Technos, World Wrestling Federation; 1991
Ask any arcade gamer what is their favorite wrestling game of all time and WWF WrestleFest is guaranteed to be at the top of the list. For a 2-D game released in 1991 with a small roster selection, the lovechild creation of Technos and the World Wrestling Federation is still currently one of the most sought after cabinet games ever made. Just check eBay for the many parts on sale to help owners maintain their cabinets. The game was even the reason for the creation of the MAME arcade emulator was developed, so that fans could still play the games on their CPUs since the WWE has no plans on releasing a version for home consoles.
A sequel to WWF Superstars, the first arcade game released by the Technos and the WWF back in 1989, WrestleFest improved many aspects of its predecessor while still keeping the same WWF style presentation that sucked in many gamers’ quarters over the years in between their respective releases. There are two game modes - Saturday Night’s Main Event, a chase for the WWF Tag Team Championships, and Royal Rumble, a battle royal where the object is to defeat every character in the game in one grueling match. You have a choice of ten wrestlers to take into battle: Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Mr. Perfect, Sgt. Slaughter, Earthquake, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Smash of Demolition, and Crush of Demolition. Also in the game are Hawk and Animal of The Legion of Doom, who are non-playable bosses you eventually fight to win the tag team championships in the Saturday Night’s Main Event mode after beating random teams of wrestlers en route to the final stage. Once you beat the L.O.D., you fight the same teams all over again one more time, in both regular and cage matches, before having a rematch with Hawk and Animal to complete the game.
The Royal Rumble sees your character start in the ring three other players. Much like the actual Royal Rumble match, a new superstar comes into the ring every two minutes, but unlike the real match, you can pin your opponents and cause them to submit as well as throw them over the top rope to eliminate them. You win when you are the last one in the ring and the game comes to a conclusion.
WrestleFest has the option of allowing four human users to play at simultaneously. It also includes every wrestler’s real life finishing maneuvers such as Hogan’s legdrop, Warrior’s splash and Jake’s DDT. Sadly the Demos do not have the Decapitation, but the L.O.D. is able to use their deadly Doomsday Device, which all but ensures your downfall.
The gameplay is pretty simple, using a joystick direction and action button to perform various moves after gaining the advantage in a tie-up by mashing your buttons. The moves are all unique to their respective wrestlers as well and not a generic move set for every grappler, which is quite refreshing.
Not only is the game easy to play and addictively fun, Technos presentation also projects the look and feel of the WWF wrestling programming from that era. There are ring entrances for the wrestler, unfortunately without their real life entrance music, and former announcer Mike McGirk is the game’s in-ring announcer. There are even backstage cut scenes with Hawk and Animal being interviewed by Mean Gene Okerlund, not voiced by their real life counterparts, as they exclaim their catchphrases about what they have in store for you in the upcoming match.
Besides the forgivable lack of entrance music, lack of a larger roster and non-genuine voiceovers, the only bad thing about the game is a cool little niche that Superstars contained with the wrestlers heading to the ring on the “Ring Carts” - carts made to look like mini wrestling rings used at events like Wrestlemania III. Again, those nuisances are forgivable and the rest of the game is pure pixel gold! It might show its age in graphics limitations, which really aren’t that bad to begin with considering it was released in ’91, but the gameplay and excitement still hold up to this very day. In an age when console games include 40+ wrestlers each containing their own move sets, that certainly speaks volumes on how this game should be appreciated in 2012 and beyond.
As previously mentioned, the game is available to play if you use the MAME emulator or you are somehow lucky enough to hunt a working cabinet down and have the disposable cash to upkeep its costly maintenance. From testimonials, there is a way to play as the L.O.D. using the emulator by modding it somehow, which would have been a stellar move for Technos to include in the real version considering the legendary popularity of the L.O.D./Road Warriors.
There is no known reason why the WWF and Technos, or any other company for that matter, did not work together for another installment back then despite its huge success in arcades. Imagine if they made a version in ’93 that had Survivor Series as an option where you could use stars like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Yokozuna, and Lex Luger. What if they developed a version in ’98 with Steve Austin, The Rock, Owen Hart, and The Undertaker with the inclusion of a Hell in a Cell option? The possibilities are unlimited in a series that could have been a hit for both the arcade audience as well as the home console market. Maybe they were saving their brainpower for that wonderful Wrestlemania The Arcade Game…sigh. The bigger question is why hasn’t the WWF cashed in on WrestleFest’s continuing success all these years later by releasing it for consoles, such as a download on XBOX 360. It would be better to mash the buttons on a $25 controller than beat up the buttons on a $1500 - $3000 laptop. Why let people download it for free when they could capitalize on longtime fans of the game as well as rope in some new ones as well. They pushed the whole wrestling retro concept with Wrestling All Stars last year, but that was too cartoony and just an awful game with a good concept.
If you have never played WWF WrestleFest, The Man-Cave does not support piracy so forget emulators and take a look at the YouTube videos below: the game's actual intro video and a video from Joe Gagne's Funtime Pro Wrestling Arcade, a web series that has become a recent favorite of The Man-Cave. And if you have played or remember it from its heyday, please leave your cherished memories and thoughts below.
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