Legends of Wrestling II - PS2 - Review
Wrestling has come a long way since its early days when stories and plots were just beginning to dramatize the fights and build them up into showdowns of epic proportions. There was a time when the build-up was more exciting to watch than the actual confrontation and the colorful participants were so ludicrously entertaining to watch. As a tribute to these wrestlers, Legends of Wrestling II brings them back in action, however, without the exciting drama.
There are modes aplenty once again, the more notably (and somewhat improved) Career mode--taking your wrestler (original creation or any of the available wrestlers) and your promoter through five regions in order to win the World Belt while adding just a light dash of barely-there drama. There’s also an Exhibition mode that puts you directly into the action while also adding standard matches, Battle Royal, Cage, Ladder and Tag Team matches. The Three or Four Way Dances also make a comeback as well as a Tournament mode with plenty of matches.
All the legends from the previous game are included here once again--from Hulk Hogan to Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat--as well as the addition of wrestling greats like Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, Bruno Sammartino or Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff. Each wrestler comes complete with his specialty move as well as showy entrances.
The game plays the same way it did the first time around, meaning the game’s controls haven’t changed at all and this is the game’s downfall. Legends of Wrestling depends on a system where mostly everything is done by repeatedly pressing a button for actions like pinning, reversals and getting out of a stunned state. Your wrestler can punch and kick and grapple a bit more easily, but when it comes to executing a complex move other than a scoop slam, the controls really make you work for it. Unlike the recent SmackDown! games on the PS2--whose controls are much better--gamers will even struggle to unleash a legend’s specialty move.
Thanks to the Multitap, gamers can include up to eight players on the screen at once in the various match types found throughout the game. There are several modes, especially the tag team matches that can house all eight players and--with enough wrestlers to choose from--gamers don’t really have to wait for their turn all that often.
Graphics-wise, the game has not changed much at all either--and this is not a good thing. The wrestler models are still not very realistic looking in the very least, although they certainly are recognizable--especially their gestures and movements. Still, the wrestlers seem to shine unnaturally and some of the wrestlers--like Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka--have bulky bodies. There are various arenas--some of them nicely detailed while others pretty plain while the audience does not seem to be completely facing the ring.
There’s plenty of music to be found here--although the opening theme is a heavy-hitting modern tune that really seems out of place for a game with wrestling legends of the past. Each legend has his own theme music and combined with the announcer, the game sounds like a live event. There’s some voice acting found in this game as well, although it’s more directed at the promoter than the wrestlers themselves. You won’t be hearing any of your favorites in this game.
Unfortunately, Legends of Wrestling II would have been a fan favorite had the changes been more directed at an engine that wasn’t so good in the first place. With a stellar multiplayer option and a long list of wrestling legends, the game would have been nothing short of perfection . . . it’s just too bad that the flaws are just to noticeable to ignore. Wrestling fans, rent this one before considering a purchase.
#Reviewer's Scoring Details
Unfortunately the individual specialty moves each wrestler is famous for is not easy to execute and neither is most of the basic moves. However, the moves are not impossible to master; especially since it all has to do with timing and taking advantage of certain situations (for example, when an opponent is stunned and vulnerable to attacks).
The game’s special matches such as Cage and Ladder do add more excitement to the modes since the special matches don’t rely on a straightforward grapple-and-pin mentality of the standard match. It just allows gamers to get as brutal as they want.
The second weakest aspect of the game is its visuals that haven’t really been improved upon since the last game. The wresters still look unnatural with their unusually bodies--everyone except for Andre the Giant who has an unusual body to begin with--and expressionless faces. Their movements are actually more natural than their appearance and you’ll notice that their skin does bruise while specks of blood drop on the canvas.
The arenas, once again, are not impressive at all and what is even more annoying is the fact that the Jumbo-Tron screen occasionally does a multiple image thing. The fans out there carry signs you can actually read but moving out of the ring you will notice that their attention doesn’t seem to be fixed on the action or in certain areas the crowd doesn’t even seem to be facing the ring.
There are plenty of tunes found here, most notably during a wrestler’s entrance and sometimes during the match itself. The announcer does a fantastic job of introducing wrestlers to the ring, bringing a sense of being there live since there is no two-man running commentary. And the only real voice acting you’ll find comes from the promoter during the Career mode.
There are three difficulty-setting options in this game: Jobber, Mid Card and Legend. The game’s difficulty is still something of a challenge and much of the challenge has little to do with the intelligence of the computer-controlled opponents. Rather, you’ll be struggling with the controls and the repeated pressing of buttons to get out of a pin or a daze. The opponents also manage to reverse moves far more easily than you can, which is frustratingly unfair.
While the game fails to capture the exciting drama of the wrestling circuit in the way the SmackDown! do, wrestling fans might find it amusing to pit these legends against one another. Included in the game is a documentary and interviews of the actual wrestlers and their stories are quite interesting for those gamers willing to listen and watch.
As far as multiplayer modes are concerned; this game really outdoes itself in this department due to the fact that up to eight players (using the Multitap) can take to the arena at once. Gamers can include friends in mostly every mode, including an eight-man tag team match . . . making this a true party game for wrestling fans.
With all the right elements in place, Legends of Wrestling II had all the makings of a great wrestling title but its faults take away from the fun. All is not bad, however, since the game’s multiplayer option is inclusive enough to keep a large group of gamers busy.