On September 17, 2017, we lost one of the truly great ones. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. THE heel manager of the late 1980s and early 1990s, if you were a pro wrestling fan you loved to boo Bobby Heenan. He was a once in a lifetime performer. Always entertaining, Bobby knew how to make you laugh and hate him all at the same time. When he passed last September, I wanted to convert over my old review of the Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling games. That’s because in that review, I used Bobby Heenan to call the action. But life got busy and it never happened.
Earlier today it was announced that Big Van Vader passed away on June 18, 2018. Vader was featured in the first Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling game so it’s time. It’s Vader Time!
Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling is something of a sentimental purchase for me. The reason being it was the first Super Famicom game that I bought, and what started the “obscure” Super Famicom march for me. I remember it fondly. It was an early Monday morning, March 27, 2006. 4:22 AM. Yep, I was a vampire. I sniped Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling on eBay with 3 seconds to go. Crazy times. Anyway, this is the first of Varie’s Super Famicom wrestling trilogy. It features impressive big sprites of famous wrestlers like LIGER and VADER (10 in all).
The grapple system relies on timing similar to the Fire Pro series. I was hoping it would be as good as Fire Pro. Unfortunately I think Varie spent too much time on the graphics because while they look great, the frame rate is choppy to the point where it’s just not very fun to play. This game was a huge letdown for me. The graphics are awesome, sure, but it doesn’t play very well. It’s too bad because it had a lot of potential. In terms of visuals, it actually reminds me a bit of WWF WrestleFest. Just a shame it didn’t play better.
A bittersweet experience, then. My first Super Famicom purchase so I’ll always remember it. But as a game itself? Not all that great. Varie followed this up with a sequel. Let’s see if it’s any better.
The first game, Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling: Chou Senshi in Tokyo Dome, was released on September 14, 1993. The sequel, Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling ’94: Battlefield in Tokyo Dome, came out less than a year later (August 12, 1994). The sprites have been downsized and as a result the frame rate has been improved, making this sequel much more playable than its predecessor.
The roster doubled, going from 10 to a whopping 20 (including the Legion of Doom and yes, a very young pre-homicide Chris Benoit). Unfortunately, it still doesn’t quite come together.
Similar to the first game, it looks pretty good but something about the gameplay is a bit off, despite the improved frame rate. It’s a much better effort than the first one though, but it still doesn’t match the quality of a Fire Pro.
Varie would give it one last try. Might the third time be the charm?
Released on June 30, 1995, Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling ’95: Tokyo Dome Battle 7 is the third and final game in the Shin Nippon trilogy (not counting the female version Stardust Suplex). Did Varie finally get it right? Well, somewhat. It’s easily the best of the trilogy but it still pales in comparison to Fire Pro. Some roster changes were made, though 20 remains the count. Say goodbye to the Great Muta and hello to the Great Sasuke. The frame rate is the best of the trilogy and the graphics were not sacrificed either. Weapons are introduced. But what really makes this game is the new FATAL FOUR WAY BATTLE ROYAL mode. It’s good fun and slightly reminiscent of Capcom’s Saturday Night Slam Masters (although that one was a Texas Tornado Bedlam rather than a true Fatal Four Way Match).
At this time, I’ll hand the mic over to my two all-time favorite commentators: the late great Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. They’ll call the action that follows. Tonight we have a special treat for you. A blistering Fatal Four Way Battle Royal!
Introducing first… from PARTS UNKNOWN… he IS… THE MASKED MAULER… THE MONARCH OF THE MAT… THE MINISTER OF MENACE… THE GREAT SASUKE!!!
And introducing, from Michigan, Scott Steiner.
[The f*ck! -Scott Steiner]
And THEIR OPPONENTS… first he hails from THE COSMOS… he IS… the SUBMISSION SPECIALIST… the SADISTIC SAVAGE… the SANGUINARY SOLDIER… JUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER!!!
And finally, he resides from Bay City, Michigan… Rick Steiner.
[HEY! What gives? -Rick Steiner]
Bobby: You know Monsoon, the Steiners are brothers. Gorilla: Give me a break! Bobby: I hate all four of these guys. I hope they all cripple each other. Gorilla: Will you stop! How do you sleep at night? Bobby: Oh, on my side, usually… Gorilla: You need professional help. Bobby: What?! Just answering your question! Sometimes I sleep on my stomach though… Gorilla: WHAT A PIECE OF WORK YOU ARE!
Gorilla: [ignoring the Brain] Ladies and gentlemen, history will be made here tonight. Capacity crowd, jam packed to the rafters, the electricity is so thick you can cut it with a knife.
Bobby: I have to give the edge here to Liger, much as I can’t stand his guts, Monsoon. He’s the quickest.
Gorilla: Rick Steiner might be at a distinct disadvantage here because he’s the most lethargic of the four.
Bobby: And he’s slow too!
Gorilla: WHAT A PEARL HARBOR JOB! Bobby: I told you Monsoon! Sasuke was my guy all along! Gorilla: Will you be serious? The guys with the white coat and the net are going to be looking for you. Bobby: I rather not see your family again.
Gorilla: The irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Bobby: So much for that theory.
Gorilla: Sasuke is really stretching out those lateral collateral ligaments in the knee. Bobby: IN ENGLISH PLEASE!
Gorilla: Ouch! That’s excedrin headache number 2,182. Makes me glad I retired. Bobby: [Mocking Gorilla] There’s one to the cervial dervial part of the neck! Gorilla: Oh will you stop!
Gorilla: Sasuke just pinned and eliminated Rick Steiner! We now have a triple threat match! It’s pandemonium! Bobby: I told you Monsoon, he was just too slow for this type of match. Gorilla: [Mockingly] And lethargic too, right? Bobby: Yeah, that too.
Gorilla: Good night nurse! Bobby: Not if she spent it with you! Gorilla: Grow up, Brain. Bobby: Hey Monsoon, you know why the Great Sasuke wears a mask? Gorilla: No, why? Bobby: Have you looked in the mirror lately? Gorilla: Will you please!
Gorilla: Sasuke has taken over the match! The arena is deafening! Bobby: Get that Benjamin ready for me, Monsoon! Gorilla: Will you stop! What kind of broadcast journalist are you? Bobby: The kind that takes cash only!
Tokyo Dome Battle 7 isn’t a shabby wrestling game, but it’s not as good as the Fire Pro or Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling titles. But to Varie’s credit, Tokyo Dome Battle 7 is the most refined of the trilogy. The added Battle Royal mode is chaotic and a good amount of fun. If you’re a diehard wrestling fan and you have to have one from this Varie trilogy, make it Tokyo Dome Battle 7. It pretty much renders the two previous entries useless unless you’re a collector or the type who enjoys seeing the ‘evolution’ of a series.
It’s pretty obvious why all these games stayed in Japan, although Natsume Championship Wrestling (a variation of the Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling games) did make its way to North America in the summer of 1994.
Pouring one out for all these guys and gals plus all the others we’ve lost in the past couple years since this great music video was released. Thanks for the memories, y’all.
My brother Kevin and I were huge wrestling fans growing up. I remember in the early ’90s when Virgil, a WWF superstar, visited my local mall. I wanted to ask him, “Is wrestling real?” I was seven or eight. But when I got up to him and saw how big he was, I timidly handed him my Virgil trading card and said not a single word. I was in sheer awe. The question I had rehearsed in my head all week long and on the car ride over, it flew straight out the window the second I caught sight of those gigantic biceps.
In the summer of ’94, my brother saw an ad for Natsume Championship Wrestling in EGM. The ad, much like the cover, was one of the cheesiest, most laughable ads I ever saw. Two wrestlers that hardly resembles any of the actual NCW combatants are seen sparring. The text read NATSUME CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING IS DEFINITELY THE MOST INCREDIBLY EXCITING GAME EVER DEVELOPED. IT WILL BLOW YOU AWAY!!
Well hot damn. Say no more. I’m sold. Ah, the innocence of youth. In addition, it had a ton of engrish. And just what in the BLUE HELL is a “Jumping Kneepat” … “Shoulder Through” … “Kitchen Sink” … EH? O_o
My brother then uttered the words I’d heard a hundred times before…
“Steve, go rent it this weekend.”
And so, it was that Friday night that my dad and I were off to the rental shops. No store had NCW except Ultimate Video — the new gigantic mom ‘n pop that opened circa spring of ’94. I remember seeing Double Dragon V and wanting to rent that instead. But I had a direct objective to see through. My dad checked the game out and we stopped by Burger King to grab dinner on the way home. Hey, isn’t it kind of funny how our brains remember the most random little details? Man, I remember it as if it only happened yesterday…
I opted to stay in the car. Ultimate Video did a rarity in those days… they included the game’s manual. Sitting there in the faint orange glow of the street lamp, I studied the extensive manual. To this day it’s a vivid memory that’s stuck with me all these years later.
I remember being impressed by the large move set. Most wrestling games of that era simply didn’t have very many moves. Here you had different moves for the SAME button! All you had to do was hit left, right, up or down to do a different maneuver. Maybe the ad wasn’t lying. Maybe this was indeed the most incredibly exciting game ever developed. But then I spotted some funny errors in the manual. What the hell is a slipper hold? And why is Conan 6’9″ when he’s 6’0″? The game received extremely limited exposure in magazines. I was beginning to think I should have gone with Double Dragon V [Yeah like that one turned out so hot -Ed.]
Long story short(er), we ended up loving this game. It’s a shame that NCW has never really been in the spotlight like it deserves. So without further ado, let’s see why this game is the most incredibly exciting game ever developed. Or at least, why it’s a damn fine wrestling title, anyhow.
What is Technostasy? Why is there no space in between since and 1987? What an odd bunch! [You’re one to talk -Ed.]
There are five modes in all. If you play against the computer you can choose from easy, medium or hard. With friends, it’s possible to have 12 players via the Round Robin Tag Match, though obviously not simultaneously. Don’t start on hard if you’re new and wish to keep your teeth intact. The system is based on timing, not rapid button mashing (thank goodness) but for newbies it’ll take a while to get the timing down pat.
FEEL THE POWER!
The energy bar system is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Like Vampire Savior (but much earlier, mind), when you take damage it’s possible to recuperate health. However, the more damage you take, the slower the healing. There are six bars. Blue, green, yellow, red, dark red and black. I found it innovative as hell back in ’94.
It’s bloody ace. Other wrestling games of that era had one energy bar, with no healing potential. Think of all those WWF games, Saturday Night Slam Masters and so forth. You’ll never look at an energy bar in a wrestling game quite the same again after playing NCW.
In tag matches this feature especially shines. Tag out with your health on dark red, two minutes later tag back in and you’ll find your health in the green. Therefore, tag team strategy in this game more closely mimics the real thing than other wrestling games of that era.
And nothing satisfies more than beating someone up SO bad that his health recovers at a snail-like pace! That’s when you know you’ve truly given someone a legit beat down.
There are 12 in all, with three different body shapes: big, medium and small. Let’s meet these barbaric savages now shall we?
6’4″ 269 pounds
My favorite. According to the manual he has won many championships and bloody hell, he does one mean face slam!
6’0″ 259 pounds
One of only two medium body types, Conan does one hell of a moonsault! Maybe it’s the name, maybe it’s the unique look, but I always thought Conan was one cool ass dude.
Beautiful moonsault. No one does it better. Because nobody else can even do a moonsault! Always been a fan of Conan because of this very fact.
6’1″ 248 pounds
Fast as lightning, with some of the game’s coolest moves, thanks to the fact that they belong only to him. I liked his unique blue tights with the fangs, and his blue hair was quite a riot back in ’94. Viper was my brother’s second favorite wrestler in this game
Viper delivers one hell of a flying elbow drop. Somewhere the Macho Man Randy Savage is looking down with a grin on his kisser. “OOOH YEAH!”
Small in stature perhaps, but don’t underestimate the little guy’s strength. He pulls off a mean powerslam. The snap is so smooth and crisp on that sucker.
6’0″ 258 pounds
Palette swap? Shh, Natsume knows no such thing. Phantom has that devious look down to a science, but unfortunately lacks cool moves. As such, my brother and I hardly ever picked him as our choice wrestler. He was fun as hell to beat up, though!
Nice cross chop to the throat though. Ooof!
6’4″ 279 pounds
Spike is the tallest bloke in NCW at shockingly just 6’4″ — it would have been cool to see a 7 footer in this game. Spike sports one hell of a tan. Hmm, he reminds me of Jake “The Snake” Roberts. My brother and I used to hype up Spike as one tough customer because he reminded us so much of Jake Roberts, who was one certified badass.
Spike even finishes off his opponents with a DDT, much like Jake himself. However, Spike adds a little twist — it’s a jumping DDT. Ouch.
6’3″ 277 pounds
He sure could use Spike’s tan, eh? A former mental patient, he’s earned his name for good reason! My brother and I used to love beating up J. Kraze. We got a kick out of his “crazy” backstory and the fact that his last name is “Kraze.” Oh Natsume, you bastards you.
I mean, just look at that kisser! He’s a psychopath! Nothing beats beating up crazy folk…
Clothesline from hell! The victim will receive a NASTY whiplash if near the ropes.
6’2″ 322 pounds
Big Ape is the heaviest competitor but I was always disappointed at his lack of height. I wish they made him a towering 6 foot 10 or even 7 foot tall. A King Kong Bundy clone, Big Ape knows how to throw his weight around!
It’s like using Bowser or Donkey Kong Jr. in Super Mario Kart. You don’t want to be bumping (no pun intended) into this guy!
Avalanche Slam wipes out the competition. Love this finishing move. I always thought it was super cool and often wondered why no wrestlers in real life use this move. It’s like a running powerslam without the running, but the way Big Ape spikes them, with all of his 322 pounds crashing on them, is devastating.
5’9″ 245 pounds
No knee pads? Is he mad, or just plain dumb? I hate this guy. I always take great pleasure in beating him up. He looks like the kind of guy you just want to pummel! My brother and I never used H. Snake. He was kind of a lame design to be honest! And his moves weren’t very interesting.
Clothesline him against the ropes. Then smack ‘im in the face, bouncing him off the ropes, before he can counter.
Cap off the combo by evading the punch and nailing a sick standing dropkick.
6’1″ 262 pounds
Fangz may be the dullest of them all. Basically a swap of Asteroid but hardly any fun to play as. He doesn’t even have the cool tights of Viper or H. Snake. He’s just there and very forgettable.
Delivers one decent power bomb, though.
6’2″ 302 pounds
Hmmm, Viper, Fangz, H. Snake, now Python?! Snake fetish, much? This fool is mad strong! Arguably has the best looking move in the game too. His throwing power bomb is a sight to behold.
Decapitation city — what a brutal looking clothesline!
Python’s throwing power bomb is a beautiful sight. You can even throw them out of the ring with this move!
5’9″ 229 pounds
Roach was my bro’s favorite. Easy to see why. Not only is he great fun to play as, but those are some killer trunks! Plus that name is a hoot. M. Roach. Weird enough that it sticks with you.
His running hip toss is smooth AF!
He’s got a pretty sweet legdrop too. He gets great height on it.
Exclusive to Roach is this super excellent looking neckbreaker! Great animation. Like everything he does, it’s smooth as butter. Love the crash of the mat as Roach drives his opponent into the canvas.
Phantom is dazed as Roach goes for the kill.
6’2″ 312 pounds
A 3-time champion, Bruto lives up to his moniker. He’s got some of the game’s most brutal moves. Check out his finishing move below. It never fails to make me wince a bit on the inside whenever I see it.
His high angled power bomb will compress your spinal cord and crack your skull. I like how K. Bruto and Python have different power bombs. Poor Fangz though just has a regular power bomb as his finishing move. Like I said, Fangz is forgettable.
Post match quotes even rear their ugly head in NCW. I guess no brawler of any sort was safe in those days, no? By the way, some of the comments are hilarious I recall. “Wow, he’s heavy” just feels so random. And the excuse of twisting your ankle during the match? It’s got a funky little sense of humor.
When you pick up an opponent, he sits up half way. From here you can pick him up again so that he stands, or leave him sitting, whereby you can kick the back of his skull or wrench his neck in a sleeper hold! I always liked this versatility.
Although no weapons like chairs and broken beer bottles are available, the steel barricades make for a great ally. Try and time it so you can follow up with a killer clothesline combination, right as this animation expires. Simple but highly effective stuff!
QUIRKY BLACK HUMOR TRICKS
My brother and I nearly fell out of our chairs when we first saw this back in the summer of ’94. We were just messing around as usual, wondering if we could knock the other guy off the apron. We figured we couldn’t, but we had to try anyway. Imagine our shock when we saw that it worked. Nothing beats knocking him off right as the computer tries to go for the tag
You’ve seen how the ropes can come into play (i.e. face slam, clothesline) for a nice added whiplash effect. You’ve seen the dirty tag team tactic. There are some others but I have to show this one…
You’ll need to use a faster wrestler (i.e. Viper) and it only works against a bigger, slower guy (i.e. Big Ape). On the outside, fling them toward the far left of the screen. As soon as you do, RUN. By the time they get to the other side of the ring if you time it right you can actually knock them down! It’s completely satisfying and a bit demoralizing for them. My brother and I played NCW to death back in the day so we knew all the “tricks” of the trade. The game was amazingly deep for its time, especially for the US market. There was no other wrestling game like this.
My mom never cared for gaming. She never bothered to stop and watch me play. However, there was something about Natsume Championship Wrestling that caught her eye. Maybe it was all the devious whiplash tricks, or the catch-you-from-behind spot, but my mom used to stop and watch my brother I play NCW. She would be doing her chores, then she’d hear laughter roaring from the game room. She’d poke her head in and actually watch us play for a bit. She never did that with any other game. One day she made the comment “Are those guys monkeys?” My brother and I never noticed it prior, but they did look a bit like monkeys, so my bro and I started calling them the “monkey commentators.” It’s just one of those funky memories that has stuck.
MORE NCW MEMORIES… AND THE DAY IT DIED
After my brother and I enjoyed the heck out of Natsume Championship Wrestling, we decided it was a game we were going to buy, once it went on budget. Sure enough, one year later we were browsing the SNES game aisle at Toys R Us in good ol’ 1995.
And there it was, like a beacon of light.
NCW on clearance for $19.99.
I grabbed that classic Toys R Us game slip — it turned out to be the last one!
We played NCW for a good long time. My mom would casually walk by and actually stand there to watch for a minute or two. She couldn’t care less for video games, but something about the barbaric game tactics (rope whiplash trick, catch-you-from-behind, etc.) appealed to her, and of course, the outlandish chimp commentators. Looking back, those were truly the good old days…
We played together mostly, but when against, I usually got the better of him.
We played NCW well into 1997. It was loads of fun, but one day, my brother finally “laid the game to rest” — as they might say.
“Hey, let’s play NCW,” I said.
“Naw, I had enough of it.”
“What? One more time… c’mon.”
“We’ve played it to death…”
And he was right. We had slammed J. Kraze’s crazy ass probably a zillion times, crushed Snake’s wind pipe five hundred thousand times and sent Spike to the hospital more times than I could count. We truly exhausted the game for all it was worth. With my brother retiring from NCW, so too did I. It was a sad day, but inevitable. Such is the life of video games…
WHERE HAVE I SEEN YOU BEFORE?
The person who did the artwork for NCW, Julie Bell, also did several other gaming covers. I thought the work looked familiar. I did some research and I found out Julie Bell also worked on these games. After you see the artwork you can kind of see her style. For years I noticed a “Julie” on some of my SNES games but never bothered to look it up. It’s nice to solve this little mystery. You already saw Double Dragon V earlier in this review. That was a Julie piece of work. Here are some others…
Good stuff there, Julie! I always liked these covers. Well, aside from the NCW one. Sorry but that one is a bit hideous based on the fact that the drawn wrestlers don’t match the actual in-game wrestlers! But other than that, nice work Julie!
ZEN NIPPON PRO WRESTLING TRILOGY
If you enjoy NCW then I highly recommend Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Budokan. It’s the third and final game in the trilogy, and features more wrestlers, more moves and a sweet Fatal Four Way match. To be honest it pretty much renders NCW a bit obsolete as it’s everything NCW is and more. Still, I appreciate the generic localization of NCW’s wrestlers and they have a bit of personality to them that makes it worth revisiting once in a blue moon for that odd nostalgic rush. Plus, it never hurts to beat up J. Kraze one last time.
February 20, 2006.
A little over a month into my SNES resurrection, I re-bought NCW to relive not only the memories, but just to play again a very good wrestling game.
And sometimes good memories obscure a game’s flaws… well, not the case here! NCW still holds up well but of course Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Budokan is essentially an upgraded model. Still, when viewed on its own, NCW certainly holds it own.
Unlike other wrestling games from that time period, the move set was extensive, the grapple system relied on timing (much like the awesome Fire Pro series) and there were so many nice touches. Got your opponent on the ground? Stomp his face or his knees. Do an elbowdrop. A kneedrop. Fling them into the ropes? Backdrop. Clothesline. Running hiptoss. The list goes on and on. Y is for weak moves, B for medium and A for power. If you attempt too strong a move on a fresh opponent they will counter! They must be sufficiently weakened before you can slap your finisher on them.
The first time you witness a running clothesline followed by your opponent ducking seamlessly into a back suplex you will go, “OH NO! But damn if that wasn’t sick.”
While the graphics don’t match that of a Saturday Night Slam Masters, its gameplay is simply unrivaled. There is no comparison between NCW and any other American SNES wrestling game. NCW also has nice sound and music too. Actually, quite catchy indeed.
Here’s another cool twist — instead of 2 going to 3 — there’s 2.5 and 2.9 first. If you kick out during these close counts, the fans can be heard stomping in unison from the rafters!
The wealth of moves and how extremely playable it is makes ita shame this game went under the radar as much as it did. There was ZERO coverage in GameFan and EGM only had a one page preview in their May ’94 issue. Neither publication reviewed the game. It also came out the same time as arcade champion Saturday Night Slam Masters. Tough way to break in, eh?
What a shame. It deserved so much better.
What is the best American SNES wrestling game?
Without hesitation I’d say it’s
It’s not the most incredibly exciting game ever developed. BUT… it is pretty damn good.
With the popularity of Human’s Fire Pro Wrestling series in the early-mid ’90s, Natsume counteracted with their (underrated) Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling trilogy. They even Americanized a version of this, calling it Natsume Championship Wrestling, which came out on the Super Nintendo market in June 1994. I have fond memories of NCW, so it was a great deal of fun to play the original Japanese version.
Growing up in the late ’80s a kid only needed two things really: Nintendo and Hulk Hogan. I still remember how my uncle would watch Saturday Night’s Main Event with me and my brother. As well as that time he took us to the mall to get an autograph from visiting WWF superstar Virgil. It was a great time.
ZEN NIPPON PRO WRESTLING is an excellent wrestling game featuring solid graphics, good sound and terrific gameplay. The grapple system relies on timing rather than speed. You have weak, medium and power attacks during grapple. The energy bar is perhaps my favorite thing about these games. The “whiplash rope” trick is pretty damn cool too… more on this later on.
EGM introduced me to this series when they ran a cool little preview back in 1994.
Your energy bar starts out BLUE.
The bar decreases as damage is taken, revealing these colors in sequence:
Like Capcom’s Vampire Savior, health can be recuperated. For example, you recover health when you’re on the apron resting during a tag match. When you eat a move, like a power bomb or dropkick, you lose the proper amount of health but your energy will recover at a decent pace. However, the more damage you sustain, the slower your energy will recuperate. Brilliant.
Japanese wrestling legend Giant BABA is no match for the younger and quicker Patriot. I dig the simple, colorful visuals. That health bar system was innovative for its time!
There was a subtle sense of black humor, too. You can knock the opposition silly right before they can make the tag. Or even knock out their partner off the apron right as they’re going for the hot tag!
As good of a first entry as this was, the follow-up made some vast improvements.
ZEN NIPPON PRO WRESTLING DASH was released only five months after the first one. It’s more of an upgrade than a sequel. Like the original, 16 wrestlers are available. So what’s new? Besides minor roster changes, the focus is now on tag team play, though the first game had tag team modes as well. The difference here? Tag team moves.
OK, I know what you’re thinking
“Tag team combo moves. BIG DEAL!”
That’s why, to save Dash from being simply a hack cash-in, they included…
This mode is a wild free-for-all providing great multiplayer action. There are no energy bars cluttering the screen. The only way to win is via pin fall or submission. Over-the-top-rope doesn’t matter here — hell, you can take the battle outside if you wish.
The mat on the outside even has a different (more brutal sounding) sound effect as compared to the ring mat. Great attention to detail and made slamming fools on the outside all the more satisfying.
The third and final game of the trilogy, however, is by far the best of the bunch.
Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling 2:3-4 Budokan (yes, I know it’s an incredibly weird and awkward title) is my favorite SNES wrestling game. I even prefer it over Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium, which I just reviewed earlier today. While I don’t think it’s technically better than Premium, I do find it to be slightly more fun. There’s a difference between what one considers to be their favorite versus what one considers to be the best. Let’s see what makes this final game in the Zen Nippon trilogy so good.
A CLASSIC FORMULA
Similar to the Fire Pro games, Natsume chose wisely when they decided to make the Zen Nippon games based on timing rather than button mashing. When two wrestlers go to lock up, the first to press an attack button right as the two combatants touch hands will win that grapple. However, if you use a medium or power based attack early on, it may be countered as the opposition might still be too strong. Therefore, you must weaken them bit by bit until you can pull out the heavy hitters (power bombs, pile drivers and so forth). It made for progressive matches that flowed nicely, like real life wrestling matches on TV. You don’t see wrestlers hitting their big power moves right after the opening bell (well at least you don’t in most cases). It’s a classic formula that works and has stood the test of time.
PICK FROM 19 WRESTLING SUPERSTARS
They’re all actual real wrestlers that competed in Japan back in the ’80s or ’90s. My favorite is this guy…
Asteroid was my favorite wrestler from Natsume Championship Wrestling which was a 1994 Super Nintendo release based off Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling. Man, did my brother and I have some good times with NCW. From buying the last copy at Toys R Us in ’95 for its clearance price of $19.99 to all the late evenings we spent glued to the TV screen waging war in tag team battle. Even my mom, who never cared for video games, would occasionally stop whatever chore she was doing to glance at the game. My bro and I played NCW to death for a good number of years until we finally laid it to rest in 1997 when one day my bro simply refused to play it. It was a sad day, but such is the life of video games, I suppose. Thanks for all the good times and fond memories, NCW! You and all your cheesy charm will never be forgotten.
WHY BUDOKAN IS THE BEST IN THE TRILOGY
Press ‘A’ to hold. If you catch your opponent, you can hit Y for a weak move, B for a medium move, A for a power move or X to sling them into the ropes. It allows you to skip the grappling process but be warned, your opponent can still counter if they’re too strong.
Just like in the previous games, the 2.5 and 2.9 dramatic counts return. These close counts result in the audience stomping in unison causing the screen to shake. Adds nicely to the drama and intensity of a match.
OUCH, nothing says pain like taking a missile dropkick straight to the mush!
Akira’s face slam is devastating enough on its own. But when combined with the top cable rope? It’s downright dirty.
Jackhammer?! Close enough. In real life Akira used this move which he called Chichubu Cement. Odd name, sick looking move. The crash of the mat sounds extra loud on this move in particular, and never fails to make me wince a little on the inside.
Chichubu Cement against the ropes! Now that definitely makes me wince.
Undertaker would be proud. Love those flashing cameras. Totally captures the spirit of pro wrestling in the mid ’90s!
Akira also delivers one mean power bomb. But wait, there’s a twist here…
There are actually two versions of it! To execute Akira’s power bomb, press A to catch them in a hold first. Then press up or down + A. Tap A once for a regular release power bomb. But tap A multiple times and Akira will turn it into a pinning power bomb! The first time I discovered this by pure accident of button mashing for the hell of it, I almost fell out of my chair. It’s such a deep game, only second to Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium.
Akira just heaves them like they were yesterday’s garbage. I love the ability to do moves from behind — the previous two games didn’t allow this.
Samoan drop and a beauty! Budokan added in quite a few new moves the previous two games didn’t have.
Beautiful frog splash — Eddie Guerrero would be proud.
WHAT IS THE ACTUAL BUDOKAN MODE?
First, check out the cool entrances. Most wrestlers wear some sort of special t-shirt or robe that they only wear during their ring entrances. Good stuff. Baba is PIMPING!
Budokan is a unique mode where you book the wrestling matches. The arena starts out looking rather sorry and sparse, but depending on the quality of your booked matches, more fans fill in as the evening progresses. It’s a cool little niche mode but it’s not my favorite.
This is a bit tricky. If you hit start you’ll begin the tournament which is meh. But if you press start on OPTION you actually open up the game’s various modes. Kind of weird, huh?
The Fatal Four Way leads to some good old fashion arcade-esque fun and chaos. Bum rushingfolks from behind is oddly one of the greatest pleasures in multi-player history. There’s just something about attacking your friends from behind that will cause you to grin like a Cheshire cat. Trust me when I say… it’s priceless.
Like in Natsume Championship Wrestling, the ropes can be your friend if used wisely. You can actually ram them into the ropes, bouncing them off! This makes a neat sound effect as you watch in pure joy at the clever brutality and sheer violence of it all. It’s viciously, deviously violent.
Part of the fun is waiting in the wings, then rush attacking the opponent in the middle of his wrestling move. Here we see a well-timed dropkick in the middle of a suplex. All three bodies crash loudly to the mat, but of course only you get up immediately. The others? Licking their sore wounds on the canvas! Sweet.
Indeed, taking out two wrestlers at the same time, particularly nailing one in front and the other from behind, is too damn fun. You can imagine the chaos and temporary allegiances this may create when playing against friends.
If anyone is foolish enough to taunt during a Fatal Four Way match, it’s your civic and rightful duty to remind them why doing so is not a good idea. Hey, someone’s gotta do the dirty work… don’t mind if I do!
On average, my Fatal Four Way matches roughly go anywhere from about eight to 12 minutes. The real fun lies in trying to see how long you can prolong the torture of the three other wrestlers. You can break up pin falls by pressing ‘B’ to stomp, but it doesn’t always work, oddly enough. My longest time was 24 minutes and 38 seconds. However, on my last play-through, it went a record long 51 minutes and 28 seconds! After Patriot and Eagle were eliminated, this damn fool refused to lose. He kicked out at 2.5 and 2.9 at least 30 times. He was a man possessed. I hit him with about 15 missile dropkicks yet, like Freddy or Jason, dude kept coming back for more. I never saw anything like it before. After a back breaking power bomb, he finally submitted to my foul desires. It’s just fun to see how long you can keep a match going with all three guys, then two, then finally one. It’s like some sick game within a game type thing. I know, I’m weird. But damn if this isn’t fun.
Whenever the fight spills outside the ring, there’s a decent chance one of the computer wrestlers will be counted out. They stay out there no matter what until the count of six. Also, when they’ve been beaten to a pulp, the first submission animation leads to a submission victory. It’s trickier than you think to keep all three computer opponents alive, and it’s fun to see how long you can take them to the limit. Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Budokan is largely a dream come true for this ol’ wrestling fan. I see something new almost every time I play it. The other night Patriot and Eagle actually did a tag team move in the Fatal Four Way match to take out Kobashi. It was a suplex-top rope splash combination. That same match I discovered that Akira Taue can counter a rope reversal by hitting UP + Y or B, which produces a DDT! Speaking of Akira, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out he had two different power bombs (based on whether you press A once or tap it a few times). The depth of this wrestling game is second only to Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium.
Budokan took everything that worked in the first two games and cranked it up even further. Budokan offers more wrestlers, more moves, a superb Fatal Four Way match, better gameplay, better graphics and so on. This is one of those games I can pop in after a long day, play for even just 10 minutes and be satisfied with each and every time. It’s just a bloody brilliant fun time — especially for wrestling fanatics like myself.
Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Budokan is my favorite wrestling game on the SNES. If only the game featured WCW and WWF guys, it would be flawless. Imagine using guys like Sting, Undertaker, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and Shawn Michaels with this graphic style and gameplay system. Alas, we get 19 All Japan Pro Wrestling stars. They’re not bad but I don’t connect with them as I do with the more well known American wrestlers of mid ’90s fame. But I digress. Combining the arcade-like fun and chaos of Saturday Night Slam Masters with Fire Pro’s purity, Budokan is a gem that deserves more props. Bravo, Natsume!
Gotta love those lovely entrances, complete with the wrestler’s theme music!