by Alex Knapp
System: Nintendo 64
Developers: Asmik Ace and AKI
Good news/bad news time, folks.
The bad news is that WCW/nWo Revenge is the apex of WCW games, a fun wrestling experience which captures everything that was good about World Championship Wrestling…and Ric Flair is not in it.
Yes, by a cruel twist of fate, this game happened to come out at a time when Ric Flair and Eric Bischoff were engaged in a lengthy legal pissing contest, leading to The Nature Boy’s exclusion from WCW’s hottest new game. Life is a bitch sometimes. What does such a conspicuous absence mean for the game? Can it hope to succeed without one of its biggest icons?
Well, with all due respect to Naitch…hell yes, it succeeds.
The game would be released at an interesting time in wrestling history. It was the mid-point of The Monday Night Wars, a time when it could be argued that WCW and the WWF were just about evenly matched. Granted, the WWF was surging forward at the time with the advent of the Attitude Era, while WCW was beginning to lose its momentum as the NWO angle began to lose steam. But both promotions were still stacked with talent and giving it their all to achieve supremacy every Monday night. And in the midst of this, WCW would gain one final victory over the WWF in the world of wrestling video games.
Following the success of AKI and THQ’s first wrestling outing on the N64, WCW/NWO Revenge would improve on WCW vs. nWo World Tour in every possible way. Graphics would be improved, making renditions of wrestlers truly look like their real-life counterparts. Moves would be crisper than ever. The roster would be even bigger and more impressive. The game would have much more of a WCW style and capture the feel of the product we enjoyed on TNT. World Tour made wrestling gaming great, but Revenge would launch it into the stratosphere.
While World Tour had more of a Japanese puroresu vibe to it, Revenge, while keeping the focus on in-ring excitement, is unmistakably WCW. The generic rings from the previous games are replaced with the arenas we knew and loved: The classic WCW Monday Nitro set, along with a select few top pay-per-views such as Souled Out, SuperBrawl, Bash at the Beach, Halloween Havoc, and Starrcade. The wrestlers all look better, their bodies smoother and more distinctive, and their facial features bearing a stronger resemblance to the real-life WCW wrestlers they represent.
And speaking of the wrestlers, what an incredible roster we’ve got going here! World Tour’s roster, while good for its time, is limited in retrospect, but Revenge’s roster truly captures one of the major things that made WCW great in its prime: There was something for everyone. You have megastars like Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Sting, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash, Diamond Dallas Page, and (making his video game debut) Bill Goldberg. You have ECW-style hardcore brawlers like Raven and The Flock, Perry Saturn, and Kanyon. International luchadors and cruiserweights like Rey Mysterio Jr., Ultimo Dragon, Eddie Guerrero, Juventud Guerrera, and Psychosis. Technical wrestlers like Bret Hart, Curt Hennig, and Dean Malenko. There is just such an incredible, diverse set of talent available for the choosing in Revenge, and this diversity allows for a highly multifaceted wrestling gaming experience and the chance to try out a wide variety of styles.
On top of that, the animations have become much more sophisticated than they were previously, and capture the distinctive characteristics of the wrestlers they are associated with. Nowhere is this better exemplified than with the game’s finishers. Kevin Nash’s jackknife powerbomb, Sting’s scorpion death drop, Goldberg’s jackhammer, and all of the other famous signature moves not only are included, but are better-animated than ever before, with all of the characteristic mannerisms, dramatic pauses, and ways of execution associated with the wrestlers who perform them. It’s a noticeable improvement from World Tour, which, while it did include finishers, tended to remain generic in their animation. Here, you really get the feeling that the wrestlers’ individual personalities are shining through in their moves, making each character all the more distinct to play as.
Gameplay remains fairly basic, but contains a few nice new additions, including the ability to fight a battle royal. Besides exhibition matches, Championship Mode allows you to pursue all five of WCW’s major title belts (unlocking the game’s hidden wrestlers in doing so).
On top of that, Revenge added on the ability to customize wrestlers! While there is no CAW option, players can edit any wrestler, changing their name and their attire to fit your preferences. At the time, the idea behind this was, given the “anything can happen” product of the time and the changing affiliations of the characters, you could update them to fit what happened if a certain wrestler, say, joined the NWO. You can also use it to simply have fun and satisfy your inner mark, as my cousin and I used to do by having Goldberg don the red and black of NWO Wolfpac, fight alongside Sting and Kevin Nash, and decimate NWO Hollywood. It’s a first step towards a more customizable THQ wrestling game, further adding to the variety of the game.
It is uncanny how WCW/NWO Revenge has managed to stand the test of time and continue to be enjoyed by wrestling gamers to this day. Part of it may be simply due to the nature of the game itself, with its accessibility and straightforward, no-nonsense focus on what you can do in the ring. Part of it may be the sheer variety of styles available to play as. Part of it may be how it serves as a time capsule of sorts, capturing a snapshot of a once-great wrestling promotion in the midst of its last run of glory, before everything went to hell within a couple of short years. Whatever the case, Revenge is a hall-of-famer of wrestling games, and continues to leave a fantastic legacy for gamers looking for the best wrestling experience possible.
Rating: 5 Stars
Photo 1: giantbomb.com
Photo 2: slam.canoe.com
Photo 3: lukiegames.com
Categories: Wrestling Reviews