Retro Game Of The Week: WWF Super Wrestlemania (SNES)

Super Wrestlemania wasn’t a good game when it was new — and time has not been kind to it in any way at all.

In Retro Game Of The Week I pull a game from my collection and write about why it’s important or interesting. Or in some cases, badly dated and rubbish.

I throw that paragraph at the top of each retro game of the week, but to date, relatively few of them have been actual stinkers.

OK, I did do Ultraman… and Knight Rider Special… and (shudder) Bart vs The World, but still, bad games have been the exception, mostly.

It’s Wrestlemania season, with Wrestlemania 40 about a month away, and a new WWE 2K game due for release next week, so it felt right to me to do a wrestling game as this week’s game — and I have many to choose from.

I wasn’t much of a fan of watching professional wrestling as a kid, but what did hook me in were the video games. The good ones, that is. Games like Mat Mania/Exciting Hour, or WWF Superstars and WWF Wrestlefest, or of course (a little later), WWF No Mercy.

Then… there’s WWF Super Wrestlemania.

There’s a reason why Lord Alfred Hayes isn’t actually showing you the game here.

One of the first third party SNES games I recall seeing on store shelves (bearing in mind that the PAL territory release of the SNES was a little later than in the US and Japan, so we had a wider library to pick from), and one that intrigued me based on the fact that Superstars and Wrestlefest were pretty decent little arcade brawlers. Unfair as hell coin gobblers to the end, naturally, but fun.

Also available on Sega Mega Drive (but I’ve never owned that version).

Super Wrestlemania is not fun, and it’s perhaps the least suitable title to bear a “Super” suffix of any of them, even though that absolutely was the style at the time for SNES games. LJN (well, Acclaim really by this point) had crapped out terrible 8-bit WWF game after terrible 8-bit WWF game, but surely the unrivalled power of the Super Nintendo, and the fact that it already had genuinely good 1-on-1 fighters on it such as Street Fighter II would mean they’d step up their game to compete, right?

You might want to think that if you were a WWF fan at the time… but you’d be wrong.

Dead wrong. Super Wrestlemania is super dull and super limited, with a roster of ten (count ’em!) wrestlers.

Pictured: 40% of the game’s entire roster.

Or, really, one.

Sure, the selection screen might offer you up Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, The Undertaker, Sid Justice, Hawk, Animal, Earthquake and Typhoon to play as, and they do have their own vaguely-reminiscent in-game sprites, I guess…

Precisely WHAT move are they trying to do here?
Put your answers in below (or submit them to Botchamania)

Actually, I am being unfair there, because the visual spectacle of these digitised characters did have some impact back in 1992, especially compared to the awful sprites of LJN’s 8-bit games. I won’t say they looked “good”, but they were undeniably “better” than what had come before, and that maybe counts for a little.

Also in the maybe-counts-for-a-little pile is the fact that if you hit both shoulder buttons while picking your wrestler, the game will play a chiptune version of their theme. A cute easter egg, that one, and one that’s somehow stayed lodged in my brain for decades. But I digress…

Thrill-packed high-flying lucha action… will not be on the card tonight.

So, there’s ten WWF superstars to choose from, but it matters in no way whatsoever who you choose, because everyone has the exact same moves and animations for those moves. So The Undertaker (at that time 100% in his slow-moving zombie phase of his gimmick) throws the same fast dropkick as Randy Savage, which is the same one that Hawk does, also Hogan,and so on and so forth. They’re just in a different visual wrapper, all tied up in a very dull fighting game engine.

You can punch. You can kick — all the same kicks for all wrestlers again — and you can run the ropes to deliver the same moves, or often mis-time it and crash into your opponent. It’s basically never worth doing.

What about the wrestling action? Yeah, well… about that. Super Wrestlemania uses a simple button mashing system to determine who wins when wrestlers lock up to deliver their moves. Aha, you think, this is where I’ll see the Earthquake Splash, Million Dollar Dream, Doomsday Device or Big Leg Drop(tm), right?

Wrong. No finishing moves, silly, that would have improved Super Wrestlemania. You just have the same selection of simple slams, headbutts and suplexes, again shared across all of your grapplers. Fight until your foe’s energy bar is depleted and a pinning victory is all but assured… if you last that long.

The whole button mashing thing doesn’t age well, especially on harder modes or if playing against human competition, where you basically just thump the SNES controller longer than your mate can be bothered to before realising that you’d be better off putting Street Fighter II back in the SNES anyway.

Lockups. One part wrestling move, one part realising that whoever programmed this should be locked up.

You’re even insulted in terms of game modes, with single bouts, tag team bouts or a four-on-four survivor series mode to pick from. All individual matches, there’s no titles to fight for here, and with only 10 wrestlers to pick from, there’s only so many 4-on-4 combinations you can make, especially if (like me) you refuse to have Hulk Hogan anywhere near you.

LJN did improve the formula a little bit with WWF Royal Rumble (yes, I’ve got that too) and apparently also with WWF RAW, though I never saw a copy of that one in any stores here in Australia.

An animated GIF of victory would have exactly the same number of frames as this still picture.

Though when I say “improve”, they still stuck with the tedious button mashing mechanic, so it was very much a question of polishing the ordure, if you follow me.

WWF Super Wrestlemania
Incorrect, Fink. The winners here are anybody who didn’t play WWF Super Wrestlemania.

What’s really galling here is that this was all we got for wrestling game options in that era in the EU/PAL territories. Sure, there was the WCW Superbrawl game — by Australia’s Beam Software, no less! — but that never saw release outside of the USA.

But I’m not thinking there, but instead of Japan, which saw numerous excellent entries in the Fire Pro Wrestling series, as well as numerous competitors to its throne. I own many of them — and all of them are leagues ahead of dreck like Super Wrestlemania.

How can I play Super Wrestlemania today?

WWF Super Wrestlemania

No, your eyes are NOT deceiving you. Having spent this entire entry talking about how awful and dull WWF Super Wrestlemania is, I reveal that I own not one, but two copies of it.

What gives? The upper PAL version I’ve had for a few decades; it was cheap — about $5 if memory serves — in a second hand place in the late 90s and I thought I could have a laugh with it with a mate of mine.

I was right.

We had one laugh, precisely.

The lower Japanese version was in a junk bin in Super Potato in Akihabara. That’s a store that’ll throw a painful price premium on anything retro, so it was somewhat shocking to see it there, pristine but for the torn pricing stickers (which suggest it had also been through a Hard Off at some stage) for the grand price of… 50 yen.

I figured if nothing else, I could use its interior plastic insert for other, better games (basically anything else in the SNES catalogue) and when was I going to see a copy for the equivalent of fifty cents again?

Still, if it wasn’t clear already, you really shouldn’t bother trying to play Super Wrestlemania, either on the SNES or the Mega Drive version with its slightly different roster.

But if you’re a masochist, eBay sold copies appear to be going for about $15-$20, maybe $30-$40 boxed. Which based on my experiences buying Japanese copies is only about $14.50 too much…

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