Tuesday, June 02, 2009

AdVantage Point: WWF Royal Rumble (1993)

Give an idiot a scanner and a comic book and let him pick out all the advertisements for video games.
This is AdVantage Point -- a chance to document the winding timeline of comics/gaming history as it was canonized by the adverts. Musings, rantings, observations, stream of consciousness.

The observant and thorough among you might recognise me from my brief tenure as a writer earlier in the decade for Prowrestling.com. If this revelation somehow startles you, it shouldn't. The appeal of professional wrestling isn't so different from any instance of comics, movies, or video games.
The latter, and principle concern of 1up.com, is particularly relevant since the mid-nineties, when gaming and wrestling become powerful allies. For me, this was never about the adolescent power fantasy, as much as it was the chance to download and interact with even more of the distinct characters and extravagant storylines that elevated pro wrestling to sports entertainment.

In that respect, American pro wrestling isn't so different to plonking down in front of Street Fighter II.
[Before the advent of UFC and MMA in the mainstream]; American wrestlers were instantly recognisable characters of limited, but vivid dimension, defined by their explosive friendships and rivalries, key concerns, and the trademarked moves through which they dispersed their passionate resolve for both.

Like a blue and yellow qipao, a battle earned chest scar, or an unmistakable rising dragon punch, prowrestlers wore their character boldly for all to see. Occasionally, they even did so with the same supernatural spirit of any hadou-ki wielding world warrior, defiantly shaking off the blows of a villainous rival, or striking down with a vengeful bolt of pulsating blue lightning.

Clearly I'm not the first person to realise this, past, or present.

In the early nineties, the power of pro wrestling was captured in sprites through a spate of 8 and 16 bit arcade-style brawlers. While Acclaim were rolling out the licensed smackdown of WWF Royal Rumble; Capcom took their Final Fight wrestler-turned-mayor, "Macho" Mike Haggar, and threw him back into his native environment as part of the line-up of the fictional CWA promotion in,  Saturday Night Slam Masters.

Slam Masters added a plane of movement akin to Final Fight's street roaming, confining the action to the squared circle, but with the extra illusion of depth absent from Street Fighter's side-to-side fisticuffs. The emphasis on styles of grappling (and lucha libre) also meant the action was more immediately engaging, speeding up the cumbersome balance of Zangief's lumbering holds to let the slams, bombs, and presses fly at rapid speed!

These days, the simulative emphasis of wrestling games is far more indepth.
Since their 2001 buy-out of competition, World Championship Wrestling; WWE have been the undisputed title holder of American pro wrestling games. Newest rivals, TNA Wrestling [Impact!], and the likes of legendary fan-favourite industry simulator, Fire Pro Wrestling, have taken shots at the top, but none have been able to dethrone the definitive grip of the annual Smackdown! (vs RAW) series [2009], or the recent nostalgia expansion, Legends of Wrestlemania.

Yes, there are other wrestling games out there. Some of them, probably pretty good, too.
None, however, have had the penetration of the examples listed, which is exactly why I think it's long overdue for Capcom to dust-off the early nineties classic and give it the old college puroresu ganbaru!

For me, a simple update to the classic 2D wrestler won't do.
Where Street Fighter IV was able to capitalize on conservative nostalgia, I want Slam Masters to be an opportunity to invent something fondly familiar, but new. I want the structure of the game to flirt with a hybrid of arcade fighters and pro wrestling simulators, whilst more boldly drawing upon the history of the company to truly represent a "Capcom Wrestling Association" (CWA).

The trick would be to never lose sight of the directive of the game.
Like the original Slam Masters; a retro revival should recapture the over-the-top action that made the series individual at the time, following on from the same exaggerated ethic that made Street Fighter's martial artists household names. Yet -- it would be imperative that it not veer too far from the basic structure of a professional wrestling organization, employing only suitable fighters, and applying that to a setting and context familiar to the sport (and entertainment).

Since I wasn't able to find an advert for Slam Masters from the time, I might cut it off here.
Taking (further) inspiration from "BigMex," perhaps we'll come back tomorrow to talk more about how Capcom's extensive history with pro wrestling could facilitate such a game. Characters, concepts, gameplay, and whatever else tickles the fancy.

If you haven't already, you simply must check out his series of Based on a True Story... reposts, discussing and detailing some of the real-life inspirations for Capcom characters, and how they've come to adapt to twenty years of gaming, wrestling, and MMA. Parts 1 & 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6, 7 & 8, 9 & 10, and Final, are required reading for any fans of indulging in the fiction of these classic games.

Original Post: http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=8992512

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