WWE Legends of WrestleMania
Posted 4 years ago By - Jay Acevedo
For years, THQ and Yukes have been putting out quality wrestling titles, featuring the grapplers of the modern era with serious attention to detail. While some of these offerings have offered the chance to play as select legends, they’ve never really attempted a game dedicated solely to those legends. As the title suggests, Legends of Wrestlemania is out to change that. Bringing back the glitz and glamour of the 80’s and 90’s in a big way, fans of wrestling’s old school will find plenty of nostalgia packed goodies here. Aimed squarely at those gamers old enough to remember what it was like to watch Hulk Hogan slam Andre the Giant, Yuke’s have opted to simplify the intimidating control scheme from its Smackdown series. Are the new controls enough to lure the more casual crowd, as well as satisfy the core SVR audience that they’ve built up over the years? Let’s take a look.
THQ and Yukes went a long way to try and make this as different from a Smackdown title as they possibly could. While the SVR series is known for its complex, but deep control scheme, Legends of Wrestlemania is as far from that series’ style as possible. In keeping with the nostalgic theme of the game, the controls have also been given an old-time twist. Rather than using the analog stick/trigger/face button system from their other titles, Yukes opted to create a simpler experience that involves using only the face buttons. Unfortunately, the simplified controls come at the cost of depth and accuracy.
The problem in general, lies in a total lack of variety offered here. The four face buttons handle strikes, grapples, blocks and actions. It’s simple enough, but it’s quite limiting in terms of what you should be able to do in a wrestling title in this day and age. Attacks such as strikes and grapples can be handled by tapping or holding down the appropriate button and holding the analog stick in one of four directions. While that’s simple enough, there isn’t much variety to your attacks. You’ll constantly find yourself doing the same choke slam hundreds of times during a match, or just pounding on the strike button ad-nauseum. There are also issues with the amount of accuracy that the face buttons allow for. For instance, tapping the action button twice should allow you to climb the turnbuckle, but if you attempt to do this while your opponent is down you’ll automatically attempt to pin him. Even if he is in the middle of the ring, this happens, which is just absolutely frustrating. Accuracy also becomes a problem when you’re trying to achieve specific actions in the Wrestlemania Tour mode, which I’ll get into later.
Now, there is an attempt to add some depth to the proceedings with two things: Chain Struggles (quick-time events), and a momentum Tier system. Chain struggles come into play a few times throughout a match, such as when you successfully block a certain grapple, or want to trigger your finisher. Through the use of quick-time events, you’re prompted to press the button displayed onscreen before your opponent does, in order to complete your move. While this works during multiplayer, it’s just not enjoyable in a single player game, at all. When you’ve got a friend with you, it works as it gives them a chance to reverse your moves. This means that even if your friend isn’t the greatest at timing his regular attacks, if he’s got quicker hand-eye coordination, he’s going to have a fighting chance. In this respect, the system works nicely. Going solo, however, it just slows the pace of the match to a crawl, and effectively removes all satisfaction you get from nailing your finisher, really. Old-school aficionados may see it differently, but anyone who’s used to the faster pace of the Smackdown series is going to have trouble getting over this initially.
The Tier momentum system attempts to add more moves into the mix the more momentum you build. I can actually get behind this idea a bit more than the quick-time events. The way it works is by building a meter underneath your health gage. The meter shows that you have three levels of attacks. The first tier offers you limited, weaker attacks. Pull off enough of these, and you’re promoted to level two, which gives you access to more powerful grapples. The third level allows you to hit your finisher, which can be pulled off at any time once you reach that level. I’d be interested in seeing this system utilized in Yukes other wrestling games, to be honest. It’s a system that has potential, but with this set of controls, it just doesn’t work as well as it could.
The final problem with the controls is that, with the exception of the chain struggles, there’s just an awful lot of mashing buttons. Strikes, pin falls, all rely on mashing buttons madly. Kick-outs are done by building up a meter that simply doesn’t work as well as it should. The problem lies in the balancing here. AI wrestlers are always really quick to build up their meter almost flawlessly every time. You, however, will struggle with getting your meter to even register your relentless pounding of the controller. This happens in multiplayer as well, but it’s most evident when you’re facing off against the AI, as they will constantly kick-out when they have zero health, and you’ve dominated them all much. Meanwhile, all it takes for them is to get you on the mat, and they can easily pin you, regardless of how much damage they’ve done to you. Implementing the quick-time events here would have made a heck of a lot more sense than during the finishing sequences, to be frank.
The one bright spot that makes Legends of Wrestlemania really shine here, is the modes. Wrestlemania Tour, which is the primary focus of the title, is an excellent mode for anyone who really wants to play through some of the classic (and not so classic) matches from past Wrestlemania’s. Tour mode is all about presentation. When you start, you’re given the option to Relive, Rewrite, or Redefine matches that occurred throughout Wrestlemania’s history. Upon choosing a match, you’re given a short video that shows the history of the conflict, as well as excerpts from the match as it went down at Wrestlemania. This is definitely a welcome feature, and will be appreciated by anyone who remembers these matches to even the vaguest degree.
Once you’ve watched the video, you’re given a list of objectives to complete during the match. This feature is best utilized in Relive mode, as you’re essentially trying to recreate all the memorable moments from your selected match. This can entail simple things, such as Hogan body-slamming Andre the Giant, (it’s far easier than it sounds), to Stone Cold dropping the elbow on the Rock on the announce table. The latter proves much more difficult thanks to poor controls, however, as you’ll often find that when you’re trying to do something specific like that, your character will often have their own ideas as to what they should be doing. It’s during Relive that you’ll likely find the most frustration with the control system, as hitting certain objectives, (which unlock medals that don’t really serve much purpose), is increasingly difficult and there’s little room for error.
Rewrite and Redefine are both supplemental modes that aren’t nearly as intense or specific as Relive, which is rather disappointing. They both prove fun, but aren’t as objective heavy. Rewrite basically has you correcting wrongs from matches past. (ie: reversing any number of "screwjobs" that have occurred throughout WWE history.) Redefine has you play through past matches, but adds new gimmicks to them, like having Rick Rude fight Superfly in a steel cage match instead of just a straight singles match. Neither of these modes are as interesting as Relive objective-wise, and both prove to be relatively short.
Once you’ve gone through Tour mode, the only other offering other than online or exhibition matches is Legend Killer mode. Here, you can run either a created superstar or any of the available 38 superstars on the roster through a gauntlet. If you’re taking a created player through, this is where you’ll be earning experience points to upgrade their attributes. There are 10 different gauntlets, and each one has you fight around 10 wrestlers a piece, with the exception of the last one. There are a couple of problems that come up here, though. The first, is that there’s no checkpoint system. Once you start the first match, you’re there for the remainder of the matches or you’re forced to restart from the beginning. That’s right, you can’t quit halfway through and pick it up later. For most, this might not be a problem, but I really would have welcomed a chance to save, as sometimes you just can’t finish the allotted number of matches in one sitting.
If the roster isn’t big enough for you, there is of course the option to use a created wrestler, which pretty much remains unchanged from the Smackdown series. THQ’s wrestling games have always had one of the most in-depth create feature on offer, and that hasn’t changed with this title, at all. If the roster still isn’t big enough for you, there’s actually the option to import the entire roster from Smackdown vs. Raw ’09 into the game, including your created wrestlers from that game too. If 38 legends just isn’t enough for you, or you really want to see Cena go up against Big John Stud, this is something you’ll have a good time with, no doubt. It’s a welcome feature, but it’s too bad the controls from SVR couldn’t be imported too.
Graphics & Sound
In contrast to the ultra-realistic looking Smackdown games, Legends goes for a more cartoon-like look. Wrestlers almost come across as charicatures of themselves, rather than being accurate representations of their real life counter-parts. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but some grapplers look pretty ridiculous with the beefed up physiques on display here. In all, these aren’t terrible looking models, but those looking for a more realistic visual style should look elsewhere.
One aspect I really had a problem with here, is the camera. Rather than being a fixed camera that focuses on the action, the camera tries to give you the feel of watching Wrestlemania on television. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give you the best perspective of the action with this setup. Sometimes, it’s either panned too far out, or zoomed too far in, and this can be a bit disorienting. Moves look pretty good, but the giant buttons in mid-screen make it difficult to tell what’s going on sometimes. There’s also some weird issues during tag matches, that your partner will completely disappear if you’re performing certain moves. For instance, my character was pulling off the People’s Elbow and at the beginning of the move my partner’s there in the corner, then the camera zooms out further, and magically, he’s gone. It’s a minor gripe, but that kind of thing shouldn’t happen when you’ve been doing this for as many years as THQ and Yukes have.
The music in the game consists of all the old entrance themes from the legends on the roster here. Most of them are dated, sure, but it’s a nice touch that adds to the nostalgic feel of the game. The commentary is much more match-specific for obvious reasons during the Tour mode, and this is incredibly welcome. Obviously it would have been nice to hear some of the old commentators calling a match, but understandably that wasn’t going to happen. JR and the King are the next best thing, though, and handle the job quite well.
Legends offers a fair bit of content when you look at the whole package, but the main focal point, Tour mode, is extremely short. Legend Killer, Exhibition and online matches should keep you happy for a while longer, but you still won’t be able to shake the feeling that more could have been done with Tour to really extend the value of the game. If you’re a fan of old-school wrestling at all, though, you should definitely give the game a shot. It packs in enough fan-service to be given a fair shake. Just keep in mind that if you’re a fan of the Smackdown series, this is an entirely different experience, and not one that you may enjoy if you’re accustomed to that particular control scheme.
Legends pacing is really the only serious detriment to the game. The implementation of quick-time events feels more like an awkward attempt to differentiate the series from THQ’s Smackdown franchise, rather than a fresh new gameplay mechanic. Old-school grappling fans who are longing for a simpler wrestling game will likely get the most out of LoW, but those accustomed to the fast and furious pace found in SVR will have a harder time embracing the "streamlined" controls.
+ Relive is a great mode.
+ Music and commentary are well done.
+ Offers a fair number of legends.
+ Ability to import Smackdown 09 roster adds variety to the package.
+ Old-school montages are fantastic.
+ Trophies are incredibly easy.
- Character models don’t look too great.
- Retro controls are simple, but not very engaging.
- Severely unbalanced button mashing mechanics.
- Online is barely worth mention.
- Legend Killer lacks checkpoint system.
- Rewrite and Redefine aren’t nearly as in-depth as Relive.
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Release Date : 2009/03/24
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : THQ
Developer : Yuke's Media Creations
Category : Fighting & Wrestling
ESRB : T
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10