Friday, March 5, 2010

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Maniac Pro Wrestling

This week, we look at a 1990 wrestling title that never made it to the States -- Hudson Soft's Maniac Pro Wrestling for the PC-Engine:

The game had three strikes against it as far as NEC's Western marketing was concerned.

First, the title.  In Japan, the term maniac is often used to identify a dedicated fan or practitioner, but the original moniker would never have flown in the U.S., where the word usually identifies a dedicated collector of humans (whole or otherwise.)  It could have been retitled, but any literal translation like Crazy Pro Wrestling wouldn't have been appropriate either, as the wrestlers are all depicted as quite serious and stable athletes.

Second, the lack of an official wrestling license, nearly standard in the States since the 1988 release of WWF WrestleMania for the NES, would have doomed the game to anonymous failure on the shelves.

Third, and perhaps most significant, it's not even an action game -- it's a role-playing game, with statistics, training and special moves that function very much like spells.  Each round opens with an overview of the player and opponent stats for arm, leg, body, and speed:

During the match, players maneuver around each other with the controller, but when it's time to initiate an actual move, the action pauses and the menus take over:

The menus are completely in Japanese, but I was able to figure out the basic repertoire of moves and variations.  There are punches, drops, and wrestling holds; most of the options result in a simple animation illustrating a stats-based outcome, as the HuCard cartridge format didn't have space available for elaborate details.   The chokehold is a little more interactive and calls for rapid button-pressing, as the initiator inflicts as much damage as possible and the victim tries to escape quickly:


Following each match, friendly advice is given by support staff, friends and admirers:

And whether the player wins or loses, any training points earned can be applied to beef up player stats:

Training is visually represented in thoroughly Japanese style, as the player's character jogs through the countryside, silhouetted against the setting sun:

As far as I could figure out, there's never a game-ending failure.  A loss keeps the player's career from progressing for the moment, but doesn't prevent the player from working out, beefing up and finding another match.

Feed the chiseled glory!  Fight for victory!  Point at something vaguely upward and to the left!

Maniac Pro Wresting is an unusual take on the genre, and despite the extensive Japanese text it's not too difficult for Westerners to cope with.  I had fun with it for a while, and the difficulty curve is reasonable, though the action gets repetitive after a few matches.  But it's no surprise it never came out here -- it would have been eaten alive by Hulk Hogan and company.  

Commercial plug:  This is one of the least expensive PC Engine games available -- apparently it's very common and/or not highly sought after in its home market -- so it's not a bad choice if you're looking to get your feet wet with import gaming.  You may be able to purchase it at this affiliate link.

No comments:

Post a Comment