The Fire Pro Wrestling series is one I’ve dabbled with in the past on the Gameboy Advance, but it’s never been one that I’ve found myself actively playing all that much. I’ve always seen plenty of praise for it though and there’s no denying that it has its own established fan base, some of which who swear that it’s better than any WWE (or WWF) title that has ever come out.
Even after playing Fire Pro Wrestling World, the latest and most advanced entry in the series, I disagree with that sentiment, though I will happily admit that there’s definitely a place in gaming for the series. Sure, it has its fair share of issues, but it also offers some fantastic character customisation and also features some incredibly fun multiplayer options too.
One of the first things you’ll notice with Fire Pro Wrestling World is that it doesn’t play like your conventional wrestling game. Each character has their own set of moves for example, so you can’t just press a standard combination of buttons to hit some grapple attacks. It’s almost like titles like Tekken or Street Fighter in this regard, so you’ll definitely want to take a look at your chosen character’s move list before you get going.
You do have standard strikes of varying strengths and speeds though, whilst grappling is simple enough to initiate. It’s in the grappling where a battle is won or lost and it boils down to timing – when you’re in a grapple, the first person to hit a move combination will be the one who nails it. There’s a demand for precision though, because if you hit that move too early or too late you’ll quickly find your foe getting the upper hand. It’s a lot more random than your typical wrestling sim, though at the same time it makes shifts in momentum all the more common.
Given the game’s isometric viewpoint, it can be a little difficult to nail your attacks at times. You have to be in the exact right position and at the right distance, and if you’re even just a little bit off you’ll see your strikes miss. It doesn’t help that movement is restricted mind, with characters only able to run in four directions – it’s not something you think you’d see in a modern wrestling game, but it’s how things go in Fire Pro Wrestling World.
It all comes together to make for an experience that can be incredibly difficult to get to grips with, especially since there is no HUD on show. You even have to actively press a button to breathe to restore stamina too, which isn’t only bloody weird but also awkward giving there’s no easy way to check how low your stamina is to begin with.
However, once you start getting used to the game you begin to appreciate it more – sure, it’s a little complex at times, but the over-intricate mechanics also make matches feel all the more satisfying. You’ll definitely need to be patient with the game and the tutorials are a must, but there’s a plenty of fun to be had once you start to suss everything out.
Fire Pro Wrestling World features some interesting match types – I mean, the ‘barbed wire death match’ where the ropes are electrified barbed wire and the ‘land mine match’ where there are landmines to avoid aren’t particularly conventional, right? It certainly makes the game all the more interesting and each mode is definitely fun to tackle, whilst they also give Fire Pro Wrestling World its own identity (albeit a slightly zany one). Unfortunately, there is no ‘ladder match’, ‘Hell in the Cell’ or ‘Royal Rumble’ on offer which is a shame since they were my favourite in the WWE games, but you do get ‘cage matches’, customisable ‘Battle Royales’ and the MMA-inspired ‘Gruesome Fighting’ where you take part in a knockout fest.
Between the different match types and the intricate gameplay mechanics, there’s plenty of fun to be had with Fire Pro Wrestling World. However, it’s in multiplayer where you’ll have the best time.
You can play in both local and online multiplayer, but it’s in the former where you’ll have the most fun. There’s just something about partaking in the silly wrestling showdowns with friends around you that’s so endearing, with the chaotic game modes and the wide-range of bizarre characters (more on that later) making for some fantastic battles. Fire Pro Wrestling World can be a zany experience all-round and that lends itself well to a night of playing games with friends and having a few beers – it certainly reminded me of our days of playing Smackdown in our younger years.
If you prefer to play alone though you’ll be glad to see that there’s a story mode included known as ‘Fighting Road’ which sees you take a wrestler on a journey to become champion. This involves training, learning new moves, taking part in matches, and even interacting with other competitors in visual-novel style cinematic scenes – it’s everything you’d expect from a wrestling story mode and it’s surprisingly fun.
One thing I haven’t touched upon yet is the choice of wrestlers, and that’s for one big reason: I don’t know who any of them are. Now, I know there are licenced wrestlers here from Japanese wrestling organisations (New Japan Pro Wrestling, anyone?), but I’m clueless as to if they’re any good. My bad.
However, Fire Pro Wrestling World comes with a bloody brilliant ‘Create a Wrestler’ mode that’s ridiculously deep – I genuinely think you could create anyone. Don’t have a creative side? Download other people’s creations instead. Other users can share their creations online, be it your favourite wrestlers from the WWE, comic book heroes, film stars, cartoon characters, or just bizarre looking freaks of nature. It’s a feature that I appreciated a lot and it made the multiplayer mode all the more enjoyable when taking part as iconic characters of my younger years. Whether you’re into character customisation or not, you’ll definitely want to check out the selection of characters that others have crafted.
Fire Pro Wrestling World is by no means an easy game to get into and you’ll need a fair bit of patience to get used to its intricate mechanics. Spend some time with it though and you’ll find yourself having a really good time, especially when playing with friends and using the incredible range of created characters that are available.
There’s no doubting that it has its flaws and it’s definitely not the sort of game you can just pick up and play on a whim, but those who commit themselves to the zany world of Fire Pro Wrestling World and learn its ins-and-outs are guaranteed plenty of hours of old-school wrestling fun.
Developer: Spike Chunsoft, ZEX Corporation
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PC