As the AllGames.com resident wrestling fanatic, which includes video games, and seeing as it's WrestleMania season, I've been tasked with reviewing the new indie game that dropped on the PlayStation Network exclusively for PS3, 5 Star Wrestling. First, to understand the title of the game, you need to know that a 5 Star match in wrestling is the highest ranking you can receive in wrestling. Though, this ranking system was started by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer newsletter, it just caught on and now everyone just kind of follows it. To put this in perspective, the WWE as a whole has only had five 5 Star matches since this ranking system began in the 80's.
The selling point by 5 Star is that wrestlers can/will take damage and that damage will actually affect gameplay. This selling point is what got me so excited for the game in the first place. This was something that no games before it had done, even though the WWE games Wrestlemania 2000, No Mercy, and Day of Reckoning 1 & 2 had damage meters, and the wrestlers would limp or hold an arm, the damage never affected gameplay. The other point, which was also exciting, was unique finisher reversals, some even reversing into the opponent's finisher. This also, to my knowledge anyway, hadn't been done before. So when the game dropped, and I bought it, I had some high hopes. Was I dreaming or did 5 Star Wrestling deliver a 5 star product?
When starting, and playing this game, I feel it's important to note that this is an indie game. A small team of passionate people came together to make what they felt would be an awesome wrestling game. So keeping that in mind, I also feel that it's completely unfair to compare it to critically acclaimed games like WWF No Mercy, and current games like WWE2k15. I mean, WWE2k15 is basically working off a backbone that was started and has been refined since 1995!
I'm not going to bore you with basic stuff, there's a menu, there's music, language select, all the good stuff. The game menu music is just a randomly played wrestler theme song. Getting into the meat of this game, there's 8 wrestlers, "Raging" Andy Organ, Harvee Dee, Gregg Hearty, Dynamite Pegasus, Jonny "The Bull" Miavia, Mike Iceberg, Curtis Angel, and Ragnabrok. Since the name of the developer IS Serious Parody, I'm sure you can figure out who each wrestler is a parody of. Personally, I find the goofy names pretty awesome because it feels like a throwback to the old Fire Pro Wrestling games that had to come up with a bunch of goofy names for the wrestlers. As for match types, there's 7, with 6 being locked, they are:
*Available at start
There's also 1 alternate attire for each wrestler that can be unlocked. You can unlock match types, attires, and arenas by going through the Challenge Mode, and earning coins.
Challenge mode is the main mode of this game. Challenge mode is what it sounds like, a lot of different challenges, each challenge comes with 3 (or more) objectives, and tracks whether your match is a 5 star classic or not. To be honest, the first few challenges I did, i was just killing the objectives and then finishing the match, which lead to 1 or 2 star matches. You'll get more coin for higher star matches.
Graphically, this game is better looking than a lot of stuff out there right now, and it doesn't do the typical indie game thing where it's either pixel art dubbed "retro" or some weird artsy style. While the character models are far from realistic, they'd probably fall somewhere in like with cartoony muscle guys. But it works, so I can't knock it, i like the look of the characters and the arenas. Oddly, there's crowd noise piped in by speakers that you can see in the arenas if you really look, because there's no crowds. I kind of hope they add crowds via a patch or something, but really it's not that important.
Gameplay wise, this is where I have a lot of conflict. The controller scheme is something completely new to me, so it takes some getting use to. After a few playthroughs I really like it now, as you only need to press, at most, 2 buttons (at once) and flick the right analog stick to pull a move off, but mostly you'll be pressing one of the shoulder buttons and either hitting the right analog for grapples, or X for strikes. Working the limbs of your opponents, and seeing their knee give out under their weight while trying to perform a move, or favoring their arm, it's really nice to see that stuff. This game is probably the most cerebral wrestling game on the market right now. Oh, you could use psychology since the N64 days. Working body parts, even now in the 2K games, helps to win matches quicker. but the PRESENTATION of it. The way working the knee affects a match, it's never been done like this before, and it's a breath of fresh air. The problems with the gameplay come with glitches where grapples cause wrestlers to teleport and switch places to finish the move. But, I mean, that's really the biggest, consistent, problem I've seen. And that's not bad.
The sound of the game is typical wrestling sound, though I give immense credit on not using generic rock music or public domain music or something to cut cost. The music in this game is all original, all be it parody of real songs, but even if they're parodies they sound pretty great. My favorite is Harvee Dee's theme.
Considering this is their first outing, and their own original engine, they've really powerbombed it out of the park, and into a table. Is it a perfect game? No. Is it the fabled second coming of No Mercy, no. But it doesn't need to be. Once the little problems are patched, and once whatever planned DLC is implemented, it'll carve it's own niche in wrestling video game lore.It's not the greatest game, it needs small work in a lot of areas. I think once it's patched and everything's working solidly, it'll be one of the greatest wrestling games in the past 10 years.
Score: 3 1/2 Stars