Garrett Hobson (Tickkid) reviews Fire Pro Wrestling World
It is practically its own market now. Stranger Things 2 is coming out. The NES Classic and SNES Classic hitting stores in limited quantities. As we are able to store all the things we love, and re-produce it to enjoy it more, we get more opportunities for labors of love, based in nostalgia. And that is the spirit of Fire Pro Wrestling World – by Spike Chunsoft.
The Fire Pro Wrestling series has been around for a long time. The first title in the series was made by Human Entertainment in 1989 called Fire Pro Wrestling Combination Tag. It kept the same perspective that the current game has but in a cute 16-bit format. The series has games that were available on the PC, Super Nintendo, Super Famicom, Mega Drive, Sega Saturn, PlayStation 1 and 2, Dreamcast and portable editions on the GBA. The most recent game in the series, Fire Pro Returns was available in English on the PS2 as well as in Japanese.
The series is a labor of love for many of the fanbase. There are many contributors to translations for the Japan only versions, and people that have spent many hours working through the depth of logic and options that the series has to offer. You’ll find one of the reasons that this game shot up the charts on Steam is that loyal and excited fanbase, that was very ready for a new release (Fire Pro Wrestling Returns was released in the US November of 2007).
Now to talk about this version. Please note that this is the Early Access version that I’m reviewing for the PC. This still has some bugs, and does not have the full feature set that is expected at the final release, and for the version that will come out for the PC. The first thing you notice is that the developer really kept the old school look and feel of the series. There was not a major graphics upgrade or a bunch of brand new animations as that takes away from some of the flexibility afforded to the system. The game stuck to its roots, because those roots are what made the game so popular. The game launches with 30 fictional wrestlers that have many of the different styles available to the game system.
These wrestlers allow you to get right into grappling if you so choose, some have some great looks/move sets that you may want to make copies of in edit mode and keep around if you so choose.
The gameplay is classic Fire Pro with some new upgrades. The system is timing based – which can throw new players off who are used to more button mashing style games. It is a different system than the WWE 2K series, or even the AKI/TKQ No Mercy style series, but it is easy to get used to after some time. There is only a certain strength of move you can do to start and you work your way up to more powerful moves as the match goes on. It has almost all the move types you can think of, from dives to the outside, to top rope moves, to moves from the corner post to the center. Some of them have particular setups and timings, so that takes some practice – and the same category of move can have some different timings, so playing different characters is ideal if you want to improve. A move list is available on the pause menu to help you figure out how best to get the 3 count. There are multiple match types, include battle royals (over the top rope or elimination). There is a cage match, an MMA style match in the octagon, and a match with a 10 count. Also, as found in Japanese Deathmatches, there is a barbed wire deathmatch as well as an exploding landmine deathmatch. You can have tag matches or battle royals with up to 8 wrestlers.
In a move that is helpful to new players, Spike Chunsoft has added a “Mission Mode”. This mode has some tutorial lessons to help get used to timing and some of the things you can do in and out of the ring.
This mode also has missions that you must do something before winning, or win with a certain move. This is the main single player option right now, and has some opportunities to replay as you try to get S rank for every mission. This mode unlocks more points for your edit character, as well as some new moves you can use for edit characters. Some of the missions are not very clearly explained, and so it takes an online FAQ or some trial and error to figure out, and the “match rating” system isn’t clearly defined yet, so you might find some frustration, but I have found the mode to be fun so far. It would be nice to be able to swap in some edit characters instead of the default characters, but they all do have some fun personality and they rotate them for each mission.
The crown jewel of the series is Edit Mode. This is really where the series shines. There are 9 body part sections, and each has 9 layers. This allows you to mix and match parts to really either get those real tights matched up of your favorite wrestler, or make your fictional wrestler stand out from the crowd. There are 600+ head available, most of which are spitting images of many of the wrestlers that the Fire Pro series has featured over the years, but there are also silly and goofy heads as well.
The developers also made it so you could upload and download from the Steam workshop, and as I was writing this, there was about 1900 items uploaded there. Characters from Spiderman, to Street Fighter Characters to real wrestlers are included for download, and though the process is not as intuitive to get them into your game after subscribing, once you get that down, you can have your favorites face off. The amount of edit wrestlers you have is limited to your hard drive space, so you can have the entire wrestling universe represented if you want.
There is an online mode where you can go head to head against a friend, either playing with the controller, or setting your created wrestler up against theirs at CPU control. It is also in basic stages as the developer expands it during early access.
Even in the early stages, the game is a joy, and will only get better as more features are added and bugs are squashed. The Developer has been active in the community and has asked for feedback for features the fans want. On the negative side, compared to some of the career mode items that the WWE 2K series has the game is much more on the bare bones level. Outside of the mission mode and playing online – there isn’t a bunch of single player content. The game really leans on the strength of its AI logic and customizability to add the replay value, but if you are looking for a special mode or a Universe mode – you are out of luck there. There are many different match types, but there is no ladder match type in the game. Also, though you can make belts and have champions, currently it doesn’t represent more than the belt showing up on the champions select screen and a title history. The belt editor is very simple at this stage, simpler than in previous Fire Pro games, and the expectation is that it will expand as the edit mode options expand during Early Access.
I played this on a PC with an Xbox One controller connected and it worked very well with the game. I have run this on multiple machines, include a laptop with an i5 and integrated video card and it has worked great. The minimum game specs are:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i5
Memory: 4 GB RAM GB RAM
Graphics: DirectX 9.0c compatible video card with minimum 512MB of VRAM
DirectX: Version 9.0
Storage: 4 GB available space
That all being said, the game is well worth the 20$ in Early Access, and you can watch the game grow as time goes on. I highly recommend checking it out if you are into many kinds of pro wrestling across the US or the globe, or if you want to revive some of the wrestling of your past. If you are a Fire Pro fan, you will enjoy this labor of love and can help shape the game as it goes forward.