BIG BANG PRO WRESTLING / SNK / Neo Geo Pocket Color
 
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Big Bang Pro Wrestling is sort of a follow-up to SNK's arcade wrestler 3 Count Bout. It tempers that game's "brawly" style with some of the more timing-based elements of the Fire Pro games, however.
 


The roster is basically the move sets of WWE guys who were prominent when this was released around the Millenium (The Rock, Stone Cold, Kevin Nash) transposed onto original characters. You've got a roster of 10, with no character creation. Aside from one-off practice matches with customizable settings, the main mode of play for solo players is the IWC Championship mode, where you basically just go through all the other guys to face a final boss for the belt. The modes of play are pretty limited, but I did appreciate that each wrestler cuts a promo before your match and they have unique text for whoever they are facing.
 


The background graphics are decent, but the sprite work is odd. It's surprisingly fluid and detailed (considering the NGPC is basically a glorified Game Boy), with a lot of nice little touches like the ref repeatedly lifting a guy's wrist in the choke hold when they've taken a lot of damage. I also dig the Ninja Gaiden-esque cutscenes for ring entrances and in-ring special moves, which are fairly basic, but something I wish more 2D wrestlers had gone for now that I've seen them in motion here. However, apparently the price of this was a two-color palette for the wrestler sprites, making them look like something out of a 1980s computer game running on a CGA graphics card.
 


The detailed animation makes it feel more authentic than most 2D wrestlers, but the move sets are actually really limited. Each character only has one type of strike, and the other button alternates between launching you into a run (when moving) and their taunt (when not). I read in a couple of places that the grappling is supposed to be timing-based like Fire Pro, but if it is I never did figure out the timing and it still feels random as hell after playing for a couple of hours. It seems more like it works more often depending on how much damage you've already dished out.
 


The computer can be maddening about staying off your horizontal plane to avoid strikes (since you only attack directly left or right), but it's also not very smart and matches tend to not be too hard once you pick up on the game's little hinks. The biggest problem is that matches are too samey, you just sort of futz around until you get your special meter up, then it stays up forever so you just nail the opponent with a couple of specials and pin/submit them.
 


Ultimately, Big Bang Pro Wrestling is too simplistic and dated to really hold up well, but it's a technically solid game and has a lot of little flourishes I really like. Good thing it's decent, as I think it's the only wrestling option for the Neo Geo Pocket Color!
 
 
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