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Fire Pro Wrestling

Reviewed by JPeeples Fire Pro Wrestling was released as one of the Game Boy Advance's launch titles on June 11, 2001. FPW was developed by Spike, and was translated and distributed by Bay Area Media (or BAM for short.} FPW is the first wrestling game for the GBA, it is also the first Fire Pro game to be released outside of the U.S. The FPW series has 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. The FPW 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 also features a deathmatch mode that takes place inside of an exploding steel cage; UFC-style fights can also be done in the game thanks to the game's Gruesome mode. There is a battle royale mode in FPW, as well as the never before seen Audience match, in which you must win the applause of the audience in order to keep going. Wrestlers from all over the world are featured in FPW; stars from the WWF, WCW, ECW, New Japan Pro Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling NOAH, and FMW 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 WWF, WCW, and ECW wrestlers, their appearances have been changed. The graphics in FPW 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 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, yet just like with the regular moves, some of them look shoddy, 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 FPW 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 for most of the moves are spot-on, the “slice" sound of a chop is an example of this. However, some of the sound effects are horrendous, the squeaking sounds from Misawa's Roaring Elbow are an example of this. There is some light at the end of the tunnel for the game's sound; the crowd and referee noises are unparalleled. 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. 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. Now, onto the bread and butter of the game; the part of the game 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 shootfighting 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 oneanother, 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. There's an exhibition match, which allows you to have singles matches, deathmatches, tag matches, and shootfights at will. There's a tournament mode in which you pit wrestlers against each other. Fans of the WWF's King of the Ring will love this mode. There's a league mode that is essentially a round robin mode. You score points based on wins, the wrestler with the most points wins. There's the brand new audience match that tests your mettle in one of six distinct fighting styles. There's a Strong fighting style; characters who rely on power moves will do well in this mode. There's the Showman style, where showy matches are appreciated. There's a Stoic style in which quick matches draw huge reactions. There's a Lucha style, where high-flying expertise is adored. There's a Hardcore style, where no-holds-barred fighting is appreciated, and illegal tactics are encouraged. Finally, there's a freestyle mode, in which all styles of fighting are appreciated. All of these styles are represented perfectly with this game engine. FPW features the best wrestling game engine ever in my honest opinion. The control in FPW 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 replay value in FPW is through the roof. There are 157 default wrestlers, and there are 43 hidden wrestlers, for a grand total of 200 wrestlers! On top of that, FPW 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 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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