Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hands-On First Impressions: Fire Pro Wrestling

After a years-long wait, Fire Pro Wrestling finally makes its triumphant return, this time on Xbox Live Aracade. How awesome is it? It's not. It sucks. Hard.

As longtime KGB fans might be aware, I am something of the resident wrestling fan. I grew up on the junk, and was recently drawn back to the WWE with the rising popularity of CM Punk. Throughout my gaming career, I've played more than my share of rasslin' videogames. From the crude button-mashers of the NES to the sublime N64 games, I've tried them all. So I was beyond excited when I heard that Spike would be bringing their legendary Fire Pro Wrestling series to XBLA.

That was two years ago.

From its inception in 1989, FPW has been one of the most beloved wrestling series in both its native Japan, and stateside, where the game have been hot on the import scene. The series has traditionally featured smooth 2D sprite animation, and massively large rosters. Due to the more lax copyright laws in the Far East, Fire Pro usually features the likenesses of nearly every pro wrestler they can think of, just under a fake name in order to avoid trademark issues.

Only a few Fire Pro games have been officially released in the US, most recently the amazing Fire Pro Wrestling Returns, on the PS2 in 2007. That game stuck with the 2D sprite work, and due to the advanced processing power of the PlayStation 2, featured over 500 wrestlers, death matches and UFC-styled shoot fighting. If all that could be done of the PS2, imagine what the Xbox 360 version of Fire Pro could do. I was blowing my load just thinking about it.

Instead, at PAX East 2011, I got my hands on the game. And was given this:

What. The. Fuck. Is. That.

This is not Fire Pro Wrestling. This is a Kinect-level wrestling game, starring shoddily animated versions of the Xbox Avatars. Moves sets are pitifully shallow, arenas are boring and undetailed, and everything feels...wrong. I have no idea, none at all, why in the blue hell they'd ship this as Fire Pro Wrestling.

The game was finally released this past week on XBLA, and I have no idea what took them so long to release it. It doesn't seem as if ANY additional time was spent on the game. It plays almost exactly as it did years ago, and that's not a good thing. Every match is reduced to stiff, button-mashy bouts with no tension, drama, or excitement. Everything about this game is sterile and unexciting. Nearly everything about this game is offensive to anyone who has played Fire Pro Wrestling in the past.

If this was called Avatar Wrestling SuperJam, it'd still suck, but at least it'd be ignorable. Now, this game is going to be what most people in the Western market think of as Fire Pro.

And that's a damn shame.

Christopher Linendoll is the Best in the World. He can be reached via Twitter, or found in the hummus section of your local grocery store.


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