical effects on display. The character portraits look pretty good on the NES. Everything up to the gameplay is solid, and then the annoyances begin. I had a tough time lining up properly with the other wrestler, and when I did I would get beat down before I could get enough hits in. Movement around the ring is cumbersome and slow. It’s easy to get trapped in the corner and hard to get back out. The act of pinning a wrestler is a lot harder to perform than it should be. The timer gets in the way of a more thoughtful match, resulting in exploiting moves just to win in time. These control and balancing issues add up to a more frustrating experience than a fun one. I hope later games are better than this one.

#96 – WWF Wrestlemania

Posted In: Finished

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