Wrestling Empire | Review | Switch - TheFamicast.com: Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Friday, January 22, 2021

Wrestling Empire | Review | Switch

 by Danny Bivens

The savior of the genre on the Switch?
For many wrestling fans, things just don’t get any better than the AKI developed brawlers that appeared on the Nintendo 64. The grappling system was revolutionary and really showed that wrestling games could be more than just slightly altered beat ‘em ups. Unfortunately, [in my opinion] the sub genre hasn’t gotten any better since. You could even argue that it’s actually gotten worse. When it comes to wrestling games on the Switch, fans are left with the buggy mess that is the Switch version of WWE 2K18 and the non-wrestling wrestling game WWE 2K Battleground. Enter Wrestling Empire. This game features a 64-bit kind of look built on a legacy of PC and smartphone releases over the years, and believe it or not, it just may be the best wrestling game on the market.  

Upon first trying out Wrestling Empire, you will likely find it a bit difficult to wrap your head around the controls. Thankfully, a nice range of tutorials help nail down the basics. Striking moves are dished out with the Y button, X is grapple, A is used to pick up items, B is used to run and the right stick is used for taunts. Similar to the old school AKI games of yore, once you are in a grapple, you can press the face buttons in combination with the directional pad or analog stick to perform a variety of moves. This works with your opponent either standing or laying on the ground. For strikes, holding the Y button will cause your character to perform a wind up and to hit harder than with simple taps. Also, pressing and/or holding B and Y at the same time will deliver a more powerful attack. Special moves also make an appearance, and again, similar to the AKI titles, once a gauge is filled up, you’ll be able to perform your move by getting into a grapple and then pressing the right joystick. 
Reversals are a huge part in real wrestling and also play a part in Wrestling Empire. While I haven’t quite figured out how to do these on a consistent basis, it seems like timing plays a big part in it. From reversing standard attacks to submission moves to even catching and slamming folks launching at you from high places, there’s really a lot of cool things that can be done. Like I mentioned before, it might take little bit of time to get used to the controls. You might even think they are a bit clunky or that the physics in the game are a bit wonky. While I think that’s the case to an extent, it is super fun if you give it a chance. 

While the modes are minimal in this 1.1 release of the game, there is a lot of variety that can be done when it comes to match types. Of course, standard things are here, such as singles, tag matches, and elimination style battle royals. Other match types, like first blood, hardcore matches, cage matches, a sumo style match and more are all here, too. You have the ability to add a ton of wrestlers in the ring (up to 20 on screen at the same time) and can change a variety of other elements, add specific weapons (even dynamite!) and modify the venue itself (the ring, location, mat color, rope color, etc). There is a lot to toy around with here and things can get absolutely crazy in the squared circle. 
Career Mode is where it’s at with Wrestling Empire. Here, you take control of one of the wrestlers on the roster and work your way through a variety of story beats. Of course, wrestling in matches or beating up folks in the back stage area are the main things that you’ll be doing, however, you also have some control over your career. Throughout the mode, you’ll interact not only with the wrestlers in dialog, but also with the heads of the variety of wrestling promotions in the game. You’ll get suggestions to change your name, move sets, look and even  negotiate contracts. The contracts themselves are also pretty in depth, giving you the ability to adjust a bonus, overall salary, length of your contract and the other stipulations. As a fan of narrative in sports titles (and a huge fan of the AKI N64 games), this is the kind of thing that I’ve always wanted in a wrestling game. It’s not perfect and sometimes it’s just a little bit silly. But it’s way more fun than it has any right to be. If you’re like me, you’re going to love this mode. 

The roster here is full of tons of characters with a promise from the developer that more will be on the way. When starting out, many of these characters remain hidden. However, the more you play through Career Mode, more brawlers will become available. Being an unlicensed game, all of the wrestlers here have made-up names, however, many of them are based on real life people. For myself, I was a huge fan of the WWF in the early 90s and then the WCW and the Attitude Era WWF. Pretty much all of the big names from those eras and more are here with their likenesses (and sometimes funny names) in tact. What’s more is that if you choose, you can alter the names and attire to better match their real-life counterparts. It will take some work (and some of the names here are just too funny to change, in my opinion), but if you have some patience, you can have pretty much all of your favorite wrestlers at your disposal. 
There is no create-a-wrestler here. At least not from scratch. However with the ability to edit anyone on the rosters, you can easily transform a nobody into the wrestlers of your dreams. There are a lot of things to edit here as well. You can change your looks including hair, clothing, boots and other gear. The moves are also fully customizable as are your ring entrance music, lighting and more. If you’re a wrestling fan, I can’t think of much to complain about when it comes to customizing your character. Wrestler entrances are also here in full. Not only that, but you have the ability to fully control your character as they make their way down the aisle, which was a nice touch. 

Visuals and performance will likely be a topic of debate among reviews and players. Wrestling Empire goes for a Nintendo 64 style appearance with their grapplers, but obviously with a HD coat of paint. You’re not going to be blown away by the graphics, however, some of the little touches, such as the characters facials expressions, sweat and blood splattering onto the apron and welts and cuts appearing on the characters are all nice touches. To top that off, the game runs super smoothly, even with a ton of characters on screen at the same time. 

In terms of negatives, I did find a few minor annoyances with the game. It has nothing to do with the gameplay, but rather a couple of match types that I’ve been a bit annoyed with. Cage matches can be a bit of a slog. After wearing down your opponent, you might find that your character is a bit worn down as well. While trying to get climb your way out of the cage, more often than not, your character will likely become too tired and just come crashing down off of the cage. This happened to me during the career mode - I also had two “guests” interfere during the match, making escape even more difficult! I played for about 30 minutes before just hitting “quit.” It counted as a loss, but it was worth it. 
The same could be said about the First Blood Match. Here, wrestlers that are “bleeding a lot” will lose. Again, during career mode, I was beating the hell out of my opponent for 40 minutes, with blood splattering all over the apron and mats outside of the ring. Still, it wasn’t enough to win the match. So I just (literally) exited the arena and called it a day, taking the loss. I later found out that I could have won by pin fall. With that said, I think things like this can be tweaked in a patch. For the career mode, the game usually does a good job at introducing new match types that you’ve never done before, but if you accidentally skip over the text or just forget some of the nuances of the match type, you’re out of luck. Having some kind of brief explanation in the menu (similar to exhibition matches) would be helpful if you’re an idiot like me.

The default camera, while typically fine, can sometimes take some weird angles and make it difficult to see what you’re doing. Thankfully you can press pause and make adjustments where necessary. It doesn’t happen all of the time, but it’s something that you’ll be sure to notice. 

Next, and I know this is a tall order and it’s not even a complaint, but I really wish that there was a way to import your own music into the game so that you could match real wrestler’s music with their in game counterparts. Back in the day, this kind of thing was possible in some games. For example, in the Xbox version of NFL 2K5, you had the ability to throw in ripped CD tracks from the hard disk to play in the stadiums. Even in Excite Truck on the Wii, if you added music to your SD card, you could choose to have that music play during the game. I don’t know if this is even possible on the Switch and I can imagine there are some behind the scenes things that make this simply not possible (at least not easily). But, if there was a way to do it, I just sit here trying to imagine how much cooler it would make this game. 
Wrestling Empire looks rough from the outside looking in. If you give it some time, the gameplay will be come like second nature. The elaborate story mode with tons of decisions to make and foes to topple shines as the best part of the game. You’ll be making decisions to further your career in ways that most other wrestling games on the market don’t even attempt to do. If you’re looking for a wrestling game that will provide tons of hours of content, customization and ongoing updates for the foreseeable future, Wrestling Empire is where it’s at. It takes some getting used to with the controls, but it’s well worth it.

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