Legends of Wrestling is definitely a new direction for modern wrestling games. It pits many of the greatest performers in wrestling history against each other as they vie for domination of their regional wrestling federation and compete for world championship gold. Fans of wrestling past and present will be pleased to find such moves as Hulk Hogan's leg drop and big boot, as well as Rob Van Dam's five-star frog splash and Van Daminator. Yet while the idea of playing as these wrestling legends is certainly appealing, Legends of Wrestling sadly doesn't follow through with a game that's as good as its concept.
Legends of Wrestling features dozens of the most famous pro wrestlers ever.
Aside from the Hulkster and RVD, there is a huge cast of wrestling greats to choose from. This includes Bret Hart, Brian Pillman, Nikolai Volkoff, the Iron Sheik, Ted DiBiase, five of the Von Erichs, and many more, adding up to 42 in all. Every legend is rated in strength, toughness, charisma, mat skills, recovery, and speed. Each wrestler also has certain move specialties, which can vary from hard-core, to grappling, to cheating. Thus, "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka will do more damage performing high-risk maneuvers, while the One Man Gang will dish out the most punishment while brawling. Each wrestler also has an onscreen indicator for health and his finisher.
These wrestlers compete using a grappling system whose core mechanic is known as the intermediate start position, or ISP. The basics of the ISP are simple. When two characters are locked in a grapple, the dominant player can force his opponent into one of four other positions, such as belly-to-belly. From these positions, follow-up techniques can be applied or countered by the opponent.
Legends of Wrestling's countering and chaining system adds to the complexity of the game. Countering and chaining moves are governed by a meter similar to those used in golf games. When an offensive player performs a move that can be chained, a meter comes up, asking for a button press to be made within a green portion of the mostly red bar. Defensive players usually have little recourse against these attacks. Those attacks that can be countered by defensive players, such as basic strikes, are dealt with using a similar meter on the defending player's side of the screen. When the button press is made in the green portion of the meter, the move is countered. Offensive players can keep their strikes and other moves from being countered by timing the proper button press within the green portion of meter before the defender does.
Unfortunately, the gameplay just doesn't stack up.
Based on technique or fatigue, some moves can't be countered at all, indicated by a fully red meter. Chaining moves together through successful meter usage allows some wrestlers to perform impressive transitions, like from a power bomb to a figure-four leg lock. Submission maneuvers are handled like in the wrestling games of old, in that both wrestlers begin a button-mashing contest to determine how long the move stays locked. When the defender successfully breaks the hold, he can either go for a reversal or slide over to the ropes, causing the referee to break it up. Characters also need to button-mash to get up off the mat or break out of a pin.
The finishing move meter is charged by appealing to the audience or dealing out damage. Once the meter is full and flashing, your wrestler has about 15 seconds to pull off the maneuver, which requires proper positioning and a flick of the right analog stick. The grappling system is a lot deeper than the poorly written instruction manual implies--there are a variety of moves that can be accomplished when pushing an opponent around in a grapple. You can tie an opponent up in the ropes, place him in the tree of woe in a corner, and even perform a sunset flip when the opponent is entering the ring. At any time, your wrestler can also pull out a weapon from underneath the ring, such as a chair, a kendo stick, or a two-by-four. Every wrestler can use all the weapons, but certain weapons have special attack modes, like a triple trash-can hit, a double chair shot, or a Van Daminator.