WWF Wrestlemania 2000 | Retro Review | Nintendo 64 - TheFamicast.com: Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

WWF Wrestlemania 2000 | Retro Review | Nintendo 64

by Danny Bivens

A steel cage away from perfection. 
Just as the infamous Monday Night Wars were starting to wind down and Vince McMahon’s brand was looking to come out on top, the WWF and THQ released WWF Wrestlemania 2000 on the Nintendo 64. Releasing in October 1999 in both Europe and North America, this marked the first AKI developed WWF wrestling game on the platform. The game ushered in a new level of customization and gameplay that would continue to feed into further entries and continued to cement this series as some of the best wrestling games of all time. But, how does WWF Wrestlemania fare all these years later?

As with other AKI developed wrestling games, things here are pretty standard. You control the wrestler with the d-pad and can bash your opponent with a variety of blows with the B button. A initiates a grapple that can be used to deal out a number of moves. A stronger grapple by holding the A button gives an even more powerful arsenal of attacks. As with previous entries into the series here, controlling the wrestlers is fun and it takes strategy to find out the best way to wear down your opponents. The better your wrestler performs, their Attitude Meter (formally the Spirit Meter) fills up. Once it’s maxed out, you will then be able to perform your special move, which can be done by hitting a strong grapple and then pressing the joystick. This aspect of the game still remains solid as it gives the feeling of momentum that you see wrestlers teeter totter with in real matches.
While there are a lot of separate modes, it should be noted that there are a number of match variations that you can choose from. Standard matches, Tag Team, Tag Team with no tag format, Battle Royale and now, even a cage match. The idea of the cage match is pretty cool and nothing new to wrestling fans. Here, the only way to win is to climb out of the cage. Easy in theory, but the gameplay here is kind of uninspired in my opinion. To climb out, you press Up C when you are close to the cage. When your character gets to near the top, you are then prompted to “TAP” a button. This means the A button, NOT the C button you were using to climb. It works, but it can be pretty frustrating. The ability to climb over the cage is determined by how full your Attitude gauge is. If it’s too low - and it could be after delivering a few special moves to opponents - you will find yourself getting all the way to top only to fall back down due to being completely out of juice. If your opponent is up and at ‘em, they might come and shake you off of the cage, too. Mashing the A button can be a little bit intense. I remember playing a cage match with my little brother back in 2007. I remember getting so into the match that I ended up pulling something in my neck due my tense posture and strain. I was on the mend for about four days. The cage match struggle is real, people.
There are a number of modes on offer in Wrestlemania 2000 - Exhibition, King of the Ring, Royal Rumble, Pay-Per-View and the Road to Wrestlemania. Before getting into the latter, King of the Ring allows you to create a tournament for up to 16 wrestlers to compete to see who will be, well, King of the Ring. Royal Rumble puts you in a gauntlet style of match where as many as 30 wrestlers participate. To win, you need to avoid getting thrown outside of the ring and be the last man standing. Pay Per View lets you create your own wrestling event with multiple matches and types. You can do as few as one match with your own created title belts on the line, or create a completely booked card. It’s up to you. It’s a neat addition, but nothing too groundbreaking.
The Road to Wrestlemania mode is one of the deepest modes that the game has to offer. Here, you take your wrestler through a calendar year of the WWF trying to win different championship belts. It can be pretty challenging, and it seems to me that the difficulty only gets higher the further you get into the mode. One of the cool things that was introduced here were “story” like elements. There will be times when opponents will call you out, leading to matches or confrontations. It’s pretty primitive by today’s standards, but at the time, it was something that was hard to come by in a wrestling game, or any sports games for that matter. Of course, playing with two to four friends via multiplayer is a great way to get the best bang for your buck of this game. But, I will say, Road to Wrestlemania has a lot of replay value and can be tons of fun to go through.
Outside of Road to Wrestlemania or just playing matches with friends, Wrestlemania 2000 features a robust create-a-wrestler mode. Using the in game assets for the visuals, you are able to create a variety of different wrestlers, complete with numerous moves, taunts and more. You can even customize your own entrance, complete with theme song, video, props, walking styles and in ring actions. It goes without saying - this is really awesome. There are even moves, mannerisms and costumes that you can use to help create classic wrestlers who aren’t in the game. When I first picked up my Japanese copy back in 2007, I spent hours recreating a few of my favorite wrestlers from the past. With numerous guides online that can help you nail every aspect to get them as close as you can to their real-life counter parts (or make them almost the same as what you’ve seen in previous WCW titles), the possibilities are (nearly) endless.

Visuals in Wrestlemania 2000 aren’t bad. It’s definitely a step up over the previous title, Revenge. Character models look more realistic, faces are more detailed and the outfits are more varied. While still retaining the somewhat disjointed, polygonal look of the previous titles, WM 2000 does look a little bit better. Clipping is still an issue in the game, as you’ll see your characters arms, legs, etc go through the ropes, other wrestlers and more. Does this ruin the experience? Not at all.
Perhaps one of the best additions to WM 2000 has go to do with character entrances. This time around, the actual theme songs are featured as well as full entrances to the ring. They did a bang up job on this aspect of the game, too. It’s always awesome to see some of your favorite wrestlers make their way down to the ring doing their signature (at the time at least) gestures and actions. Of course, being on the N64, the quality of music isn’t too great. Songs themselves are shortened/looper versions of the actual theme songs and the “music videos” that play on the Titantron are low quality and only contain a few frames from the actual videos. Even with that said, all these years later, there is a certain charm to it.

Japan Connection
Wrestlemania 2000 was released in Japan on September 15, 2000 - nearly a year after it hit shelves in the West. Not only that, but earlier in 2000, the true sequel to Virtual Pro Wrestling also arrived on shelves in Japan in January. Facing stiff competition on that front and the fact that the WWF (probably) didn’t have the same kind of recognition as Japanese wrestlers, Wrestlemania 2000 seemed kind of like a half hearted release. Heck, the Japanese version of the game itself is about in English about 95% of the time with Japanese only coming into play when it came to saving. Even the create-a-wrestler section has all of the moves written out in English (I can’t imagine what that would have been like for little Taro). When it comes to picking this game up COMPLETE - that’s a bit tough. As of right now, I’ve never actually seen a copy in person, and have only see a few up for sale. The cart is very different from the Western releases - this one is gray and sports some of the more prominent wrestlers on the cover. The box is similar to the cart, featuring the same wrestlers that are found on the cart sticker.

Conclusion
WWF Wrestlemania 2000 still holds up to this day. It captures the atmosphere of the WWF at the time perfectly and provides gamers with a GOOD way to control their favorite grapplers. The visuals, even at the time, while better than previous Asmik/AKI titles, were a bit of a let down when compared to other WWF games on the platform (Attitude). Still, overall performance, awesome controls, extensive customization and the ability to play as some of the biggest names in professional wrestling feels great. No matter the region you pick this game up in, it definitely needs to be a part of your collection.


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