The strangely popular Japanese wrestling series, Fire Pro Wrestling, makes its debut on XBLA courtesy of Spike Chunsoft. Let’s be honest from the outset: the only real item of interest here is the Fire Pro Wrestling name.
The game takes advantage of a new feature for certain XBLA games which allow you to place your avatar into the game called Avatar FameStar. By performing certain things in the game you can earn “fame” and gain popularity. There are weekly and lifetime” fame leaderboards” to see how you rank. Two people can play locally or up to four online.
Having never played Fire Pro Wrestling before, I didn’t know what to expect. After all, the series is extremely popular – it practically has a cult following. I was hoping to glimpse what it was that makes the series so popular. Sadly, I found myself quite disappointed with what I saw.
What I got was a clunky, slow moving, uninspired hunk of burning disappointment. While I generally get a kick out of wrestling games, Fire Pro Wrestling for XBLA pretty much sucked. Honestly, the very first wrestling game I ever played, Pro Wrestling for the NES, blows this game right out of the water. No contest. Be warned.
Fire Pro Wrestling incorporates people from your Friend’s List into the game – and no, they don’t have to actually be playing, or even know about it, it’s a straight import/swipe. So it’s actually amusing to beat up on your pals while they aren’t looking (I didn’t write that!). That’s the good side. Here’s the other side: the game can’t even do this right. What actually happens is that it chooses a person from your friend list…but assigns that person’s avatar the name of another person on the list. So you’ll find yourself wrestling your old friend Gina, let’s say, but the game will say that she’s really your friend Bob. Technically it’s not a big deal, but it’s odd to say the least, particularly with those sort of gender benders popping up.
If you’re ever forced to wrestle in a 2 on 2 match, God help you. You can’t control your tag partner, so you’re forced to depend on the computer for some tag team action. The computer is so bad at this. I can’t even count the number of times where I’d find myself trying desperately to get the computer to tag me in, while my partner completely ignores me. I’ve found myself losing matches strictly because the computer decided it was a good idea to leave the ring at the count of 5 to chase after our opponent, which of course results in their getting counted out by the ref. Seriously? The computer rigs things so it beats itself?!? Cue facepalm…
Normally in wrestling games, when someone is on the mat after taking a good beating, you can easily pick them up off the mat to continue performing special moves or attacks. Yet somehow, magically, in Fire Pro Wrestling your beleaguered opponent mysteriously winds up coming back with more fighting spirit than you. Every time I tried this, I wound up on the wrong side of an attack. So given that lapse in basic logic, after you administer the beatdown, your best course of action is to just let them lay there like an idiot until they decide to get up on their own. Yeah, just what I was thinking would happen in the real world. That makes loads of sense. Good job, ‘Spike Chunsoft’ (and what kind of name is that, anyway?)
Moving around in the game takes place at a positively glacial pace. Your avatar doesn’t move or respond very well, making even ostensibly simple tasks such as turning around to get out of a grapple a difficult chore. Special moves can be easily blocked, so you have to wonder why they were even included. Seriously, even moves from the top of the turnbuckle can be blocked. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t happen in real life.
If you’re quick on the button press, you can easily win the match, as most grapples involve guessing what button your opponent is pressing. If you initiated the grapple, you have to hope they don’t press the same button as you, or you’ll find they’ve countered your move.
Taunting in the game can fill your Soul Meter. There are three different types of taunts that can be mapped to your directional pad. Once filled, press up on the directional pad, which causes your wrestler to be engulfed in flames. If you’re lucky enough to press B and grab your opponent at the same time, you’ll perform a finishing move.
Almost everything needs to be unlocked in the game, whether by progressing through the game or by earning enough money to buy new costumes. Not a big deal, but it would be nice to have some decent moves to start off with! That said, choosing new moves and mapping them to your buttons is a more drawn out task than you’d ever imagine. You have to click into each move/button option individually and scroll through an endless list in order to select the move you want to attach to that button.
Buying items is just as tedious. You have to click into each category and select the item. The game will then helpfully kick you out of that menu so if you want to buy more than one mask, you have to keep navigating your way back into the headgear menu. Why they wouldn’t let you finish buying whatever you want and then choose to exit the menu is beyond me, and apparently beyond the fine folks at Spike Chunsoft. Similarly, whatever you buy is automatically equipped. So let’s say you just find yourself flush with money and want to just buy several items in the store. Be prepared to find yourself kicked out of the menu dozens of times, and worse, then find yourself scrolling through endless options to find the clothes you were wearing originally and re-equip. Dumb, lazy, overly simplistic programming, there’s nothing more to be said for it.
I’ve never played Fire Pro Wrestling before, so I can’t speak for the rest of the series, but I do get the impression that this game isn’t exactly indicative of the others. At least I hope so, or there’s a lot of crazy people and corporate shills out there playing the series up to be something it’s clearly not. Honestly, XBLA would have been better off calling it Avatar Wrestling and leaving it at that. Sure, it’s fun to play as your avatar. But that doesn’t make a game in and of itself.
This game provides you with more changes of clothes than Synergy! While that’s nice, I would have liked a little something going on behind all the pretty clothes. Substance is pretty important. Sadly, Fire Pro Wrestling doesn’t quite excel in that area…in fact, it’s like a hologram, without the person behind it. And we all know that without heart, even the prettiest things are nothing but empty.
I always rise to the top in anything I put my hands to. Racing, skiing, track and field or wrestling, you name it. Just one more reason Fire Pro Wrestling stinks – it’s so basic and simple, even no talents like those goody goody Holograms could beat it. I bet even Roxy could read the instructions, it’s THAT dumb. Hey, Roxy, what’s this say? HAHAHAHA
Best Song to describe the game: Everybody Wears a Mask from Mardi Gras.
Overall Score: 3.0