Welcome dudes and dudettes to another edition of 16-Bit-Beach, where the greatest video games retire in glory… or do they?
Last Monday was a milestone night in the world of professional wrestling, as Monday Night Raw celebrated its 1000th episode. It’s hard to believe it’s been around for so long. Hell, that means it’s been almost 1000 weeks since the game we’re reviewing this week was released. It’s time to step into the ring with LJN’s swan song in the 16-bit wrestling era, WWF Raw? Is this game a five star classic, or just another jabroni? Let’s find out.
1000 weeks ago, on a USA Network far far away, The WWF began their massive leap into the jungles of prime time television. Monday Night Raw made its first airing on January 11th, 1993, and since then it’s either been an uphill or downhill climb depending on your POV. Despite that though, Raw proved to be a massive success, and despite near demise at the hands of rival company WCW, The WWF, (Now WWE) managed to survive the Monday night wars, and continue to be the biggest name in wrestling.
The WWF saw a few games on the SNES and Genesis prior to Raw. There was Super Wrestlemania and WWF Royal Rumble. Both released by everyone’s “favorite” happy rainbow, LJN. LJN had the rights to WWF video games since the early 90’s with Wrestlemania Challenge, a game I previously reviewed for Playing With Power. And while that one was quality, for the most part the games that followed were pretty bad. Though that seemed to change with Royal Rumble, which was actually pretty fun. They would finish off their WWF era of games before tagging in Acclaim to finish off the 90’s WWF game era with Raw. The game was released in November of 1994, during the height of the “New Generation”. Think PG WWE, only more kiddy.
The WWF did a solid job in advertising this game, even having a tips and tricks video guide added to many of their coliseum home videos at the time, which featured tips and tricks to play the game. Sadly hosted by the “More annoying than Michael Cole” Todd Pettingill. So, a moves video, and a major push for the game. Is that enough to consider it a classic? Let’s continue.
For this review, I’ll be talking about the SNES Version, though most of the moves and tricks will still work for the Sega Genesis version as well.
WWF Raw is a one-to-four player wrestling game. You control your wrestler of choice through one of the many match modes in order to win. Pretty simple as that. You move your wrestler with the D-Pad, and execute different moves with all other major buttons in the game. For the SNES version, B and A will do kicks and punches, Y will run, or can also be used to exit the ring. X is your “initiate grapple” button While L and R will do eye rakes and chokes depending on if you’re out of the ring, or the ref’s down.
Grappling in the game works similar to a game of tug of war. First you get into a grapple position, and constantly tap buttons until you either fill your meter, or get it higher than your opponent. Everything from Irish Whips, suplexes, body slams, and DDTs can be hit. And unlike Royal Rumble, each wrestler has their own specific movesets and atributes that can change the gameplay slightly depending on the superstar.
To beat a wrestler, you have to lower their health bar. When it gets to red, your wrestler can hit a finishing move with the R button. These can be different depending on the superstar. There are grapple moves like the Tombstone or the Jackknife powerbomb. There are ground moves like the Sharpshooter. Corner moves like the Banzai Drop, running moves like the running forearm, and flying moves like the moonsault or Luna Eclipse. Pinning an opponent is done with the X button when above their downed carcass.
The game features a plethora of classic WWF superstars. Some of the 90’s biggest and baddest appear in this game. You get Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, Yokozuna, Doink the Clown, just to name a few. Even Luna Vachon is playable, making her the first female playable wrestler in a WWF game, even before Chyna. Each wrestler has their own stats as mentioned, and with special codes, you can change their stats, making them lighter, or stronger.
The game has several different match types. There’s one-on-one, Tag Team, Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, Bedlam, and the Raw Endurance Match. Some of the match types have three modes. One fall, which goes by basic wrestling rules, and require a pinfall to win. Brawl, which has you wear down the opponent until their health is depleted. And Tournament, which will have you face off with the WWF Roster, on your road to being the champ. I find the tournaments a let down in this game, as there’s far less of a hullabaloo if you win. At least in WWF Royal Rumble, you got your face on the magazine cover. Here it’s some fireworks, and back to the LJN logo. Lame.
Survivor Series is a multi-man match that goes on until you beat the opponents team one by one. You can switch tag partners with the select button, and each has their own health bar. The Royal Rumble is a battle royal where you throw your opponents over the top rope to remain the last man standing. You have to wear the enemies down fist, and then try to irish whip them over the top rope. Bedlam is an elimination tornado tag match where all opponents are in the ring at one time. Finally Raw Endurance match is a 6-on-6 battle. Similar to Survivor Series, exept it is set in 1-on-1 matches. Each match can be set in difficulty. From 1 the lowest, to 10 the highest. You also have the option to choose if you want to pick your opponents or let the CPU.
I also would be amiss if I didn’t talk about the super moves. Each wrestler has a unique special move they can pull off via a button combination. Some are effective and cool, like Yokozuna’s cannonball, or Doink the Clown’s field goal kick. Others however seem broken and lacking. I swear some like Luna’s somersault are impossible to land properly.
The game has decent controls, and the gameplay works quite well. While very basic, there are plenty of match options, enough things you can do in the ring and out. There are no major reasons for saves or passwords. It has a solid difficulty depending on your preferences, and it can be enjoyable enough for a time killing wrestling title on the SNES.
The game has some really well done graphics. Everything from the intro which replicates the original Raw opening extremely well, to the caricatures of the wrestlers rendered really well for 16-bits. The matches are well detailed too, with great wrestler sprites, a good looking crowd, even Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon are at the announce position. It’s some quality attention to detail, and really helps the game just a little bit more.
There really is no music during the matches themselves, but the game still uses plenty of themes from the WWF back in 1994, and they all sound amazing in 16-bit. Especially Bret Hart’s and Shawn Michaels’ themes, which I personally think are standouts from the soundtrack. If you’re a fan of these themes in their normal form, you should get some enjoyment from their video game forms.
WWF Raw is easily one of the best wrestling games on the Super Nintendo, however that’s mainly due to lack of quality competition. It looks great, has solid play control, and can be pretty fun, even if it’s not exactly the epitome of deep game design. But what you get is a game with enough to keep any fan of the old school 90’s WWF satisfied, not to mention it’s proof that LJN doesn’t always do wrong in the gaming world. I’d say give this one a play. It’s far from a Raw Deal.
RATING: Thumbs up