WWE Survivor Series - GBA - Review - GBA - Review
All right, I have a confession to make. I used to be a wrestling fanatic. There, I said it; commence with the snickering and giggling. Now, I wasn’t one of the ones that ran around emulating DX or Stone Cold, nor did I wear t-shirts proclaiming my love for another spandex wearing man (although I did have an all black t-shirt that read “Austin Rules” in big, white letters on the front and “Goldburg Sucks” on the back. I think I wore it once and had a legion of little kids following me around the mall in awe) I went to a couple of live shows including the original “Buried Alive” in Indianapolis when Mankind buried the Undertaker in the main event, but for the most part I was a closet fan. I’d grown up a fan of the old timers and I continued watching through the hilarious Monday Night Wars, but once the then WWF finally struck down the evil empire of the WCW with the ultimate smackdown of a corporate buyout, well, it just kind of lost its excitement for me. Sure, I continued watching for a while after they merged and the whole WCW invasion angle played out, followed by the split of the WWE into Smackdown and Raw rosters, but as we all soon learned, competition really was good for the business and things became painfully stagnant. While I rarely ever watch anymore unless I just happen to flip by on a Monday or Thursday evening, I do still find a lot of enjoyment from the games. Like most other continuing genres, things have generally changed for the better with the march of time; unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case with Survivor Series.
I’ll give it credit, it makes one hell of a first impression right out of the box with some seriously stellar graphics for the GBA and a seemingly very cool setup, but it all goes down hill from there. The heart of the game is in its “Story Mode”. You begin with a pep talk from the man himself, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, letting you know what’s going to be expected of you and informing you that you must choose sides, either Raw or Smackdown. Cool so far. From there you’re given a breakdown of the rosters from each show, featuring the biggest names from each. While I’m sure there’s going to be wrestlers that each and every fan will gripe about not having been included, the number of wrestlers available, when the format is considered, is pretty impressive. Things are still looking pretty bright. Upon choosing the wrestler of your choice, on the show of your choice, you’re then given another pep talk by the corresponding GM of your chosen show, who ends by giving you your first task, which is to win one of your next three matches. As you proceed through the game climbing the ranks, you’ll be given new objectives like receiving a certain popularity rating or winning a title or beating a specific opponent. Wow, that’s pretty cool, a pocket wrestling games with objectives and goals. At this point, I was pretty giddy with the product, as any and all expectations had been blown out of the water.
But, wait it gets better, much, much better before the bottom falls out. As the game transitioned to the actual gameplay screen, my jaw hit the floor. I absolutely could not believe the visuals I was seeing, the crowds, the arenas, the ring, holy freaking cow! And on the GBA! The crowds actually look better than most of the crowds in any of the biggest sports titles available on the big consoles. I know, I know, big deal, the crowd looks good. But this is on a GBA cartridge and they actually animate well! So needless to say, my previously low expectations were now skyrocketing to the point that I was almost ready to start setting reminders on the ol’ digital cable box for this week’s Raw and Smackdown. But then the first wrestler appeared and the rocket that had been moving onward and upward at the speed of light was now beginning to wobble. It was supposed to be Randy Orton, but I couldn’t tell for sure. It could have been Koko B. Ware for all I could tell. And then my wrestler, Chris Benoit appeared, and once again, I wasn’t sure. My eyes darted back and forth from the wrestlers to the crowd, to the arena, to the ring, and back to the wrestlers again. What!? How could this be!? Everything else looks so great, but only the most eagle-eyed fanatic could tell the wrestlers apart with any sort of certainty. So, I pulled myself together certain that the gameplay would right the ship and save the day.
Well, as much as I hoped, tried, and prayed, it just wasn’t to be and that rocket had now flipped over and was headed right back at me. Now before I get into the negatives, first let me expound on the positives. The first of which, at least in theory, the wrestlers do have an extremely impressive repertoire of moves at their disposal from the few buttons the GBA offers, grapple attacks, striking attacks, weapons, finishing moves, everything is covered here. Next, I should also mention that the game also offers an impressive array of match types for a GBA cartridge. Cage matches, tag matches, Royal Rumbles, handicap matches and so on. But where the game ultimately falters and negates all of the considerable good it had going for it, is the one area that is most vital to any game, gameplay. The gameplay is so reminiscent of Acclaim’s earliest WWF games for the PS1 it’s almost scary. The wrestling action is so stiff, stilted, and slow that it becomes nigh impossible to pull off the impressive roster of moves, worsened exponentially by the delay between button press and action. By the time your wrestler begins the animation for whatever action you had inputted, your opponent has already landed three haymakers and has picked you up off the canvas for a nasty suplex. And as if these problems weren’t critical enough, the trouble you’ll have differentiating yourself from your opponent, especially if your wrestler has long hair and is wrestling another longhaired wrestler and vice versa, causes the game to ultimately flat line. The storylines/goals/objectives are great, as is the popularity ratings, but the gameplay makes them a non-factor.
Graphically, we’ve already touched upon this. The crowd, the arenas, and the ring are nothing short of phenomenal for a GBA cartridge, but unfortunately the one area most important to the game fails, and that is in the wrestler models and animation. Part of the fun of wrestling is the over the top characters in their over the top getups, but you lose that when you have trouble telling one from another. Never mind the gameplay issues this creates; wrestling fans want to be able to immediately recognize their favorites and their most hated foes. But all is not lost for the future. The parts that are good are exceptionally so and can stand to be toned down in order to pump up the wrestlers and their movements. While the good visuals that are available here are appreciated, I’m sure I speak for all gamers and wrestling fans when I say we’d gladly trade stellar environs for stellar characters and action. The animations are slow and choppy, with most of them, at least the ones from your characters, never getting to finish because your opponent is all ready beating the snot out of you.
In the sound department, it’s about what you’d expect from a GBA cartridge. Each wrestler enters the ring to a toned down, tinny sounding version of their individual entrance music. From there, there are the requisite thuds, chops, and booms of wrestling games, all fitting and at home here. The background music serves its purpose and doesn’t pull the gamer from the action onscreen.
Overall, the game, like my beloved Oakland Raiders, has tons of potential, but something has gotten lost in the execution. I like the idea of having a quasi storyline to go along with the wrestling, I like that there is the opportunity for a huge array of attacks, I like that the environments are so well done, but ultimately we play wrestling games for the wrestling action, and it is just not here. A little tweak here and there, a smattering of detail in the wrestlers, an infusion of speed, and you’ve got a very stellar portable grappler. The game sits atop a solid base, with solid, fresh ideals, but now they need to deliver on the gameplay. If you need a wrestling fix on the GBA, you would be far better served in checking out the incredibly fun, fast, and playable Fire Pro Wrestling series. It may not offer the licensed characters, per se, although many of their characters bare an uncanny resemblance to real wrestlers young and old, but you’ll have an excellent, deep wrestling game to play.
Review Scoring Details for WWE: Survivor Series
Gameplay quickly becomes an exercise in futility and patience. The control of the game is very slow and unresponsive, further hurt from the inability to discern most wrestlers from the next. It offers a huge catalogue of moves, but it is nearly impossible to pull off even the simplest ones unless you’ve got a supernatural ability for foresight allowing you to input the needed button presses seconds ahead of when you actually need them.
This game deserves two scores, one for everything but the wrestlers, which would garner a 10, and a score for the wrestlers, which would be a 4. Since the wrestlers are the most important of the two and the basis of the game, that score pulls much more weight.
Average all the way around. The inclusion of the entrance music even in diluted form is a bonus, but everything else is merely average. Suitable, fitting, but ultimately plain.
The issues discussed earlier conspire to make the game much harder than it need be, or probably was intended to be.
It’s obvious that the developers tried to do some things different here to make this version resemble its big brothers, which deserves some props. The inclusion of storylines in the form of tasks/goals handed down by each show’s GM is nice, as is the sheer number of match types, but when the gameplay seemingly takes a backseat to everything else you have to wonder if maybe the ideas were too big to realize in this format.
The cartridge does offer multiplayer support through link cables, but it ultimately suffers from the same problems as the single player game.
Unfortunately, this is one game that is hard to recommend to even the diehard fan, especially in light of there all ready being other games available for the system head and shoulders above it. As I said earlier, there are some novel ideas here and there’s a solid base in place from which to build, but it has a ways to go before it is of the quality of those other games and its big brothers. Fans should take a pass and get their wrestling fix elsewhere and hope that the next iteration makes good on the considerable promise of this cartridge.