Format reviewed: SNES
Submitted by: Steven Ronald Jackson
Pro-Wrestling has been the focus of video-games for years. With every generation of consoles pro-wrestling games are released, often upgraded from the games before. It is no surprise that most wrestling fans decide to buy WWE licensed video-games, due to the familiarity of the roster and gameplay. But besides WWE games, many other Pro-Wrestling games get over-shadowed. One such wrestling game is Natsume Championship Wrestling.
Natsume Championship Wrestling I didn’t even know existed until it one day cropped up on the Wii’s Virtual Console, which is understandable as the game was only released in the USA, to my knowledge. While Pro-Wrestling games wouldn’t really hit their stride until the N64, Natsume Championship Wrestling bravely attempts to mimicking the sport in all its 16-bit glory.
Natsume Championship Wrestling decided not to present the USA style of wrestling we have all grown to understand and love. It instead decides to present the more physical, hard-hitting style of Japan with less glitz and glamour than us westerners are used to. From what I can gather Natsume have based the game on All Japan Pro-Wrestling due to the hard-hitting nature of the moves and the appearances of the wrestlers.
The game gives you a choice of five modes; Exhibition (which can only be played with 2-players), Championship Tounament, Championship Tag Match, Round Robin (Singles) and Round Robin Tag-Match. While the game modes are somewhat limiting, it can be accounted for; firstly, Japanese wrestling doesn’t contain all the gimmick matches we are used to seeing (for example cage matches) as it is more about the spectacle of the athletes as opposed to the spectacle of the match type itself. Secondly, the SNES couldn’t house too many options so it is no surprise it is limited, but the limitations do give way for a surprisingly deep experience.
Natsume Championship Wrestling gives you a choice of twelve wrestlers; Asteroid, M. Roach, H. Snake, The Viper, Phantom, Fangz, Spike, Big Ape, J. Kraze, Python, K. Bruto and Conan, who are a mixture of both Japanese and Western wrestlers. Each of the twelve wrestlers have a variety of different moves and some wrestlers can jump off the top rope, which helps give some depth to matches. When in Tag-Team Championship mode, you have the choice of either pre-defined teams or choosing your own which is a nice thing to have, due to the fact some wrestlers are bigger and some are smaller, so it can help even things out a bit.
In terms of actual gameplay it is good, but can get highly frustrating. A punches, B kicks and X runs but to grapple the player needs to press the B button along with a direction of the D-Pad when wrestlers get close to perform a move. This sounds simple, but it is extremely hard to master and is all about timing and precision (in a bad way). The moves themselves are pretty repetative and although it is a fun game it can get boring just doing piledrivers and suplexes over and over again until you can pin your opponent or make them submit. It is also annoying when you run and hit the turnbuckle which temporarily stuns you meaning you are at the mercy of your opponent. The gameplay isn’t helped by the ruthless AI and the fact you need to get the opponents health meter down to black (which isn’t easy let me tell you). Even on easy, the AI doesn’t give you an inch and you really need to keep on your toes because on wrong move and you are going to get beat. The game is also frustrating because when you go to the top rope, the opponent needs to be in exactly the right place for you to hit them, otherwise you just miss and are at risk of being pinned.
The presentation of the game is basic but gets the bare essentials right. Wrestlers heights and weights are displayed on the selection screen, a referee is present (which is often surprisingly left out of wrestling games), the crowd are well presented and there are even announcers. The sound effects and music are quite good and the wrestlers themselves are easy to distinguish from their selection screen portraits. Plus when you win either the singles or tag-team championship mode you get to see a little animation of you with the trophies and belts, which is a nice touch.
To conclude, while Natsume Championship Wrestling isn’t the greatest wrestling game ever made, it is still a fun experience which mimicks the Japanese side of the sport surprisingly well. It takes practise and trial and error to master the gameplay, but once it has been mastered it can produce some great wrestling matches against the computer or friends. The presentation is good and eventhough the movesets are not very flashy they are still fun to execute. As I mentioned the game has been re-released for the Wii Virtual Console and is priced at 900 Wii Points which I believe is a little much for the overall experiece it offers. If you are a mad pro-wrestling fan I’d say give it a try but to everyone else I’d let this one pass you by.