Monday 21 September 2015

Fire Pro Wrestling Returns Review (PS2)

It’s taken a very long time for Fire Pro wrestling to make its way out of Japan. One Gameboy Advance game did get released but aside from that the series has been the realm of importers. Even when Fire Pro Returns was released outside of Japan is was so hard it find in Europe that it may as well not have been. Canny Europeans though have been able to get hold of the game by setting up American PSN accounts and downloading it from the store. It’s well worth the effort.

Fire Pro is a very different type of wrestling game than those brought up on the Smackdown franchise will be used to. To start with it has a 2D retro look and hasn’t really moved forward in this respect since the days of the SNES version of the game. What it does allow though is mass customisation in terms of creating wrestlers and programming them with logic. The best thing about this is that there are numerous edit packs online that you can download to fill up the five hundred create a wrestler slots. Unlike previous games in the series you’ll need to do this if you are a fan of the big American wrestling franchises.

Fire Pro R mainly focuses on the Japanese associations and though there are a few legends around like Andre the Giant there is far from the roster of American favourites found in other versions of the game. The process is now a little more difficult as the main fan maintained website (Fire Pro Club) is no longer in operation so you’ll have to look around for the many wrestler packs converted to both PSN and PS2 memory card format (though Fire Pro Arena still is). There are many sites out there that explain this whole process and we found it very easy to get to grips with. It basically boils down to finding a save you want to use as your base save and then loading any other saves into memory card slot 2 and using the in game importer to move over any wrestlers that you want.

In terms of how the game plays it uses a simple but effective grappling system. There is no button mashing with wrestlers locking up when they touch. From that moment whoever inputs the command the quickest wins the grapple and attempts to execute the move. You can try and use any move you like at any time with the caveat being that if your opponent is not worn down enough they will likely reverse it. There is also a wide range of turnbuckle and running moves, Ground attacks, MMA style manoeuvres on the mat and you can even dive in and out of the ring. The Japanese wrestlers in the game are wide ranging is style and it can be fun just messing around with them as they are often very different from what western grapple fans have come to expect.

As well as moves and styles there are a host of different match types you can try out. Survivor Series style eliminations matches are possible along with exploding land mine and barbed wire death matches and MMA and round based bouts in an octagon. There are also cage matches though the AI is somewhat broken and will simple run out of the cage straight away if you leave the ‘escape’ option on for a victory condition. The big thing for this version of the game is a booking simulation mode which lets you try and create events which go over well with fans. It’s interesting but we found ourselves leaving it quite quickly. The down side is that this mode has replaced any type of single player tournament mode so any matches you will be having will be set up by you. This is a real shame as the title tournaments in Fire Pro D allowed you to go through and face everyone in turn which gave you a good idea of which wrestlers would be fun to go and try out.

You can create your own title belts but the mode is somewhat bare bones as your champion won’t even take the belt into the ring with them and can only defend the title in the type of match you have the initially set the belt to be defended in. There are other issues as well with the translation of the logic settings being completed botched for the most part. A number of the skill parameters and behaviour settings don’t actually relate to anything like what they would appear to.

There are of course community guides out there but it’s difficult when you are initially trying to get to grip with everything. So Fire Pro R does require some work from the player to get the most out of it. You’ll need to find some save packs for WWF/E, WCW, TNA ect and make sure you can find them converted to the right file type. You’ll also need to do a bit of reading around if you want to create your own creations and get them to act like you want them to. But it is worth it as for a fairly short amount of time spent you can end up with five hundred odd of your favourite wrestlers to carry out matches with.

Overall, Fire Pro R may not initially be the friendliest of games for newcomers but it’s certainly one of the best wrestling games of all time once you have it set up. You’ll find yourself going back to tinker with things and setting up tournaments to watch your creations take each other on. The in ring action never seems to get old and there has never been a game with such dream match potential as this. The Smackdown franchise may have the glitz and glamour but Fire Pro R has unrivalled gameplay and we’ve lost countless hours to it.

Overall 9/10

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