by Alex Knapp
WCW vs. nWo World Tour
System: Nintedo 64
WCW vs. nWo World Tour could not have been released at a better time.
November 30, 1997. The height of The Monday Night Wars. A mere month before World Championship Wrestling’s most successful pay-per-view, Starrcade 1997. And the crescendo of my wrestling markdom. Every Monday night at 7:00 p.m., I belonged to WCW Monday Nitro. The New World Order had been running roughshod over WCW for over a year, and by god, how I hated that dastardly Hollywood Hulk Hogan! But now, Sting seemingly had him on the run, and I couldn’t wait until late December, when the nWo would finally get what was coming to them.
I go to his house, we eagerly turn on the game, and we’re blown away. We mark out upon hearing The Giant’s voice in the opening scene (it was the ’90s and we didn’t have a PlayStation. Bear with us). We are amazed by the lineup of WCW and nWo wrestlers on the character select screen, although a little confused about who those DOA guys were. And naturally, we go directly to what we want most: Exhibition match. Sting vs. Hulk Hogan. And our chance to watch our hero beat the ever-loving piss out of Hollywood without having to wait for the pay-per-view.
And as we’re gleefully doing just that, we realize something glorious about this game: all you need to do to put Hogan in the scorpion death lock was press A when you’re by his legs.
This story is kind of tragic in hindsight, considering how Starrcade really turned out. But one thing that isn’t tragic is the game itself, and how it ushered in the modern era of wrestling video games.
Just as WCW revolutionized the wrestling business with the advent of Nitro and the formation of the New World Order, AKI and THQ revolutionized wrestling gaming with WCW vs. nWo World Tour. The clunky, limited, button-mashing experience which most American wrestling gamers were used to was swept to the wayside, and in its place was a smooth, fluid, wrestling experience where impressive wrestling maneuvers can be accessed with the simple press of a button. Never before had fans had such an accessible and easy-to-learn wrestling experience, and, as the legacy which THQ would leave for N64 gamers can attest, it would pay off in spades.
Playing it today, one thing you notice is that, in terms of atmosphere, the presentation actually isn’t very WCW-like. AKI was not yet playing down their Japanese roots for their American releases (as they would for their WWF games), and the music, displays, and images feel more like a straight-laced puroresu event than the gaudy presentation of WCW. Yet in a way, this is fitting: just like how Eric Bischoff built Nitro by bringing in international cruiserweights and got the idea for the nWo from New Japan Pro Wrestling, World Tour stays close to its Japanese roots, eschewing flashy style for lots of substance, presenting a game that begins and ends with what you do in the ring, and with a lot of options for you to do just that. All of the basic move sets you would expect are there for your power wrestlers, your cruiserweights, and the add-ons from DOA and the Independent Union (who, of course, are repackagings of real-life Japanese wrestlers, bringing their own unique puroresu style to this game). All of this creates a variety never before seen, and which offers the chance to put on five star matches of your own on your screen.
Today, World Tour suffers from being merely the first in line of a great series, often dismissed and overlooked in favor of WCW/nWo Revenge and WWF No Mercy. And granted, it is limited in comparison to its successors, in terms of graphics, customization, and move sets. But take it from someone who was there: those of us who continue to enjoy those games today could not have done so without World Tour breaking the mold. Any serious wrestling gamer can still have a good time with this game and see it for what it is: a no-nonsense, fluid, accessible wrestling experience that begins and ends in how much fun you can have in the ring.
To this day, WCW vs. nWo World Tour continues to remind me of my highest passions as a WCW fan, and as a fan of wrestling in general. Pick it up today if you get the chance, have a good time, and remember: it all started with this one.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org
Categories: Wrestling Reviews