PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
RELEASE DATE: 07/20/86 – (JP), 1986 – (US), 08/87 – (EU)
What did wrestling fans hope to see in 8-bit wrestling games? Both the Master System and the NES only had a D-pad and two buttons to work with, so extravagant move-lists were out. Playing as your favorite television wrestlers would have been great, but licenses cost money and, strangely, only the crappiest companies could afford them. Rich graphics, solid mechanics, and a two-player mode might be all a wrestling gamer could ever hope for. Then again, Pro Wrestling has all of these and it’s still not a very good game. Sega hides a lack of content behind a pretty presentation, in hopes that players won’t notice they’re repeating the same matches over and over.
Choose from one of four tag-teams on the menu screen: The Great Maskmen, Orient Express, The Crush Brothers, and the Mad Soldiers. The wrestling teams are stereotypical, yes, but they’re also exaggerated and comical, particularly with their over-sized melon heads. Each wrestler can punch and kick their way to victory, but the best way to take out an opponent is to knock them on the ground, fling them into the ropes, and take down a large chunk of life with a special move, like a Karate Kick or a Flying Head Butt.
All of the wrestlers have three specific-to-them special moves, but thankfully, the intuitive control scheme doesn’t change between teams. Buttons 1 and 2 are punch and kick respectively, while the special moves are always performed either when your opponent is lying on the mat or after they’ve been tossed into the ropes. Two of the four teams can climb the turnbuckle to perform certain moves, and chairs do eventually find their way into later matches, but otherwise, Pro Wrestling doesn’t venture too far into outlandish theatrics.
Pro Wrestling does a great job at capturing the spectacle of over-the-top wrestler entrances. Once the actual wrestling begins, though, the game takes several elbow drops to the groin. You only have three minutes to pin one of your opponents or the game’s over. Even if you have more health than the other team, once those three minutes are up, you’re back to Round 1; all those hours in the gym and busted thumbs were for naught.
The worst part about Pro Wrestling, however, is having to fight the same opponents for ten rounds before you take the belt. That’s right: after you beat the first tag-team, you don’t automatically move on to the next. You have to fight a team for ten rounds or up to thirty minutes each. The difficulty doesn’t increase as the rounds progress, either. I used the same basic moves on the same opponents round after round, and they went down every time. Cool, I guess, but how about some challenge? Lastly, the two-player mode is ok, but it’s limited to one three-minute round. After the overabundance of one-player wrestling, I would have liked to have the option to keep fighting a friend past the scant three minutes.
Was it even possible to make a good 8-bit wrestling game? Perhaps not, and I think wrestling fans knew this and were ok with it. They took what they could get, knowing that their “sport” was going to be tarnished in some way. Pro Wrestling is probably one of the best 8-bit wrestling games around, and even it is marred by tedium. If Sega had thrown a couple more tag-team wrestlers in, expanded the two-player mode, and scaled the one-player mode back, Pro Wrestling would be shorter, but it would be purer. Better to provide a compact, richer experience than to hide a lackluster product behind neon lights, big heads, and luchador masks.
7 replies on “Pro Wrestling (Master System, 1986)”
“The worst part about Pro Wrestling, however, is having to fight the same opponents for ten rounds before you take the belt”
Nah the worst part of this game is that hideous western box art.
I think it’s the worst I’ve seen….ever.
What is even going on with that cover? It’s like a page out of some demented kid’s book.
R.L. Stine’s Pro Wrestling
Reader beware you’re in for what Nintendon’t?
This was one of the first cartridges I ever bought for my Master System back in the day. I remember it being fun to play with my mates and was one of the titles I went looking for when I started my retrogaming collection earlier this year. I still enjoy the cartoon-like look of this game but now with the benefit of experience of other SMS and NES wrestling games it feels like its of an earlier era like it was meant for Atari or SG-1000. I still like the Boeing 747 landing between levels though even if all the arenas look the same no matter where in the world you are supposed to be. Nostalgia plays a big part in why I like this game but I think a C-grade is very appropriate.
I think you really have to look at the state of wrestling games when this came out. There was Nintendos pro wrestling, while having personality did not play the greatest. And a game on the Atari 2600 that was pretty crap although decent for the system called Tittle Match Pro Wrestling
But this game was fun because each wrestler had 4 signature moves that are mostly not repeated, like lariats, and German suplexes. And it controlled well. While the single player game might have been somewhat lackluster, multiplayer was a blast. Had so much fun playing this with friends. Throwing wrestlers into the ropes , doing a drop kick, then going outside the ring to grab a chair or jumping off the rope for arial moves. This was the first game to ever give me and my friends thumb blisters. Yes years later Techmo would release a great NES game and some of the WWF liscensed games were good too. But in 1986 this was as good as it got. It was a bummer that the wrestlers were not liscenesed but you could pretend they were the road warriors, or hulk hogan. And each character had a distinct set of moves.
Also this game was based on the arcade game of the same name
I would definitely reccomend playing this with a friend. It’s fun. this was one of the earlier games released in the US and it was good for the time.
Sorry to comment on such an old post, but I have to say that while I agree the 1 player mode is super tedious, in two player mode, giving this game to a wrestling obsessed 8 year old boy (my brother) and his equally wrestling obsessed 6 year old younger brother (me) was pure gold.
I am pretty sure my brother never played a game not as the Mad Soldiers, an obvious Road Warriors pastiche. I would alternate between the Orient Express and Crush Brothers. Sadly, a major drawback was that the Soldiers couldn’t fight the Maskmen and the Express couldn’t fight the CBs. But nevermind that, we played the heck out of this game and it brings back all the “warm fuzzies” for me because of it.
And to echo Sean above, the variety of moves was fantastic for this era. I mean, there’s a lot of variety and no repetition of special moves, that is something that games were having trouble with 15 years later.
One odd thing: nominally I would have considered the Soldiers and Maskmen the babyfaces (Road Warriors got cheered no matter if they were babyface or heel, and in the 80s masked guys tended to be babyface here in the US) with the Orient Express and Crush Brothers as heels (80s style foreigner heels and ‘elitist’ heels — we also considered the CBs to be like Ric Flair and Arn Anderson). So given that, it was always strange that the Soldiers and Maskmen could use the steel chair but the Express and CBs could not!