The legend of Kim Chee will never die
In my formative years, a huge part of my life revolved around the pseudo-sport of pro-wrestling. Not just as a ticket-buying fan, but as a student of the game, a backstage producer and, for a short but painful time, a worker myself.
Since those heady days of ego-maniacs and self-diagnosed concussions, I’ve grown weary of defending “sports-entertainment” from detractors. It particularly hurts at this current moment in time, when the WWE has an embarrassment of amazing, hard-working, and incredibly talented young athletes, yet seems completely stumped with how to showcase them.
I used to truly love pro-wrestling with a passion and I still do, to an extent. I definitely believe, on an independent level, it’s in a better place today that it has been in decades. If only I’d stuck around, I coulda been a contender. Curse my ruined, made-from-crystal body. But let’s travel back to a time and place where pro-wrestling was always fun, exciting and enjoyable. The time is the late ’90s. The place is on the Nintendo 64.
WCW/nWo Revenge – the third N64 wrestling titles developed by AKI corporation – released 20 years ago this week, on October 26, 1998. Revenge launched whilst Ted Turner’s wrasslin’ promotion WCW could apparently do no wrong, just a year or so before its notorious downturn. This fast and furious crash saw mismanagement, bad booking, and Viagra-on-a-pole matches run the multi-million dollar organization into the ground. Eventually, WCW would be purchased for next to nothing by Vince McMahon, owner of the rival WWF/E promotion.
As WCW/nWo Revenge reflects WCW during its highest of highs, it features an impressive roster that reads like a who’s who of the grapple game. From legends such as Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, and Bret Hart, to super-cool nWo heels like Kevin Nash, The Giant and Scott Hall. WCW stalwarts Sting, Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page also feature, as do death-defying cruiserweights like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, and Rey Mysterio Jr. There’s even a bunch of goofy fictional stars with names like “Dr. Frank”, who are actually re-skinned versions of Japanese ring legends, such as Hiroshi Hase and Mitsuharu Misawa. Truly, there is a recognizable face for every generation of fan. There’s no Shayna Baszler, but I’m just gonna hafta let that go.
Revenge has a simple but highly effective control method, utilizing an easy-to-learn system for striking, grappling and reversals. Each wrestler has a variety of attacks, holds, and throws, plus crowd-pleasing finishers, activated by building momentum throughout the match. Revenge was one of the first instances of a mainstream wrestling game feeling like a simulation, with the ability to create action that emulates the natural flow of a real five-star classic. The decision to remove health meters entirely encouraged in-ring battles that could turn on a dime. The player on the losing end need never give up hope that he or she has the ability to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat.
Revenge’s polygonal models may have hilarious cuboid-shoulders and weirdly rictus faces but, despite their dated appearance today, suplexes, slams and high-flying dropkicks still animate with fluidity, carrying a believable conviction in weight. Sound and music is Revenge’s biggest flaw; with a dirge of monotonous and drab tunes. We used to mute these games and just play Metal in the background, because we were cool teens and that was the way we rolled in ’98.
Given the mammoth wrestling titles to follow, Revenge has few options, modes, and matches. Later titles would feature branching story modes, tons of unlockables, and a much wider variety of match types, as well as far better Create-A-Wrestler tools. Revenge can be somewhat forgiven, however, as aficionados know that the only matches really worth playing are one-on-one showdowns, or four player 40-man rumbles. I call Eric Bischoff and his sweet karate skills. Uncle Eric couldn’t grab, but he had a sweet roundhouse kick.
Smelling money, McMahon came a-calling, and AKI would take up residence with the WWF/E. This partnership would produce two further successful hits: 1999’s WWF Wrestlemania 2000 and 2000’s WWF No Mercy. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the latter title is still considered, by many fans, the greatest pro-wrestling video game of all-time – living on through homebrew builds that include the superstars of today’s WWE product.
While WWF No Mercy will always be the go-to title referenced in any discussion of AKI’s wrestling games, I have to admit that, as a snapshot of a company’s finest hour, WCW/nWo Revenge is still a main-eventer. I have a select group of friends who, on the rare occasions we all get together, still fire up the N64 and run the gauntlet of AKI releases. We simply never get bored of them. We aren’t alone, as many fans believe these titles are, and always will be, the best pro-wrestling games ever made.
And that’s a shoot, brother.