Review by JPeeples

Reviewed: 01/21/03 | Updated: 01/21/03

Sub-par piece of junk.

Before Legends of Wrestling II, I never thought a series could fall so far, so quickly. The first in the series was a nice little game that had its’ flaws and added some innovations to wrestling games, such as weapon grapples. I figured that the sequel would fix the flaws from the first game, and add to the innovations. Boy was I ever wrong. Also, since the first two LoW games were developed by different teams than the God-awful Acclaim WWF and ECW games, I figured that maybe, just maybe, they’d learn from their mistakes. Sadly, I was wrong. Acclaim has shipped out a game that doesn’t do any of the wrestlers in it justice thanks to the highly inaccurate move sets that have been given to the wrestlers. Now, it might just be me, but I can’t see Hulk Hogan and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper busting out moonsaults off a steel cage. Nor can I see Bobby “the Brain” Heenan rattling off rolling German suplexes. This problem was prevalent in the first game as well, but it’s been taken to new extremes in the sequel.

Despite the game’s flaws I will give Acclaim their due. They’ve included every wrestler from the first game, except for Rob Van Dam, and have risked plenty of lawsuits from WWE in an effort to recreate the gimmicks of some of the wrestlers. Most notably, Ted Dibiase’s Million Dollar Man gimmick and Rick Martel’s “the Model” gimmick made it into the game in some form. The former due to his “Money” theme from the WWF being nearly recreated, and the latter due to his atomizer full of his fragrance Arrogance being brought down to ringside by him.

As per usual, Acclaim faltered again by not including the shoot interviews that are in the PS2 and Xbox versions of the game. These interviews were quite insightful and most of them were very funny thanks to the charisma of the participants. It’s a crying shame that they aren’t in this version of the game, since they were, sadly, the highlight of the other versions of it.

The majority of the gameplay in LoW II uses Acclaim’s move-linking grappling system called the ISP system. In this system of gameplay, you initiate a grapple, then press a button to start the chain of wrestling moves that you can do. While this mode of gameplay can, at best, make matches into counter-wrestling spectacles that showcase some of the best wrestling you’ll ever find; at the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find out how limiting it ends up being. The key problem I have with this gameplay system is that all of the transitional moves, like go-behinds and counters, feature choppy animation that makes the matches look like a sham. Despite all the bad, Acclaim did fix one of the key flaws in the system from the first game. The original LoW featured some extremely slow gameplay. While this could occasionally be chalked up to a match having a methodical pace, more often than not, the time spent not doing anything due to the player not being given the option to do anything was needless. Hopefully, you will like the additions made to the gameplay, because you will be spending lots of time using it in the meat and potatoes of the game, the career mode.

The career mode takes wrestling back to the days before Vincent Kennedy McMahon. made professional wrestling a national pastime, back to the days when regional organizations ruled the roost. Each region, just like in the game, was separated into territories. The career mode does an amazing job at replicating the scope of regional wrestling. It not only encompasses the United States regional wrestling scene, but the international wrestling scene as well. First, you pick your wrestler, then you get to pick out which storylines you’d like to participate in. Which storylines you get will vary from wrestler-to-wrestler.

This aspect of the mode lets you recreate some of the most memorable feuds in wrestling history, like Jimmy Snuka vs. “The Rock” Don Muraco, Andre vs. Big John Studd (complete with a body slam challenge mode,) and Jerry “the King” Lawler vs. Andy Kaufman. No matter who you choose, you will go from territory to territory, and, when you conquer each territory, you will have a match for that region’s championship. After you win the championship in one region, you move to another region, unify that region’s championship, and then do it again, until you unify all of the regional championships to crown the undisputed World’s Heavyweight Champion. The best thing I can say about the career mode is that it really seems like you’re starting out a career in wrestling. You’ll start off fighting jobbers in gyms, then move up to facing actual name-brand wrestlers in decent arenas. On top of that, you will receive some words of wisdom from the promoter of each territory throughout your career.

The negative parts of the mode lie in the problems with the gameplay, since the game, while fun, can tend to drag on if you try to take on too much of it at once. If you pace yourself, and have realistic expectations, you’ll probably like the mode. There are also some big-time glitches that can really ruin the mode. I’ve had to repeat numerous matches and storylines due to some oddity in the game design. Under no circumstances should this kind of crap make it through the testing process, and it really makes the product look bush-league. Despite the many flaws in the gameplay, it’s still a fun game to play. The game can get pretty addictive, and odds are, you will get sucked into it at least once.

The control in LoW II is about as hit-or-miss as you’re ever likely to find. Sometimes, the controls can be quite responsive, other times, they can be muddy as hell. Since the ISP system relies on quick, responsive button presses to work, the controls can really mess up a match for you. Thankfully, the control scheme used for the game doesn’t hinder the player any more than the iffy controls do. The button layout is logical and works with the player. Thank God.

The graphics in LoW II look nearly identical to the ones used in the first game. As with the original, the characters are made to have their best features accentuated in order to give them a more flattering appearance. Also, like the first game, they’ve all been given a shiny coating around their bodies that makes them look like action figures. I really enjoy this visual style since I’d rather have a game with a bunch of action figures than one with a bunch of overweight, scarred bodies. The animation in the game, as I noted earlier, is sub-par. With the exception of the finishing moves of the wrestlers, nearly everything in the game features choppy animation. Now, I could forgive this flaw in the first game, but there’s no excuse for it to be in the second game.

The sound in the game underwent a major overhaul when compared to the first game. The original LoW featured a bunch of crappy, generic songs for background music for the matches, while the second game features licensed tunes throughout it. The most notable song used is the game’s title track, “Superstar” by Saliva. The song features some rather eerie lyrics involving drugs and death, which is kind of spooky due to the personal problems and present states of some of the wrestlers in the game. The theme music in the game also underwent an overhaul of sorts. The original game featured a ton of generic songs for the wrestlers, along with some sound-alike themes. Now this was an understandable flaw due to the legal issues involved with getting the actual theme music for the wrestlers. It would have been perfectly acceptable for Acclaim to do this game, but they went above and beyond the call of duty by hiring Jimmy Hart to create new theme music for most of the wrestlers. Acclaim was able to buy the rights to Hulk Hogan’s WCW theme “American Made” from WWE, which really impressed me. They also had Jimmy Hart make great sound-alike themes for Ted Dibiase Bret Hart’s WWF themes.

The replay value of LoW II depends on how you approach the game. If you approach it like I did, with low expectations for the gameplay and the desire to recreate some of your fondest wrestling memories, you’ll probably get quite a bit of use out of the game. If you are looking for a game that will offer you pristine gameplay, glitz, and glamour, you will be sadly disappointed. For me, having a game that lets me recreate Jimmy Snuka’s famous dives off the top of a cage onto Don Muraco and Bob Backlund, and a game that lets me recreate the legendary Paul Orndorff vs. Hulk Hogan feud, as well as recreate the first ever ladder match, with Dynamite Kid facing Bret Hart, is more than worth the price of admission. LoW II’s create-a-legend is actually worse than the one featured in the first game. The selection of moves is even more paltry, since moves were removed. The appearance features aren’t much better; while you can create a decent-looking version of Goldberg and Steve Austin, anything more complex, appearance-wise, is too taxing since you simply don’t have many clothing options to choose from. To make matters worse, Acclaim did the same thing they did with the GC version of the original LoW and took out the create-a-stencil option that is available in the other versions of the game.

All in all, Legends of Wrestling II is a bittersweet disappointment. I came into it expecting that some of the flaws from the first game would be fixed, instead, Acclaim added more flaws, and some glitches to boot. On the other hand, I think that being able to recreate some of my fondest wrestling memories in a game is worth the price of admission. If you can’t think of anything you’d like to see recreated in a game that hasn’t been done before, then don’t get this game. You might want to give it a rental, at most, but if you can’t think of anything you’d like to see recreated, you would probably be better served to go buy another game.

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

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