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Fire Pro Wrestling 2

Reviewed by JPeeples Fire Pro Wrestling 2 has hit North America, and wrestling fans will never be the same again. This new release marks the first time that two Firepro games have been released in the U.S., in succession, and it also marks the first time major differences between the JPN and U.S. version of a Firepro game. FPW 2 was developed by Spike, and was translated and distributed by Bay Area Media (or BAM for short.) The Firepro series has always been held in high regard by wrestling fans for over a decade due to its versatile game engine that allows you to have wrestling matches with the flow of actual matches. This series is also famous for its thorough create a wrestler mode, which was unmatched until some of the newer PSX and N64 wrestling games were released. FPW 2, just like Fire Pro Wrestling before it, features a deathmatch mode that takes place inside of an exploding steel cage. The popular octagon cage matches (called Gruesome matches) from FPW are now only done in a wrestling ring, ala Pride FC, due to a court ruling some time back involving BAM and the owners of the UFC, which stated that the octagonal ring, and white muscular guy that served as a logo for the Gruesome fights was a direct rip-off of their (UFC's) creation. All the things in this game that BAM could be sued over, and THAT is the one that got them in trouble… Unreal. Just like with FPW, there is a battle royale mode in FPW2, as well as the never before seen Iron man Road, which, along with a few additions to the roster, and a wrestler bio section, act as BAM's attempt to make up for the lack of the Management of Ring mode from the JPN version of FPW 2, Final Fire Pro Wrestling. Wrestlers from all over the world are featured in FPW; stars from WWE, the now defunct WCW, ECW, and FMW promotions, New Japan Pro Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling NOAH are in this game. There have been some changes to the characters to avoid copyright infringements; all of the characters appear under different names, and, in the case of WWE, ex-WCW, and ex-ECW wrestlers, their appearances have been changed. The bread and butter of the Firepro series has always been the gameplay. It is the fantastic gameplay that has allowed it to reach legendary status in the land of the rising sun, gameplay. The gameplay engine in the FPW series is amazingly versatile, most any kind of match can be done to perfection with it, that alone speaks volumes. This engine can do WWF-style pomp-and-circumstance matches, it can do long, drawn-out, and engrossing battles like AJPW and NOAH, and it can do the hardcore stylings of ECW and FMW perfectly. The game engine can also handle shootfighting better than some of the commercially released shoot fighting games (say “hello" PSX version of UFC.) How's that for a diverse engine? Gameplay goes a little something llike this; you and your opponent come into contact with one another, you grapple, whoever pulls off a button combination the fastest, and does a combination that overrides the opponents' combination will win the grapple. Once you execute a move, you might have it countered, this is especially true for your character's special move, which can be done at any point in the match, but be strategic with it, or else you'll get countered endlessly, and you might get pinned. PFW also forces you to use quite a bit of pacing in the match, you see, in the FPW games, you have to control your breathing; going for a series of high impact moves right off the bat might seem like a good idea, but it could leave you winded and out of breath, this will leave you wide open for your opponent. You can breathe throughout the match by pressing the L trigger, be sure to breathe as much as you can, you can't risk getting winded. To top it all off, FPW features a multitude of modes for you to try out this multifaceted game engine. The exhibition match mode allows you to have singles matches, death matches, tag matches, and shoot fights at will. FPW 2 has seen the removal of a number of FPW's modes. The audience mode is gone, as are the tournament modes and round robin modes. It's a shame that these modes have been removed, especially since the MoR mode isn't here. The iron man road mode is a great addition to the series. In it, you begin a career in pro wrestling and, after winning a ton of matches in multiple categories, you will win the mode. Thanks to the cumulative damage, this mode is extremely satisfying to those who enjoy a nice challenge. However, don't expect too much from it until you start to wrestle in it at the higher difficulty settings. On top of adding in the iron man road, BAM has added in a nice little wrestler bio section. This bio area gives you the specs of the wrestlers (using the metric system) and gives you a little history lesson to boot. The bios for the characters give you a lot of insight into who they are supposed to represent. You will see a little bit of info on their style, and on their alliances. Also, information on their personality is given, as well as info on their greatest rivalries. BAM should be commended for giving the player a nice little history lesson, and for doing what they could to make up for the loss of the Management of Ring mode. BAM brought the series to the U.S., and for that, long-time Firepro fans should be thankful. The core gameplay is about as perfect as could be. The diverse game engine enables you to perfectly replicate any style out there. And it had better, because the game's full roster is about as diverse as could be. Speaking of the roster… The character roster is another strong point. As I mentioned earlier, wrestlers from nearly every major promotion of the last five years are in the game. However, it doesn't stop there, oh no. FPW 2 includes some people you might never expect to see in a wrestling game. Ever wanted to see Batman take Robin on in an electrified steel cage? Well, thanks to FPW 2, you can. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to see Bruce Lee take on Rocky Balboa in, say, a shoot fight, this game lets you. This game lets you. Also, in a throwback to the days of old, there's even a wrestling BEAR in the game. For those who might think that the inclusion of some of these characters is a bit unrealistic for a wrestling game, think again. Batman and Robin-esque characters were promoted for wrestling shows in the 40s and 50s; the Batman character usually had a snappy name like Mattman, while the Robin character had something along the lines of a Bird Boy name. The wrestling bear had been a staple of wrestling house shows since the industry's carnival days. If you want to see a wrestling bear in action, pick up the Wrestling Gold series of tapes, which feature a wrestling bear on them. It would have been even more fitting to have Spider-Man in the game, what with the Arachnaman character from a decade ago. Bruce Lee being in the game is a bit of a stretch, however, Rocky Balboa being in does actually fit. In one of the Rocky flicks, Hulk Hogan, who is in this game (sort of, like all other name-brand wrestlers I've mentioned) fought Rocky Balboa. This game lets you recreate their bout from the flick. In another nod to wrestling's glorious history, many legendary wrestlers and tag teams have been placed in the game. You can recreate Lou Thesz's final match with Masahiro Chono in this game, or you can create dream matches like Misawa versus Mutoh. This game is what you make of it, and thanks to the nearly limitless supply of wrestlers, you will always have something to do. The control in FPW 2 is as pristine as the gameplay. A and B are used for striking moves, and when the buttons are pressed simultaneously, a special attack will be unleashed. The game's grappling system has been dissected in my gameplay description, so I won't dwell on it here. The controls are quite responsive, and never cause one bit of trouble. The graphics in FPW 2 are underwhelming in some respects, and stunning in others. The game takes place in 2D, with a 3/4 overhead perspective that allows you to see everything going on. FPW 2 also features amazing animation for most of the moves, unfortunately, for some moves, most notably cradles, the animation is sparse. The animation for some of the special attacks is, for the most part, amazing (see Muto's Shining Wizard for an example of this.) Yet just like with the regular moves, some of them look shoddy. For example, Mitsuharu Misawa's Roaring Elbow is an example of this, the move lacks quite a bit of animation and looks choppy. Thankfully, 90% of the animation is super-smooth, the choppy animation can get in the way of the realistic aspect of the game, but it never really effects the actual flow of the gameplay. All in all, the graphics are a bit hit-or-miss. Some of the animations need a lot of work, while others couldn't be done better. The character sizes could be larger, the characters can be a bit hard to see, and this has the potential to negatively effect the gameplay if you don't learn how to compensate for it. Overall, the graphics get the job done. The Firepro series has never really been known for amazing music, and this game will not do much to end that trend. Each character in the game has their own unique theme music, it's a shame that most of it consists of simple bleeps and bloops that could have been done on a NES. The sound effects have really been spruced up from FPW. All of the sound effects have been given a bit more volume, and help to get across the damage of each move. Misawa's elbow strikes in particular, sound absolutely vicious thanks to the full-bodied nature of the sound effects used for them. Sadly, the crowd and referee noises have seen a bit of a negative change from FPW. During the match, the crowd will hoot and holler, and, during near falls, they will ooh and aah. The referee's voice can be heard during pin and submission attempts, during near fall pin attempts, his voice will sound more excited, as if more emotion is going into the count, this really does quite a bit for the atmosphere of the game. While the emotional impact of these effects is still intact, the voice samples have been downgraded quite a bit. They are now very raspy and choppy, and it can take away from the desired effect of drawing the player into the match. Overall, the sound of the game is good, while the theme music and some of the sound effects are poor, most of the sound effects are amazing, and, in the case of referee and crowd effects, they really add quite a bit to the game. The replay value in FPW 2 is through the roof. While there are only 10 wrestlers in the game at the start, you can unlock many, many more via the game's Ironman Road mode. The grand total of characters, including the unlockable ones, brings the number of characters in the game to around 200! On top of that, FPW 2, just like FPW before it, allows you to create your own wrestler, 77 slots have been allocated in the game's edit mode; this mode enables you to customize your own wrestling company; well, name and roster-wise anyways. FPW 2 is a wrestling fan's dream game. It gives you a flawless game engine and a seamless control scheme. It enables you to have your own dream matches. Ever wanted to see Goldberg face the Rock? It can be done in this game. This game gets my highest recommendation, it is, without a doubt, the finest wrestling game ever created, barring Firepro Wrestling D for the Dreamcast. While the graphics leave a bit to be desired, as does the sound, the gameplay more than makes up for any trivial fault the game may have. Simply put, if you're a wrestling fan, you must buy this game.

Overall: 10 out of 10

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