Retro wrestling games can be a strange thing to go back to. Most consist of simply picking wrestlers with identikit sets of moves and then hammering away at which ever button makes moves happen until the controller breaks or someone wins. There are of course exceptions to the rule such as Fire Pro and also some of the Playstation and N64 wrestlers such as No Mercy. As a newcomer to the game we dived in to see if it still holds up today.
The final game from Acclaim’s Nintendo series built on the excellent foundations laid down in Wrestlemania 2000 and pushed the concept just about as far it could go on the hardware at the time. There’s no button bashing in sight either as the unique grapple system is based on timing and single button presses. A simple system is in place with the A button being used for grapples and B for strikes. Holding down the buttons then allows for stronger but slower moves. Once you have grappled you can then press a direction with A or B to perform different moves.
As a system it works well with the left and right shoulder buttons being used to counter moves and block strikes respectively. Pulling off moves and taunts gradually fills your attitude meter which will eventually start to pulse. When this happens you need to perform a taunt which then turns the pulsing bar into the ‘Special’ bar for a short period of time. When ‘Special’ is flashing you then have access to your superstar’s trademark moves. This includes their finisher but also any other unique turnbuckle or grapple techniques as well.
Though each superstar can carry out a fairly wide range of moves many of them are repeated through the roster. This can make the game feel a little samey after long periods of play but certainly doesn’t derail the experience. The other issue the game has is that it moves at a much slower pace than many grapple fans will be used to. You’ll also have to get your timing right as superstars need to complete their animation cycles in order to do their next move. This means pressing grapple slightly too early will result in nothing happening.
The biggest thing which shows up the game is when you need to take part in handicap matches. Slamming one opponent and then trying to focus on the next opponent will almost always be too slow and thus allow the remaining wrestler to grab you first. It was the only really frustrating match type we found with all the others (including Ladder Matches, Royal Rumble and Hardcore Matches) working excellently.
The main draw of the game is the excellent single player mode on offer. Each belt has its own set of storylines assigned to it for you to complete. Most belts have a set of around six to eight sections with different branches to take on depending how you get on in each match. Completing a belt storyline allows that belt to be defended in exhibition modes and can then also be defended as the champion’s storyline in the campaign. You also get to see how much of the belt’s storyline has been experienced with a single run through normally resulting in around fifteen to twenty-five percent completion.
There are also a whole host of things to unlock as you play. As well as new moves and costume parts you can also buy a few superstars in the Smackdown shop with the in game currency acquired while playing the single player mode. Most can be unlocked in the game as well and they range from Referee Earl Hebner and Jim Ross to Jerry Lawler and Legend Andre the Giant (though you’ll have to survive a very long and tough survival mode to have any chance of getting him).
Another real strength of the game is the excellent roster of superstars available. As well as the high profile stars from the era such as The Rock, Steve Austin and HHH you also get pretty much all the rest of the roster at the time. This is important as there are storylines for the Light Heavy Weight, European and Hardcore titles so having a sizable roster of wrestlers who were active in those divisions adds an excellent level of authenticity. It also acts as a snap shot in time of the WWE as you can play as wrestlers such as Crash Holly and Essay Rios who only ever really worked on the lower card. It’s a great way of experiencing the ‘attitude’ era and matching up many peoples favourite wrestlers. The fact that a handful of the superstars have passed away (such as The Big Bossman, Crash Holly, Eddie Guerrero etc.) means this is likely the best way to remember your favourites.
Overall, No Mercy still holds up as an excellent wrestling game and we would recommend any grapple fan to seek it out. It’s a little slow and is obviously not going to look great on huge HD televisions but once you get used to it there is a fun and rewarding game here. The grapple system still works and the story mode is one of the best ever seen, it’s full of things to unlock and play with and it’ll keep you occupied for hours.