Fire Pro Wrestling. It’s a cult classic franchise that has picked up steam over the years. Even back in the day of the late ’90s, when the internet was still relatively new, I remember hearing the rumblings online of Fire Pro. People were talking about Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium for the Super Famicom and Fire Pro S: Six Man Scramble for the Sega Saturn. My brother bought Fire Pro G on the Sony PlayStation and we played it to death. A little later on I bought Six Man Scramble.
Fire Pro games are well known for being very realistic and in-depth. There were several entries on the Super Famicom but the last one, Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium, was the best of the 16-bit lot. Four could wrestle at once, and there was an extensive create a wrestler mode where you could create and save up to 80 wrestlers. It blew away any other “CAW” at that time (1996). It was revolutionary in many ways. The grappling is based on a timing and strength system. No button mashing here! I never was a huge fan of wrestling games where you had to mash away in order to win a grapple. Here you win based on timing, which is far more enjoyable. There are weak, medium and strong buttons. If you start out a match trying to use medium or strong moves, your opponent will counter because they’re still too fresh. No energy bars are shown — you’ll just instinctively know how strong or weak someone is.
REVOLUTIONARY FOR ITS TIME
There are a crap load of wrestlers to choose from. It spans many different federations and even include a few familiar American faces, like Hawk here of Road Warriors/Legion of Doom fame (R.I.P.)
SUPLEX CITY! Somewhere Brock Lesnar is pacing as Paul Heyman preps his vocal cords. “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MY NAME IS PAUL HEYMAN…”
There are several modes to select from. The game is mostly in Japanese but of course there is a fan English translation floating out there. I always switch the ref to this old guy here — he counts the slowest of all the refs and so the matches are extended a little bit beyond the norm.
HULK HOGAN and UNDERTAKER?! Yup, they’re available from the start.
Tonight’s main event is a FATAL FOUR WAY featuring the Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, Hayabusa and ECW’s homicidal, suicidal, genocidal death-defying maniac, SABU! It’s gonna be a barnburner, folks! That shot of all four men knocked out on the mat is a sign of the chaos and sheer insanity to come…
Hulkster does his classic pose. Sabu then points to the sky to honor his uncle, The Sheik. Just like their real life counterparts back in their hey day. Great attention to detail! Coming from HUMAN and Fire Pro you wouldn’t expect anything less.
Tonight’s main event will continue until there is one man (or dead man) left standing. Every man for himself, elimination style. Let’s check out the action!
Undertaker delivers a high impact side suplex while Hogan tries to shut up the marks with a well executed Boston Crab.
Hogan with the Big Leg Drop of Doom! Hayabusa tried to intercept it but his timing was a bit off there. In reality we all know nothing stops Hulkamania.
Hayabusa shows off his strength by slamming the dead man, followed by a nice senton flip. Meanwhile, the Hulkster delivers a sweet vertical suplex to the mad man, Sabu.
“STUNNER! STUNNER!! STUNNER!!!” -Jim Ross, probably
Taker with his patented beautiful running flying clothesline. Meanwhile, Hulk hits Sabu with a nasty pinning power bomb.
Hayabusa shows off his classic 450 Splash.
German suplex well executed. That’s gonna leave a mark.
Nobody ever said Sabu was smart now. He lives up to the “suicidal” part of his nickname, for sure. Meanwhile, notice that gorgeous DDT on the Hulkster there. Hayabusa spiked him good! Somewhere Jake “The Snake” Roberts is grinning.
FLYING SPINNING CARTWHEEL KICK AND A BEAUTY! Taker displays his power with a standing delayed vertical suplex. The mat crashes with the bodies of these fierce, insane gladiators.
Break up pin falls if you wish to have all the glory for yourself.
Hayabusa and Sabu form a temporary alliance to take down the Immortal One, but the Undertaker has other plans.
So much for that alliance, eh? Sabu turns on the masked warrior right after and gets him to submit. Not only that but judging by the referee’s X signal, that means we have a legitimate injury… after all, referees show the X sign in real life for real injuries. They’ve never used it as part of a storyline…
Speaking of the legendary Nature Boy, Ric Flair, look at Hogan taking a page out of Flair’s playbook!
Choke Slam and a beauty! That HAS to be it!
WHAT THE FU — !
Hogan tried to mock D-Generation X by doing their signature crotch chop, but the Dead Man wasn’t having any of that.
Guess Taker really took great offense to Hogan trying to rip off DX…
“WOULD SOMEBODY STOP THE DAMN MATCH!” Look at the way Sabu’s head bounced violently off the mat. “GOOD GAWD ALMIGHTY!” is right, Jim Ross.
“AS GOD IS MY WITNESS HE IS BROKEN IN HALF!” The winner of the match, via DEATH, THE UNDERTAKER!
NOT QUITE PERFECT, THOUGH
Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium does a lot of things right, especially for 1996 standards. However, it’s not quite perfect. For starters, when you’re near the apron of the ring it’s far too easy to fall outside. It’s awkward and kind of kills the flow of a match. This of course was fixed in later Fire Pro games. Another disappointment is that submission moves are way overpowered. I hate seeing an opponent tap out in a simple head lock hold five minutes into the match. It’s just not realistic. Later Fire Pro games gave you the option to turn submissions off, which negates this flaw. Unfortunately there’s no such option here. Another thing that this game is missing are steel cage matches, tables, fluorescent light bulbs, barb wire and all the crazy gimmicks and weapons that the later Fire Pro games would introduce. Think of this as a very PG and promising start to the series, but it’s far from being the “perfect” Fire Pro game. It’s like an early proto of what would become the successful backbone of the series. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent game but whenever I play it it’s hard not to think about the improvements the series would later introduce, and you kind of wish at least a few of those made their debut here. Hell, just give me the no submissions and I’d be happy. Nevertheless, even as is, this is easily one of the greatest wrestling games of the 16-bit era. Possibly even the greatest…
CAW CAW CAW!
The Create A Wrestler (CAW) mode was revolutionary for its time. You could create and save up to 80 wrestlers. There were tons of moves and body models to pick from that you could closely replicate your favorite titans of the squared circle. Here we see Macho Man Randy Savage, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Sgt. Slaughter and the Ultimate Warrior. They all resemble their real life counterpart pretty damn well! So if you take the time you can easily recreate the magic of late ’80s/early ’90s WWF!
It’s easy to see why Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium is so beloved. Released in March of 1996, it’s been over 20 years now and the game remarkably still holds up well. As I stated a bit earlier, there are definitely better more recent Fire Pro games available, but considering this now 20 plus year old game can still stand toe to toe with most wrestling games from ANY era is no doubt impressive indeed. It speaks to how innovative and fresh this game was back in ’96. You want to recreate the Attitude WWF era? Or the Ruthless Aggression era? Or WCW? ECW? Perhaps relive the Monday Night War? With a little time and devotion to the CAW mode, you can! The game certainly isn’t without its flaws but you simply have to appreciate how deep this game was and still is. Human did a great job and should be highly commended. The series definitely didn’t peak here, but it no doubt laid its grass roots with Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium.