If you are reading this chances are you are already a wrestling fan. If you are you will know there hasn’t been a decent wrestling game since the days of No Mercy and Smackdown. The latest WWE games while looking the part can’t get the basics of wrestling nailed down in the ring. For a simulation of a simulated sport, the publishers of the main WWE games continue to miss the point. The game versions should portray wrestling as if it is a 100% real contest, decided by crushing moves and inflicting damage. This is what the games of previous generations got so right, it is also where Fire Pro Wrestling World comes in.
Fire Pro Wrestling games have previously made it to the west but have passed under the radar. The last I played was on the Game Boy Advance and the combination of rock hard in ring combat and endless customisation was as addictive then as it is now. This new game takes advantage of the current Independent wrestling revival by adding some of the biggest stars of NJPW such as Kenny Omega and Okada. These crossover stars give the game the chance to get into more homes and expose gamers to the excellent gameplay. Players who have been used to the systems and reversal mechanics of WWE 2K games are in for a severe culture shock.
The game plays very much like the old N64 classics with the difficulty ramped up. You won’t be hitting massive moves early in the match, you have to work the opponent down with weaker moves that aren’t as easily countered. There are no flashy clothesline duels or waiting for days on entrances. Fire Pro gets you straight into the fight.
The rest of the game is simply a wrestling fans sandbox. Any type of match no matter how obscure can be recreated and fought. It really takes me back to playing with my old WWE figures. There’s even an MMA variant if you want to recreate your own Brock Lesnar storyline. But of course, I hear you saying about the licensed wrestlers and all your favourite WWE stars. This can be easily amended.
The difference between Fire Pro and WWE 2K is the licensing of the big stars. Much like the difference between PES 2019 and FIFA 19. Luckily there is the most comprehensive and simple create a wrestler mode ever made and a thriving community with thousands of created wrestlers, arenas and more to download. In fact, some people get as big a thrill watching two AI controlled wrestlers battle it out as they do playing the game themselves or in many cases multiple created wrestlers. It cannot be underestimated how big a factor the create-a-wrestler mode is in this game. It is simply the reason you will keep at the game. The graphical style while basic is happily retro and suits the nostalgia-filled creations you will download. Want to see how the Ultimate Warrior would do in a barbed wire rope match? You got it. A cage match with the Pg-Era stars? Yep. The only limit is your imagination and time.
This is where the in-built Promoter mode will shine when it is available as DLC. Like a good version of what WWE Universe mode tries to be. Promoter mode will have you taking on the role of a Vince McMahon, hiring wrestlers and training them in your own performance centre before getting graded on the performance of them in matches and crowd reaction. Unfortunately, the small and dedicated team that makes the game have had a few major issues to contend with and as such this looks to be an early 2019 mode.
Despite this, the NJPW story mode will keep you going until the remainder of the DLC is out. It plays out as a young wrestler making his way to the IWGP championship. The story elements are handled in stills which after the horrific story mode in WWE 2K Games, makes a refreshing if slightly cheesy change. No walking about aimlessly backstage, no searching for the correct office. Just simple choices to make and then back to the action.
In the title, I referred to this as the independent wrestling scene in a game. With the success of All In, the rise and resurgence of The UK scene and the continued growth of New Japan in the western market, there clearly is a market for a game that offers something completely different to the WWE product. WWE is obsessed with social media, storylines that break the fourth wall and above all the profitability of the company. Long gone are the days of organic growth and reading the reaction of their fanbase. This game lets you forget what you are watching on TV or even playing. There is a real chance for this game to capture a cult following and finally offer some competition to the disappointing but visually excellent WWE 2K games. As much as good wrestling is king, then Fire Pro Wrestling World is easily king over the WWE 2K games.