You don't get many bells and whistles with WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008 for the Nintendo DS. However, what you do get is a solid portable wrestling game that manages to accurately depict the look and feel of the matches and storylines you see on television every week.
The character roster includes 21 WWE superstars divided roughly in half between the SmackDown! and RAW brands. That's barely a quarter of the federation's current cast, but most of the big names are present. John Cena, Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, Edge, Shawn Michaels, and Kane are just some of the marquee names you can play as. There are even a couple of refugees from the ECW brand.
From the main menu, your two options are exhibition play and the season mode. Exhibition play lets you set up matches against the CPU or one of your buddies, provided they also have a copy of the game. The different match types you can pick from are standard, hardcore, last man standing, submission, iron man, and three stages of hell. You can also choose from any of 18 different arenas, including the basic SmackDown! and RAW house sets, as well as all of the popular Pay-Per-View venues. Sadly, there are no custom match or create-a-wrestler features.
Season mode is where the action is. In it, you pick a wrestler and basically work your way through the ranks until you win all of the major championships. Before each match, you can visit the locker rooms and other areas in the arena, where you can talk to the other wrestlers, manage your items, and search containers looking for training room tokens. Talking to other wrestlers causes different events and side matches to happen. Feuds, face turns, alliances, and shocking behind-the-scenes attacks are all par for the course, just like they are on actual WWE broadcasts. In your personal locker room, you can select the foreign objects and allies that you'll use during matches. Meanwhile, those training room tokens let you buy workout time on three different training minigames. The bench press builds your strength, the jump rope builds your agility, and the heavy bag increases the power of your strikes.
Each wrestler has his own story that plays out during the course of the season. There's no recorded voice work for that dialogue, however. It's all just displayed in text boxes that appear next to each wrestler's face. Thankfully, the presentation improves considerably once you enter the arena. Wrestler entrances involve big-screen displays, light shows, familiar music, and an announcer that dramatically speaks out each wrestler's weight, origin, and name. The 3D graphics are very detailed. You'll observe spectators and big screens doing their thing outside the ring. Inside the ring, the wrestlers' bodies and costumes are mostly accurate, and their animations are remarkably lifelike. All of the different smack, thump, and slam sounds are satisfying, too.