Company: Technos Japan
Controller: Two-button Joystick.
Technos Japan was one of the first companies to develop videogames, and looking at its initial catalog, it looked like they tried everything until finding some success in a theme. They found in wrestling a nice market to exploit.
Their entry in the wrestling videogame genre had a more than acceptable hit and allowed them to develop new games of the genre which will become true classics.
The videogamer controls a couple of babyface wrestlers called Jocko and Spike, with the classic archetypical babyface wrestlers of nice body and using micro-shorts really popular at those years. Their first rivals are a couple of heels called Mad Maulers which are a very fat guy and a masked dude with a really, really bad attitude.
When the virtual wrestler touches its rival, they begin to grapple, you can see that because above both wrestlers appears a sign indicatting which move will be applied to the rival. The videoplayer has 3 seconds to press one of the buttons to cycle through all the available moves. The farther the move selected when pressing the button, more punishment will be applied to the rival. Once selected, you have to press the other button to apply the move.
If you think 3 seconds is enough time to apply moves, you can be very wrong, because if you don’t apply the move in that time, the rival will apply one to you, without time restriction. Not only that, because if a certain amount of time without grappling, the rival will enter a “furious” state in which it will apply a move to the players as soon as it touches the virtual wrestler. When this happens, the heel wrestler will become red.
Each wrestler can execute up to eight different moves. Part of the fun is finding which moves can apply every wrestler.
At the top part of the screen a graph shows how many stamina left has the virtul wrestler controlled at the time by the videogamer, so if it’s really week, can leave the ring by positioning itself at the corner alongside its buddy and pressing the right button. When a move is applied, and the receiver is at the floor, the other wrestler can try to pin its rival by pressing a button. If the rival is very weak, you can get the 3 seconds for a pin to win the match. Take into account that it can happen the other way around.
I forgot to mention that if a move is applied near the ropes, both wrestlers fell out of the ring, starting a 20 seconds countdown where the wrestler that does not return to the ring is the loser. Sometimes, an spectator appears and hits the wrestled controlled by the videoplayer. In the event no wreslter returns to the ring, the match ends in a tie, where the videoplayer is considered loser, and it’s game over.
Well, let’s suppose you won, congratulations, you go for the next match looking to win the championship… But the rivals are the same ones from the previous match. That’s right, you can fight 30 matches, but will always be against the same rivals. We can understand the limits of the technology at the time, but it can become monotonous really quick after a while, even if the difficulty slowly increases after winning a match.
Apple 2 / P-DOS / Commodore 64
Well, if you have read some articles in this blog, you’ll remember that I try to make a sub-section for each port of the game. But I was not able to do it in these bunch of ports. The ports for the first two personal computers were developed in 1986, and the one for Commodore 64 in 1987.
These ports for these 3 personal computers had a common feature: they had to use a joystick with one button to replicate the interesting schema of two buttons, with IMO awful results. The main problem is trying to pull off the move to perform. In this case, the videoplayer has to press the button, with the joystick select the move and later release the button. But it has to be done really quick, if not, the rival will apply the move, and believe me, it will happen really often.
Not only that, the pace is really slow, the graphics are practically crap, and in one particular port, it looks like the videoplayer is using wrestlers with interesting colors, which I’m not totally sure was the original idea of the programmers.
Practically the 3 ports are one and the same, changing only the palette used. I don’t recommend any of the versions. I think it was a good thing I was not able to get the Commodore 64 port.
Now we are talking about a nice conversion for a console, developed in 1986. Not only the graphics really look alike the arcade ones, but there are enought small features to get the feeling is a different game. Starting with the names of the wrestlers, where the ones available for the videoplayer to use are called Ricky Fighters, meanwhile the heel ones are now called Strong Bads. Also there is a masked wrestler in both times.
This was the port of the game available at my hometown, where we ussually gave nicknames to the main characters of every videogame. In this one the Ricky Fighters were called El Dandy and Tinieblas (the masked one), while the heel team were Herodes (although Bam Bam Bigelow was a good match) and Sangre Chicana (the masked dude, even if Chicana no longer used a mask by then).
Something I found while writing this entry, is that in Japan the wrestler actually had names. The good ones were Ricky and Ultramachine (the masked one), and the heels were Mascross (the masked one) and Worley.
I found the videogame a bit hard at the time, and while playing it again to compare it with the arcade one, found it was harder to change a move to execute in this port, even if the control schema is the same. Also, when both combatants left the ring, sometimes there is a chair there, it’s impossible to return to the ring until one of the virtual wrestlers uses it to hit its rival, often the heel one reached the chair first. Other change is that the heels enter their “red” state more often.
Finally, in this port, two players can play fighting against each other, being player number two who controls the heel team. This title was one of the first titles, not produced by Nintendo, sold in North America for the Nintendo NES.
The videogame had enough success so the company focused their developments in fighting (not necessary wrestling, also beat’em ups) games, producing real classics in the following years.
Specifically in wrestling videogames, there was a sequel which was featured in a previous entry, and we can appreciate their evolution in developing videogames.
Considering the time when the videogame was made, it was a really good attempt at developing a wrestling videogame. One of the flashiest feature of a wrestling match are the moves the wrestlers can apply at their rivals, so I’m giving this game a lot of credit for implement visually many moves that can be applied between virtual wrestlers.
In the other side, only being able to fight two rivals in every match can be quite boring really fast, even when the difficulty increased.
Apple II icon created by Ciro Alfredo Consentino for the software EmuLoader.
Other icons taken from Retroarch.