No Iron Sheik? No Mean Gene Okerlund? This Shall Not Stand!
The real meat of the game, to me anyway, was in the Fantasy Warfare mode, pitting and old-school wrestler against a modern counterpart in battles to decide things like "Highest Flyer" or "Mr. Awesome". As you beat each of the 15 challenges, you unlock the next one, and they all have great intro videos and generally give you good cause to keep going to see more. It was nice to see Andre the Giant back fro the dead to defend his title as "Biggest Wrestler" or whatever they called it. They were also a great way for me to catch up on who's who in wrestling these days and understand how they evolved from the personalities of my youth. I easily spent the most time in Fantasy Warfare, plowing through all 15 matches before finally getting exhausted.
All the glitz and glamor doesn't mean that much when you get into the actual game itself though. Unfortunately, what was probably a great new and easy to master control scheme on the PS3 doesn't make the jump to the portable environs quite so well. Yes, things have been streamlined quite a bit so it doesn't require some crazy combos to pull of all the special moves and spins that make wrestling so much fun. Wrestlers fall into 4 basic categories like Brawler, Acrobat, etc… and they have basic moves that fit that motif, and then each of the 30 wrestlers has multiple special moves that are unique to them, like Jimmy "Superfly" Snooka's trademark leap from the top turnbuckle, and Rowdy Roddy Piper's Airplane Spins. Sadly, the PSP just don't have all the buttons a DualShock 3 does, so the controls end up being far more convoluted than necessary. Pulling off special moves requires a you to use the left trigger in conjunction with face buttons, and often times the same combo will have different results depending on where you are standing and getting everything in the right position while your opponent stays in the same spot is often an exercise in frustration. Just trying to pin a guy can be a real hassle, and many matches went on longer than they should have just due to the opaqueness of what buttons did what in which context. It's still far better than recent games in the genre, but it is by no means ideal or fluid.
Of course the real fun is wrestling against your friends, and as is all too often the case with the PSP, infrastructure mode is nowhere to be found, and you are stuck with Ad-Hoc mode meaning you needs friends and PSPs close by. Yes, Sony has made things a little better by making the Ad-Hoc Party function on the PS3, but that still requires a lot of planning and specific hardware to get a match going. The fact that I cant just pop online and find a random person to play against is a disappointing fact that I have learned to live with on the PSP, but one that still leaves every game feeling unsatisfying. Still, if you can find 3 friends to play with, the tag-team matches would be high-flying fun.
In the end, the game is a great trip down nostalgia lane for old folks like me, bringing back both the classic wrestlers that I grew up with, and more of a pick-up-and-play style of gaming that has fallen by the wayside in recent years. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of content beyond the 15 special matches in the Fantasy Warfare mode and with no easy way to play with other humans, you might get bored pretty quick with the game, especially since the controls have a tendency to frustrate rather than entertain. Unless you are a hardcore wrestling fan who rides the subway a lot, you can probably wait for the bargain bin on this title.