Review by Mars Hottentot

Reviewed: 11/29/03

The game with two brains!

To open, I'd like to say that PRIDE Grand Prix 2003 is one of the most contradicting games I've ever played. To understand what I mean, you need but to read on, gentle MMA gamer....

I must say that GAMEPLAY wise, this game is better and...worse. Yes, you can beat the computer even on hard and with your handicaps on, but I still found myself enjoying the living crap out of it. The new positions are great, and the flow has more of that frantic feel that real MMA has. Between two good players, PRIDE GP 2003 will be a great addition. The Grand Prix mode is much better, I like the opening qualifying matches to warm up for the real deal (not that they're necessary, but still...). On the down side, you can't fight back from a clinch, which is stupid, and when you're on the bottom (guard or otherwise), you have only one submission. Lame. Also, what can be seen as good and also bad is your breath doesn't run down unless you're hit, unlike the first game. In my opinion, that makes for a less strategic match, but maybe not to everyone.

Oddly, the GRAPHICS are both better and then worse at the same time. It looks less like the UFC style (which, from my point of view, is a definite plus), making it more unique, but then....
The overall level of quality has dropped significantly, it's almost as if this were a PS1 game that was ''pushing the very limits of what a PS1 can do!''. And the fighters? Well, the actual character models vary wildly in quality from one fighter to the next. Fighters like Mirko 'Cro Cop' Filipovic, Wanderlei Silva, Yoshi Takayama, and Kazushi Sakuraba look really, really good, some (Saku) even better than the first. However, fighters like Alexander Otsuka, Nobuhiko Takada (more on him later), Rodrigo Gracie, and most notably Igor Vovchanchyn look like some one you know who 'kinda' looks like the genuine article. To be frank, I hope Igor Vovchanchyn never plays PGP'03, because they make him out to be a fat, pasty white, drunken Russian. I mean, his nose is RED, people. To say that that is an unflattering representation would be an understatement. Unlike the first game, nobody opens their mouth. I guess that makes your Create a Fighter not stick out so bad- oh wait, no, they top themselves in making that better and worse too (more on that later). The arenas and crowd are fairly crappy as well.

Now, let's move on to ANIMATION. Again, somehow these are better, yet simultaneously much worse. Like I said earlier, the flow of the matches, once you've mastered the controls, looks and feels much like a real MMA match, from the struggle of your opponent trying to escape a submission hold to two combatants scrambling, limbs flailing about in an attempt to reach dominance. The new positions add a lot of replay value to the game. The side mount, tie up, and front & down mount are MMA staples and there's nothing quite as satisfying as throwing a series of knees into the top of Wandelei Silva's head. Plus, they've added a lot of personality to individual fighters, from Sakuraba's jumping fist and flying feet stomp, to 'Cro Cop's' instant KO kick, and one of the weirdest and greatest testaments to Japanese 'Fighting Spirit': both Don Frye and Yoshi Takayama have a tie up that turns into an INSANE punch up!! Both fighters will lockup with each other, and pound the living crap out of each others face! A black Kanji will appear on either side of your fighter and as you spin the left analog stick, it fills up with DEEP RED BLOOD!!! If yours reaches the top before your opponents, you win the struggle and your enemy loses a bunch of energy. It's also great when you knock guys out this way. Very satisfying. Another nice touch is, although the graphics of the ropes are like mid period PS1 (no joke), they DO move when your character hits them.
On the downside, some of the tapouts look anatomically impossible, there are some light collision detection problems (hits from about a foot away occasionally, slight sinkage into the mat), the intros are dull (come on, give us Sakuraba in his wacky gear!), and worst of all the winning animation. In PRIDE FC, when you won the Grand Prix, you had what was easily the BEST celebration I've ever witnessed in a wrestling/MMA game. Confetti, your team, the announcers, camera guys, the trophy, all of it made me go ''WOW!'' the first time I saw it. Here, after a moment of black nothingness, one of your team members does the Atari over to your character as he stiffly apes the original's celebratory animation. Then, without the trophy, the photo ops of you posing with your belt, or any of that stuff, your guy just yells into the ceiling. It looks like he's screaming ''WHAT THE HELL? I WENT THROUGH ALL THAT FOR THIS?!?!''.

The CREATE A FIGHTER (CAF) is, you guessed it, better and completely awful at the same time. While they've given you plenty more options of how your guy will look (although the faces are kind of non-descript), they've taken away your ability to assign your moves!!! Now you choose between three options: Puroresu (pro-wrestling), Striker, and Grappler. Then you get to pick another sub-category to give your guy 'personality'. Very underwhelming, although the puroresu preset is pretty hilarious with the copying of Bob Sapp's infamous piledriver/powerbomb on Antonio 'Minotauro' Noguiera.

The SOUND/MUSIC is .....yes, Johnny, it IS better and also worse. There is commentary, which is okay, but never really reaches that ''Giant Gram'' level of excitement. The in game SFX are great, except the punching sound happens at completely unnecessary moments, like when someone shoots for your legs and you take an airswing: ''DOOSH!''. What? The music is your usual boring mix of over-baked techno and luke-warm metal. I'm in my thirties, so maybe I SHOULDN'T like the music, right?
Finally, the load times are not *that* long, but compared to PFC1,which seemed to have no loading time, it's like an eternity.
Scoring this game is useless, so just make up your mind from what you just read, natch?

Alot of folks have complained about the fact that the hidden fighters are just Saku in a mask, Nobuhiko Takada, and... the ref.
I just wanted to justify WHY they may have done this (except for the ref). You see, over in Japan, the seeds for MMA were planted a LONG time ago in a puroresu federation called UWF. UWF, who ran a very MMAish brand of wrestling, spawned most of those who would go on to pioneer actual Combat Sports: Akira Maeda (RINGS), Yoshiaki Fujiwara (inventor of the Fujiwara Armbar, owner PWFG{which, in a way, spawned PANCRASE}), and Nobuhiko Takada (UWFi). UWFi, the third incarnation of UWF, was wildly popular, and their top draw was Nobuhiko Takada (as a side note, Kazushi Sakuraba and Yoshihiro Takayama were also in UWFi but were just rookies at the time). When it came time to start up PRIDE, they needed someone that would sell tickets and Takada fit that bill to great success. True, most of his PRIDE wins were fixed and he's probably one of the most underwhelming fighters in a real match, but without him you probably wouldn't be reading this as there probably wouldn't BE a PRIDE Fighting Championship. The Saku Machine is just a playful homage to Sakuraba's old UWFi/New Japan 'Strong Machine' masked wrestler gimmick. The ref, look man, I don't know... it coulda been Igor Vovchanchyn's manager/wife.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Would you recommend this Review? Yes No

Got Your Own Opinion?

Submit a review and let your voice be heard.