Legends of Wrestling II - GC - Review
Honestly folks, my first impression when I opened Legends of Wrestling II was “Oh great … another below average wrestling game for the Gamecube”. Now, this first impression was not because I had played it yet, it was simply due to the fact that I didn’t really care for the first one much, and all of the other WWE titles that I had played lately were just not fun and way to glitch filled to be even remotely enjoyable for me. Well, good friend of mine and a fellow gamer constantly kept pestering me to try this one out, and I have to say that I’m glad that I did. It’s definitely not perfect and it has its own problems, but I felt it was definitely better than anything else I had played lately.
LOW II puts you in control of one of wrestling’s best known and best loved champions as you progress through a story mode or play one of the other various modes available. You can do exhibition matches to sharpen your skills in a single bout, standard matches to play against a buddy or the computer in a various assortment of match types, 3 and 4 way dances, a battle royal (think Royal Rumble), ladder matches, cage matches, tag team matches, and the list goes on and on. There’s definitely no shortage of ways to play here, and offers a good variety for whatever mood you tend to be in at the time.
One thing that I have always been a tad partial to is the “Create your Own Wrestler” mode. Well, LOW II has this option in it as well, and it was OK. There are a variety of outfits, body styles, and faces to choose from and use … and there are also some really neat unlockable outfits like a reptile, a gladiators with armor, and even a blue clad superhero which reminded me of The Flash. The move list can be altered and built as you see fit, but you can also select a pre-set move list based off your favorite wrestling legend since it can get a little time consuming. It’s not as detailed nor does it contain as many options as some previous titles … but it’s better than a lot that I’ve seen also.
The story mode for LOW II was really creative, even if a little bit off base. It will have you traveling to one of five different regions and participating in a random story generated by a press of the A button while a square moves around on some numbers. What I mean by off base is that one story has you meeting with a Mafia style member who tells you that he is looking for some good talent and his wrestlers keep “no showing” to matches, then threatens you with “If you lose too much, you may turn up missing also if you get my meaning”. On the other hand, you play through a more normal adventure like “I’m having you team up with Rocky Johnson and will put you in some singles matches, but you’d better win those tag matches!” It’s pretty neat, and a great idea, but then you are playing through a series of matches entitled “The Missing Jobbers” or “Rival Tag Teams”. Geez, I feel like I’m undercover in a Scooby Doo mystery or something. Oh well, if Undertaker can shoot lightning and HHH can get away with kidnapping, why not? It definitely earns some creativity points from me.
The control setup to LOW II is a little weird, and could be considered clunky to some of you wrestling fans out there. The A button will strike, B blocks, counters, or performs an ISP maneuver (I will discuss that shortly), X will grapple, and Y performs an attack or starts a grapple when you have the opponent in a tie up or grapple hold and begins ISP moves. Holding the control pad in a certain direction and pressing the same buttons will have different effects, like holding up and A will perform a harder hit or holding left and Y will perform your assigned attack 2 feature rather than 1. Since the game is not as arcade style or fast as some others, this is where it can feel a little cumbersome at times.
Let’s discuss those ISP’s for a minute since they play a big part of the game. ISP’s technically are linked combo moves that you can perform with a press of the B button. Whenever a certain attack move is used, say a suplex for example, a meter will appear at the top of the screen with a moving bar. Hit the B button at the right time when the bar is highlighted yellow and it will link an additional move onto the action. With the example above, it can cause your character to perform the suplex and then hop on top of your opponent for a pin. It also comes into play when countering a move, since each time your opponent uses one of their attacks the meter reappears again. Hitting B at the right time there will cause your wrestler to counter the move, and may link an additional hit or slam onto your counter as well.
The ISP was a pretty good idea, but I soon found that there are some errors to be found. First off, hitting another button at any time when the ISP meter shows up seems to cancel your ability to perform the move. Basically, if I am tapping A trying to perform a strike and Tito Santana decides he wants to grab me and back drop me, the meter pops up out of nowhere. Since I was already hitting A, the B button won’t work to counter the move now. I think that this is the case because the B button icon flashed at the right time saying that I hit it OK, but then nothing happened, so either other button presses mess it up or else it just doesn’t work some of the time. Either way it can get a little annoying.
The second problem with the ISP is the accuracy part. Sometimes it will move really slow, other times it speeds by. There is a memorization aspect to knowing when it will pop up when you perform one of your moves; the problem is that you don’t know when it will happen with your opponent. Granted, it would be too easy if you did, and it’s not too bad in a two player game, but the computer of course has almost perfect timing 90% of the time. Even with the adjustable difficulty, it seems like AI opponents can miraculously make a comeback when their energy gets really low and may cause some lost matches that you really don’t feel should have been your loss … if you catch my drift.
One neat thing that Akklaim did here was in the way that a lot of unlockable material is obtained. When you play through story mode, you earn green coins. Each unlockable wrestler, arena, outfit, style, and cheat will have a price tag enabling you to purchase them. Most require a number of blue and red coins though, which are not earned through winning matches, so you have to gamble your green coins to get those. When you select “gamble”, you are taken to a grid with a bunch of skulls. You turn in … say 5 green coins for a red coin … then put the red coin on one of the slots in the grid. Each square will light up randomly, and you have to hit the A button at the right time to get possession of the blue or red coin. After doing this a bunch of times, you will be able to add such big stars as Abdullah the Butcher, Bobby the Brain Heenan, and even Mr. Intergender Champion himself, Andy Kauffman.
Graphically, LOW II wasn’t too bad overall. The animations were a little stiff and lacked lighting effects, but had some pretty good facial looks and the body styles were detailed. The moves were fluid for the most part, and big moves would get this “Matrix” style camera spin to set you up for what was about to take place. The crowd was the typical 2-D, flat crowd that cheers and waves their arms for everything … regardless of what is taking place or who’s winning. The entrances were cool, complete with original movements and fireworks, and some characters will even have their original gimmicks, like Koko B. Ware and Frankie the parrot.
The action in the ring is set to tunes from artists like Saliva, so while you are beating the you know what out of friends or the computer, you get to do so to some heavy rock sounds. There are no announcers, which history has shown us isn’t necessarily bad, but the crowd doesn’t seem to have much reaction to anything positive or negative. The cheering just sort of goes up and down in waves.
Overall, this has been one long review and this game has a lot to offer the die hard wrestling fan. As I stated up front, I enjoyed this one a heck of a lot more than other recent titles that I have played, even with some issues that kept it from being perfect. Due to the slower paced action, I would recommend this to people like me who were big fans of WWF Warzone back in the day, and don’t care as much for the faster, arcade style gameplay from Jakks Pacific. Overall, people who want to re - live some of the matches that they grew up with back in the 80’s will get more for the money than others, and will probably enjoy this. If you are more of a modern wrestling fan, I would recommend a rental prior to purchasing. I definitely applaud Akklaim for trying to bring something new to a genre that has been repetitive as of late for us gamers.
The controls are pretty easy to pick up and get into, and there are a bunch of different modes to choose from and play with and characters, etc to unlock to help expand the longevity. The action is faster that the original, but slower than titles like Smackdown on PS2, and may be a little bit too slow for some of you wrestling fans. There are some collision detection issues here and there, like having to hit the grapple button twice or striking an opponent when you don’t seem to be close enough. The ISP function was pretty neat, but didn’t seem to work if you had already hit a button when the meter pops up and in multiplayer can result in some matches that will result in tons of counter moves.
Not too bad, but the movements in the ring seemed a little stiff while the wrestling moves seemed more fluid. The crowd is the 2-D type that isn’t the worst thing on the planet, and they seem to frequent just about every game that revolves around sports these days. There is a good selection of outfits and some cool unlockable ones, and the detail on the wrestlers themselves was pretty decent. The wrestlers will show damage on their face as they get beat up or bloody, but the blood looks like confetti since it randomly sprinkles around the ring and is more silly than graphic.
The in ring sounds aren’t bad, but the crowd doesn’t seem to get too excited about much of anything since cheering is almost all of the time and just sort of gets a little louder or softer here and there. There are no announcers, which isn’t really bad since they can tend to muck things up more than add to them, and the game has a cool rock soundtrack by real bands.
The difficulty can be adjusted from Jobber to Legend, and will get tougher as you keep moving it up. The AI seems to be all intelligent after their energy gets down to a certain point, and many times will make some pretty miraculous and annoying comebacks which can get frustrating.
It is definitely an improvement on the original, and while it’s not perfect … Akklaim really tried to give us something a little different in a genre that has been done a whole lot. The gambling mode was a cool idea, and the ISP moves, despite their flaws, were good ideas as well. A couple of tweaks on the next one and they may have a winner.
This is more where the fun of the game is going to come in since us humans (unlike the computer) aren’t perfect. LOW II provides support for up to four people at once to play, so don’t hit your little brother for real … just hand him a controller and hit him with a virtual chair!
Well, I don’t really know what else to say here, since my novel I wrote covers just about everything you need to know. Ultimately, you die-hard wrestling fans that have been around since the 80’s like me will get the most enjoyment out of this game, and more modern fans may get a kick out of it as well. For those of you who just recently started tuning into WWE, you may want to rent it prior to making the final purchase.