WCW vs. NWO: WORLD TOUR / THQ / Nintendo 64

It's easy to overlook WCW vs NWO World Tour in light of all the games that came after it that built on its template but added more features and fancier graphics. This was really the breakthrough game for the wrestling genre, though; prior to this the best games were the Fire Pro Wrestling series, which never made it out of Japan except for via the occasional hardcore importer, and what few other wrestling games weren't pieces of crap usually were more like arcade fighting games than any kind of a real wrestling sim.

That doesn't mean the game is total smoothness, or hasn't aged poorly. Control is still overall a bit on the stiff and slow side, there's some issues with collision detection (the good ol' "Ha ha! You can't hit me in THIS particular frame of animation!" thing). The gameplay is simple and fairly fluid, though, a marked improvement over other preceding 3D efforts that had overcomplicated and even stiffer systems with a very limited suite of moves.

The roster trips us back to the late 1990s, when the WCW was ruling TV (due I guess to the WWF having too many wrestling clowns and accountants or whatever.) There's a WCW roster that are apparently the good guys and a NWO roster that are apparently the bad guys; I'm not up on wrestling since about the mid-1990s but I looked up some of these dudes and a bunch of them moved on to the WWE in more recent years. A few of them died, too, apparently. One of them killed his family then himself in an apparent case of 'roid rage, making that one a bit of an uncomfortable choice for multiplayer matches. Otherwise, though, I like the roster here. Aside from the WCW/NWO, there's also a bunch of Japanese wrestlers whose names had to be changed to ridiculous things like Kim Chee and Dim Sum to get around the fact that they weren't licensed to use the names outside of Japan. This part of it is subjective; if you have an appreciation for the lulz and the absurd the roster is great, but if you're a hardcore Srs Bzns wrestling fan you may not like it so much (then again, you might, given the mixture of Japanese favorites and American classics.)

The graphics are definitely dated, but were pretty nice for 1997. The audience is a blurry mess and none of the rings are anything special, but the wrestlers at least have recognizable features and builds, and the animation is pretty fluid considering the range of moves that everyone has. The music consists of generic MIDI rock that isn't anything memorable but suits the background well enough. The one aesthetic weak point here has to be the voice clips, which are limited to grunts and groans, and due to this game basically just being a hasty convert of the Japanese Virtual Pro Wrestling 64, sound awfully Asian to be coming out of big white doods like Hollywood Hogert and the Giant.

The other big weakness is the computer AI. This game is beautiful chaotic fun for four human players, but the computer is a complete incompetent 'tard. As soon as you get the hang of the basics you'll be shredding through all the single-player challenges in no time.

As far as modes of play go, there's a pretty good variety. Aside from one-off exhibitions, the main draw for single players is the various title belt tournaments, where winning each means you unlock a new character for general use. There's I think twelve of these in all, which would have made for some pretty good play value if the game wasn't so ridiculously easy. For multiplayer, aside from straight-up regular matches, you can also run a limited league where wins and losses for each character are charted, set up impromptu tournaments, there's also a Battle Royale where up to four players can be dumped in against each other in a total free-for-all. There's no "story mode", it doesn't have exotic cage matches and all of that, and you can't create your own wrestlers, but among those only the latter I find to be a real loss here.

I may be overvaluing this one a bit due to personal nostalgia of crazy multi-player matches back in '98, and there's really no major reason to pick this one up when games on the N64 much less more recent systems have gone on to vastly overshadow it, but if you just want a simple and fun wrestling game for four players without all the WWE cheesiness this a good choice at a bargain price.

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