Retro Review: Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 (Nintendo 64) - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Friday, December 7, 2018

Retro Review: Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 (Nintendo 64)

by Danny Bivens

The definitive version of WCW vs. NWO World Tour.
WCW vs. NWO World Tour on the N64 not only provided a fun gaming experience for wrestling fans, it helped kick start an entire series of wrestling games on the Nintendo 64 that only got better over time. Although later games in the series are more well regarded, you can’t overlook how important it was for the genre as a whole at the time. If you’re anything like me, during the 90s, I was a huge wrestling fan, spending most of my Monday nights changing between Monday Night Raw and Nitro seeing who was putting on the best show. In the mid 90s, WCW had it. For Japan, I can’t really comment on the popularity of western wrestling or for that matter, the popularity of wrestling in general during the time period over here. Obviously the “sport” was popular enough to garner a Japanese release of World Tour which was released as Virtual Pro Wrestling in Japan, which just may be the definitive version of the game.

Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 released on December 19, 1997 in Japan, nearly a month after the initial North American release (PAL regions wouldn’t get it until February of 1998, poor bastards). The game features nearly an identical roster, including the WCW and NWO wrestlers that those of us in the west know as well as a bevy of brawlers from various leagues across Japan. Unfortunately for Japanese wrestling fans, they don’t sport their actual names. The likenesses and sometimes, as in the case of Giant Baba (Giganto Hinomaru in this version), they feature moves and voice samples that make it clear who they’re supposed to be.
Gameplay is fluid and so much better than wrestling games of the 16-bit era. You control your wrestler with the d-pad and can perform strikes with B and grapples with A. Holding B delivers stronger blows. If you hold the A button, you’ll enter into a strong grapple which allows you to unleash more powerful moves. Once in a grapple, there are a variety of moves that can be performed by pressing A or B and the directional buttons simultaneously on the d-pad. The joystick is used for performing taunts as well as initiating special moves when the spirit meter is full. Overall, it’s an intuitive and easy setup, even for first timers. That’s the beauty of this game. Even with that said, mastery of this control system and timing will be something that players will have to work on in order to perfect their skills.

One of the biggest changes made for the jump across the Pacific, was the ability to alter the wrestlers’ attire. A feature that made it into the sequel (WCW vs NWO Revenge) in the West, you can edit names and change the color and outfit completely for whoever you want. Want to have Hollywood Hogan wear Ultimo Dragon’s colorful costume? You can do that. How about give Sting Scott Hall’s outfit, complete with chest hair (because why the hell not?!)? Yep. You can do that, too.
There are a few other differences here as well. The game intro is a bit different, focusing a bit more on Japanese wrestlers. Not only that, but post match, there is a scoring system that rates your performance (somewhat similar to what appears in WCW vs. NWO Revenge). Also, two of the unlockable characters found in World Tour, Wrath and Glacier, are mysteriously absent here.

There are numerous modes to play through in VPW64. Players can do singles, tag team, battle royal and more. By and large, the modes are pretty similar to what’s on offer in World Tour. One of the biggest differences can be found with the tournament modes and how they keep track of wins in losses. In VPW64, wins are indicated with circles (O) and losses with X’s. This is pretty common in Japan in general, with circles or “maru” indicating something good or giving an okay, while the X or “batsu” has negative connotations such as for losing or indicating that something is bad or unwanted. Virtual Pro Wrestling really comes into its own when you play with three other buddies for some crazy squared circle action. Playing by yourself can be quite a bit of fun, but to get the most out of the game, you’ll need some friends and extra controllers.
Visually, Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 is a little rough around the edges. Wrestlers for the most part look like who they are supposed to be. The costumes are pretty spot on, but the faces are kind of a blurry mess. The character models are pretty blocky and there are constant issues with them clipping through each other and various parts of the environment. It’s not bad, but compared to other wrestling games like WWF War Zone (which was right around the corner and looking super realistic for the time), the graphics are underwhelming. Also, disappointingly, VPW64 lacks ring entrances and official championship belts. Of course, these are things that the developer would fix over time with subsequent games.

Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 is indeed the definitive version of World Tour. It has (pretty much) everything that its western counterpart had and then some with wrestler customization, the post match scoring system and even a 2D referee calling the shots. The visuals are a bit of a let down, even for the time, but the awesome gameplay more than makes up for it. If you don’t mind wading through some Japanese and are a fan of World Tour, you can’t go wrong here.

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