Friday, May 28, 2010

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Fire Pro Wrestling - 2nd Bout

While its library was never dominated by the genre to the same extent as, say, the American Nintendo 64, the Japanese PC Engine played host to its share of wrestling games in the late 1980's and early 90's.  Maniac Pro Wrestling adopted a fairly deep RPG-style approach to the sport; this time, we're looking at Fire Pro Wrestling - 2nd Bout, which did not.

This was the second game in a series whose PC Engine installments included two additional Fire Pro Wrestling games and an all-female version called Fire Pro Women; later games in the series appeared on the Dreamcast and PS2.  2nd Bout was published in 1991 by Human Creative Group, a company whose name manages to translate effectively while still sounding entirely Japanese.  It was released on the PC Engine HuCard format; the menus are necessarily simple, with decent chiptune music, heavy on the drums, that wouldn't have been out of place in a shooter of the time.

The Fire Pro Wrestling series focuses on straightforward action, structured in one-on-one bouts, two-on-two tag team matches, and several tournament formats.  The wrestlers depicted aren't licensed, but seem to be inspired by established personalities of the time:

These characters are clearly inspired by the American wrestling scene:

There are even a couple of masked luchadores... from parts unknown; I always thought they were most popular in South America, but at least one is from... Canada?

The wrestling action itself is presented in an isometric perspective, with a diamond-shaped ring and simple character sprites that have an 8-bit NES feel about them.  Unfortunately, while the viewing angle presents a more realistic perspective and allows wrestling moves to be depicted clearly, it makes it rather difficult for a single player battling against the computer.  The computer is very good at lining up in just the right spot to land a decisive blow:

While the player's attempts to get into position more often than not end in a missed punch or kick, followed swiftly by the opponent's near-inescapable hold:

The computer occasionally trips or makes other strategic errors, but these don't generally happen at the right place or moment to give the player any advantage:

To the game's credit, there are quite a few different moves and holds available, though the animation isn't particularly fluid -- there are a lot of short animation cycles, with heads bobbing up and down at unrealistic right angles.  I was able to witness most of the available moves only by watching the computer execute them; for a mere human, pulling off the expected input sequence with a D-pad and two buttons proves iffy at best, and I spent most of my time trying to land a simple punch or kick, or escape from a hold.  It's probably a much better game with two human players, leveling the playing field with two wrestlers who can't always figure out where they should be standing or how to engage their opponent.

Fire Pro Wrestling - 2nd Bout is yet another one of those highly non-collectible sports games that litters every console's library -- it's not in much demand today, as the style has been rendered obsolete by graphical advances, and it's therefore an inexpensive game to import.  It's fun to goof around with for an hour or two, but its age shows in every aspect, and there's nothing unique about its gameplay approach. 

You can, if so inclined, investigate this game's availability for purchase (and, I predict, low price if it's in stock) at this affiliate link.

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