Legends of Wrestlemania: Reliving my youth in demo mode.

legendsofwmSo I admit and I’m not ashamed that I ‘was’ a big professional wrestling fan.  I say ‘was’ as I really do think the story lines, characters, and mystique of the over-the-top personalities was at their best during the mid 80’s throughout the late 90’s.

While there are indeed some great personalities today (Kurt Angle, Christian Cage, Samoa Joe to name a few) the story lines and cookie-cutter appearance of many of today’s big names have lost their original luster.  With the re-branding of wrestling as ‘sports entertianment’ this last decade and a lot of focus shifting towards music tracks, firework displays, and in your face story arcs that make no sense, I have kinda drifted away from it all. 

Oh, I still read the Internet daily’s, and if there is a really good PPV coming up, I may indeed purchase it…but my regular viewings of RAW, Smackdown, ECW and TNA are way down. 

What ever happened to the slow build to feuds?  The epic story lines that would go on for months at a time that would eventually culminate in a ‘must-see’ event?  Today, wrestling story arc are generally 3-4 weeks…just enough time to the next PPV, and always seem rushed with a lot of nonsense in between.

So when Legends of Wrestlemania was announced, it piqued my interest, but after playing more recent RvS 2005/2006, I wasn’t all impressed.  My favorite wrestling games are still those by Aki/THQ for my N64, and to this day, I still have them and won’t be chucking my N64 anytime soon.  

The old WCW/NWO Nitro and WWF Wrestlemania 2000 games on cartridge were a blast at the time (taking into consideration what graphics and console power was back then), and I have fond memories of my friends and room mates really getting into back then.

After seeing some gamplay footage recently on X-Play (G4), I decided to go ahead and download the 768MB demo for my XBox 360, and I can say I was pleasantly surprised and may have to buy this afterall once released.

While only two modes were available in the demo, ‘exhibition’ and ‘relive’ match and limited to only the following characters: Andre the Giant (w/ Bobby Heenan), Hulk Hogan, Stave Austin, & The Rock, it was a nice preview and very reminiscent of the old N64 gaming controls.

Gone are the ridicuolsly complex button combinations found in the RvS series, and almost (with a few tweaks) to the old cartridge schema.  While still a bit daunting at first glance, this may promise for faster paced arcade style action for both players.

The character modeling was pretty nice.  Both Steve Austin and The Rock were dead on.  Hogan looked like he did back in 1985, and while Andre did indeed look good, his facial features looked a bit wooden.

While the in ring and surrounding graphics looked nice, I still complain about the audience graphics.  While the arenas were good replicas of their original counterparts, they seemed a bit smaller than they should be, but once again, its the audience in attendance that still needs work.  I know we buy these games for the wrestling aspect and action, but why can’t anyone seem to get the look of the crowd right?  There are still plenty of carbon copy crowdies out there as well as repetitive signs and not-so-random fan movements.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s an improvement from past installments, but still seems ‘off’.

Commenting the matches are Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler, and good ‘ole Jim Ross.  After playing about 4 matches, I already noticed that the commentary was repeating and also sounding very generic.  While of course it adds to the overall experience on having color-commentating, it also seemed a tad ‘off’.

But now gameplay:  OMG…I was a kid all over again!!!  It’s like I went back in time almost 10 years, and within minutes I was immersed and laughing, jeering, and giggling like a fanboy with a smile going ear-to-ear.  My wife even though I was being ‘silly’ and laughing at me as I was enjoying the game so much.  The wrestling action seemed epic and fast, although collision detection had a few gaffs as well as the A.I. opponent (although I was playing on easy).

Many of the signature moves and mannerisms were there, and Bobby Heenan’s involvement in my match was fun to watch and a great strategy and component to work or around or use to your advantage.

While this was only a ‘demo’ and many of the screens were locked, you had a great preview of achievements you can unlock, plus tons of goodies and lots of real video footage.  I was treated to a whole vignette setting up The Rock vs Stone Cold and it was great.  By the time the match was about to begin, I had a good understanding of the overall match setup and felt somewhat invested in my character and what to root for.  Not sure how this will translate in the long run, that is watching it over and over again (thank goodness there is a ‘skip video’ option), but it was a nice way to get me pumped up for the upcoming confrontation.

Very long story short….if you liked the old N64 wrestling games and are nostalgic for bygone superstars of a bygone era, you may want to give Legends of Wrestlemania a closer look….I know I will be.

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Wrestling: Diva Gail Kim to the WWE?

Gail Kim - WWE bound?

Gail Kim - WWE bound?

So I never mentioned I also enjoy professional wrestling?  Shame on me.  I loved wrestling as a child and tweener.  I was totally into the WWF, WCCW, NWA, UWF, AWA, and so many other quirky promotions.

Then as a late teenager and college student, I drifted away from pro-wrestling.  It wasn’t until the later half of 1996 did I get back into wrestling and boy did the landscape ever change.  There seemed to only be the WWF and and WCW now on what was then dubbed the ‘Monday Night Wars’.  Some of the classics like Hulk and Sting were still there, but I was introduced to a whole new roster of characters such as The Rock, and Steve Austin and even came across a hardcore promotion called ECW (a far cry from the current brand that carries the ECW name…a bloody shame at that too).

The only women I knew were still Miss Elizabeth, Fabulous Moolah and a few others.  by the early part of this decade the landscape changed yet again.  Now there was Victoria, Molly Holly, Daphne, Sable, and Sunny just to name a few.  They took on much more active rolls and started developing and showcasing their skills.  Among that batch was Gail Kim.  In a fluke accident on the night she debuted in 2002, Gail Kim captured the WWF Women’s title when then champion Jazz was injured (legit).  She stayed with WWF/WWE until 2004 when she was let go and ended up in TNA.

In TNA she was paired with Jeff jarret as a heel valet for quite some time, and then went up to be a valet for the tag team America’s Most Wanted.  Unfortunately while she played a great heel, her in-rings talents were limited to interference and run-ins.

Thankfully in 2007 she more or less began a turn to ‘baby-face’ as TNA was beginning to really launch it’s women division, headlined by Gail Kim and Awesome Kong.  Whereas many scoff at the WWE womens division where the most talented, like Victoria, didn’t get a puch, they would elevate the lamest girls who couldn’t wrestle, and were even worse actresses.  In TNA however, the women’s division actually seemed to mean something.  Gail’d fued with Kong was epic, and the women’s matches overall were much more exciting that what ever WWE was doing at the time.

However, as of yesterday, August 20th, it appears Gail Kim and TNA have parted ways.  TNA has removed Gail Kim from their website in a matter of hours.  I can only assume that WWE made her a really good offer, one she couldn’t refuse.  It probably didn’t help that lead TNA writer/booker Vince Russo has recently watered down the TNA women’s division in recent weeks.  There’s been a lot more gimmick matches and silliness going on that detracts from the strong debut of the TNA Women’s division this past year.  With the likes of Moose, ODB, Roxie, and the Beautiful People, perhaps Gail saw a disaster coming and decied to jump ship.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks, if Gail does indeed re-debut with the WWE and gets a push and hopefully not lost in the ever changing WWE roster debacles, or how the TNA division holds up in credibility with the loss of one of it’s best female performers.