Born originally as a mostly unknown Japanese wrestling franchise, Fire Pro Wrestling has been around for quite a while and has brought around 20 different iterations. The main thing holding the Fire Pro Wrestling games from going global is the fact that they never featured any major licensing behind them, leaving them to make characters that look similar to actual wrestler but are definitely not. Because that would be illegal and WWF/WWE takes their legalities seriously.
The original Fire Pro Wrestling games have very little to do with the newest addition to the series apart from the fact that there are still no professional wrestlers to be found. Instead, you must use your avatar to defeat your foes. This idea is undoubtedly interesting (and probably quite hard to integrate) but doesn’t affect things to drastically in the grand scheme. The best thing comes from customizing your avatar in whatever different and completely random outfit you prefer. You can purchase more clothes from Fire Pro’s Locker Room section but the sad part is that it doesn’t translate to your actual avatar outside of the game. I guess that is to be expected but it would have been a neat addition.
One of the biggest issues with the more popular WWE wrestling game franchise is that the controls are just too damn complicated for newcomers. It really seems to take multiple hours of practice to get the controls down to where you know what move you’re doing next. Fire Pro Wrestling took that issue and attempted to rectify it by simplifying their controls to just a few buttons. Strikes are done with X, A, and Y, while grapples are done by pressing B. You then go into a mini game where you must press one of the four face buttons and as long your opponent doesn’t press the same button, you will perform whatever move you have assigned to the button you pressed.
The simple controls work well and are incredibly easy to pick up, the issue is that they just are not very fun to execute. None of the moves have a strong force behind them (apart from the finishers) which leads to the player just being bored while watching every animation play out. Another issue is that since you only have a total of 3 grapple moves (Y is used to Irish Whip an opponent), you find yourself watching the same animations over and over again. You can purchase more moves but you’d have to do that after every match if you wanted to keep things fresh and not only is that near impossible, it’s just not fun and helps you further realize no move is good enough to hold your attention after multiple attempts.
In a standard fighting game (Street Fighter, Tekken, etc.), online is everything. In wrestling games, however, online has been a mostly irrelevant feature due to the lag that is always placed between the moment you mash a button to the time your action appears on screen. Fire Pro Wrestling does not fix that issue, it only makes it worse. The lag can at times become so drastic that a move is taking place a full 3-5 seconds after you pressed the button. Unless you’re taking Fire Pro very seriously, this can at times add a bit of hilarity to the online. There’s no denying that it lessens the excitement but it definitely beefs up the insanity. Another issue that the matchmaking is awful. Surprisingly, there are quite a few people online playing Fire Pro Wrestling, but in every tag match I’ve joined, it has always been two level 90-100’s vs. two level 20-50’s. While it will never run perfectly and will definitely frustrate you, the online is fun for a bit, even it is just broken fun.
While it may be an issue that most will not realize, I couldn’t help myself from constantly feeling like Fire Pro Wrestling was an indie game. Everything from the standard font on screen to the art style made me think the game was originally destined for the Indies service instead of the Arcade. The art style and integration of avatars is a thing you see in many sports Indie games. That being said, thankfully, Fire Pro Wrestling is better than your average indie game.
The heart behind Fire Pro Wrestling is very apparent in every inch of its design. The problem is that after creating a good design document, they forgot to make a fun game. It’s more approachable than any other WWE game ever released but it’s far from better. If your kids want a wrestling game to mess around with, go ahead and pick this up. If you want a wrestling game, your best bet is to hope that WWE ’13 is good and save your money for that.
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