If you’re around my age, you probably have fond memories of the World Wrestling Federation. You probably still geek out a little bit when you hear “Real American”, and you’ll never forget where you were when Ultimate Warrior pinned Hogan for the belt. Times have changed since then and (for better or worse) so has professional wrestling. Most of our heroes from that time have either passed on, are long retired, or only make occasional (mostly humiliating) appearances in modern media. Luckily, THQ and the WWE understand that many fans haven’t watched wrestling since the heyday of Jake the Snake and Mr. Perfect. With this segment of the population in mind, they’ve released WWE Legends of Wrestlemania; a firm dose of old school administered to the “casual” wrestling audience via simplified controls, larger than life character models, and an overflow of nostalgia.
LOW features the traditional exhibition and multiplayer offerings most fans have come to expect from modern wrestling games. You’ll find most of your favorite match types, from Hell in a Cell to the 30 man Battle Royal. There is also an online mode, which contains all the same standard modes as SVR. The games primary mode however, is the brand new Wrestlemania Tour mode. This option allows you to either Relive, Rewrite, or Redefine classic Wrestlemania matchups. In the Relive mode, you’ll take control of the winner of the classic match, and try to replicate the outcome. In Rewrite, you’ll take control of the loser, and try and turn his fortunes around.
Lastly, in redefine you’ll pick either wrestler and take on the match with a different match type (I.E. Ladder match, Hell in a Cell). In each of these modes, you’ll attempt to earn a gold medal by performing as many specific tasks as possible. These tasks are mostly made up goals in the Rewrite and Redefine modes, but Relive is where they really shine. In Relive, you’ll be tasked with recreating great moments from those classic matches, for example throwing the Rock into the WM15 sign or the most famous bodyslam in history during Hogan/Andre.
Of course, LOW features a full Create a Legend feature which allows you to invent new superstars or recreate legends that didn’t make the cut. The CAL mode is just as deep as you would expect, and should lead to some pretty faithful recreations. The only issue I have with the CAL mode is the short supply of non-specific entrances, which (while a minor issue) hurts the flexibility of the mode. Once created, the main gameplay option for your CAL is Legend Killer mode which tasks you with taking on a gauntlet of superstars with your created wrestler to build stats and experience. This mode is a fun way to build your CAL up, but it lacks the draw of the main Wrestlemania Tour mode. The other issue with LK mode is that you cannot save in the middle of a tier, which can lead to some frustration if you (like me) sometimes only have short spurts of time to play the game.
Of course, regardless of the various modes available, any wrestling game is only as good as its controls. In keeping with the casual friendly old school feel of the game, the controls are much more simplistic than those fans of the Smackdown series are used to. Each of the face buttons has a different action assigned to it, striking, grappling, reversal, and action. As matches play out, your wrestlers momentum meter will build. Once this three tiered meter reaches its pinnacle, you’ll be able to unleash your wrestler’s finisher. These finishers (as well as some other attacks/grapples in the game) are handled via a chain combo system. Once triggered, the game will begin a Quick Time Event button press mechanic that tasks you with pressing the button that corresponds to the correct onscreen prompt.
Each successful button press accomplishes another move in the finisher chain until the move is complete. For example, when initiating Hulk Hogan’s finisher chain, you’ll need to press the first button prompt to irish whip your opponent into the ropes. Next, you’ll press the button to give them the big boot to the face. Lastly, you’ll time the last button press to lay down the infamous leg drop. This system will surely throw fans of the much more technical SVR series, however it’s ideal for Legends of Wrestlemania’s target audience of casual fans.
Overall the game controls quite well once you get used to the simplified controls. That’s not to say there aren’t issues present however. I occasionally had trouble getting my character to irish whip my opponent in the correct direction. I also experience some occasional hit detection issues, and some instances in which my character wouldn’t dash when asked to. These issues were all very minor, and didn’t crop up all that often, however I do hope they’re addressed in the inevitable follow-up release.
In terms presentation, LOW does some great things. The character models in game are purposefully over exaggerated to mimic the larger than life presence most of these wrestlers have in the memories of fans. The arena’s are well modeled, and the entrances are authentic down to the graphic showing your wrestler’s name. By far the best choice in terms of presentation comes in the Wrestlemania Tour mode. Before each match in the mode, you’ll be given a video rundown of the events leading up the match. These rundowns use real WWE footage and add an incredible amount of both background and nostalgia to the mode.
LOW is a great step back in time for fans of wrestling from before WWE dropped the F. Gamers weaned on the Smackdown series will find themselves disappointed by the simplistic controls and lack of a true career mode here, but to be honest this game isn’t really for them. If you’re an old school wrestling fan who hasn’t dabbled in the “sport” since the SNES days, you’ll find a lot to love here. I hope that with the next iteration, THQ and WWE will consider expanding the game from just Wrestlemania moments to great moments from WCW, NWA, ECW and the AWA. Overall, THQ has put together a pretty great love letter here for old school wrestling fans, and laid down a pretty good foundation for a new series.