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Fire Pro Wrestling World (PS4) Review

September 4, 2018 | Posted by Armando Rodriguez
NJPW Fire Pro Wrestling World
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Fire Pro Wrestling World (PS4) Review  

Released: August 28 2018

Platform: Playstation 4

Price: $49.99 (Standard Edition) and $89.99 (Deluxe Edition)

Players: 1-4 (Local and Online)

Rated T for Teen

Wrestling fans rejoice: There is a new Fire Pro Wrestling game in town! Fire Pro Wrestling World has finally come to PS4 after spending one year in early access on Steam. If you are a fan of the franchise you will immediately love it but as always, newcomers beware.  Doing this review is extremely difficult because I am a huge fan of the franchise and I need to temper my expectations and look at the game from the perspective of someone who has never played the series.

First, an introduction: The Fire Pro Wrestling series has been running for around 20 years, beginning in the PC Engine/TurboGrafx16 in the late 80’s and having entries in the Super NES, Mega Drive/Genesis, PlayStation, Saturn, Dreamcast, Game Boy Advance and PlayStation 2.  Of these, only two of the three Fire Pro Wrestling Advance (GBA) games and Fire Pro Wrestling Returns for PS2 have made it stateside. Too bad because back in the SNES days, when we had WWF Royal Rumble and it’s 8 moves per character, Japan had Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium, which boasted dozens of moves per character and had moonsaults, dives to the outside, reversals and all sorts of crazy stuff that us poor American gamers wouldn’t get to see until the N64 days.

Fire Pro Wrestling World is more of a simulation of pro wrestling the way it’s done in Japan, than something like WWE2K series. Matches tend to be slower paced, building up to an action packed climax. Characters can strike, run, leap from the top rope, grapple, go for submissions and everything you see in real wrestling.  The grappling system is timing based and very different since there is no dedicated grapple button. Instead you walk into your opponent and that initiates a grappling animation. Then you input your move and usually if you were faster than your opponent you win and execute the move. It sounds complicated but once you have a few matches under your belt it will be second nature. For fans of the series coming into World from previous games, the timing is slightly different as there is usually a longer window of time than in previous games, a concession that has been made to make the game more accessible.  Each character has four types of grapples: weak, medium and strong, plus one uber move (usually the finisher) that is mapped to weak+medium buttons at the same time.  Like in Japanese wrestling, you need to begin with the weakest grapples (bodyslams, snap mares, punches and chops), then the medium grapples (suplexes, sleeper holds and the like) and then the strong grapples (your powerbombs and german suplexes for example).  The more time has passed and the more you have hurt your opponent, the highest the chance to nail a strong move. Sure, you might randomly get lucky and hit a Powerbomb early in the match, but the majority of the time you will be countered.  There are so many moves and things you can do but the best way I can put it for non-Fire Pro gamers is this: It plays kind of like the old THQ/AKI N64 games (I think Fire Pro is even more hardcore than that) and if you are a fan of those games then this is the closest you are going to get.

In addition to the multitude of attacks, you also have taunts, breathing and Ukemi.  Taunts are pretty obvious and help with the match score (more on that later).  Breathing is a mechanic that has always been in the Fire Pro games (and the WWE games tried to steal at one point). Basically every move you take consumes stamina and you need to take periodic breaks to breathe and recover or risks being blown up like the Ultimate Warrior late in the match. I noticed that breathing is not needed as often as it was in previous games as well. Finally, the concept of Ukemi is hard to explain even for a veteran of the series. Basically you hold a button that means “I will allow the opponent to hit me with his next move and not counter” and when you take the move you take less damage/stamina loss than normal.

The main difference form any other game is that Fire Pro actually rates your matches.  At the end of the match you get a rating of anywhere between 0 and 100%. In order to get the higher ratings, you need to forget about squashing your opponent like you would do in the WWE2K games and actually try to get an exciting back and forth match going. Yes, it means you will actually allow your opponent to hit you and get control sometimes to make it exciting. There is a button that automatically breaks your pinfall attempts and submissions and of course, the previously mentioned Ukemi that allows you to voluntarily take a move. Taunting before or after big moves, getting those 2.9 near falls and performing exciting moves (and not being overly repetitive) is the best way to get a high rating.  Two skilled Fire Pro players having a match and “calling” the match like in real life can almost always get a high rating and put on a fun to watch match.

Match types include your basic one on one and multi-man matches, a wide variety of tag team types (2 on 2, six man, eight man etc), Barbed Wire and explosive deathmatches and even UFC and K-1 style rules (yes, it’s possible to simulate MMA fights as well).  You can put on tournaments of pretty much all the match types as well.

New on the PS4 version is the New Japan Pro Wrestling integration and the Story Mode. NJPW wrestlers like Omega, Okada, Tanahashi, Shibata, Naito, Sabre Jr, Suzuki and more are in the game, but most of the Junior Heavyweight roster is missing and will be released in a separate DLC package later. There are some notable omissions like The Young Bucks and Cody and sadly no legends. That means no Inoki, Vader and some others that would be fun to watch.  They also added real NJPW rings and referees into the mix.  The Story Mode sees you as a rookie competing for the opportunity to enter the NJPW Dojo and eventually work your way to the main event.  There is no voice acting so expect to read a lot of text and see a lot of whacky pictures of NJPW guys.  Still, the mode is very well done, challenging you to complete a variety of objectives during your matches, spend training points to enhance your stats and evolve your character by learning new moves.  I have not completed it yet, but so far I have loved it. Sure, some of the objectives require trial and error to figure out as the instructions are not explicitly clear but the progression feels more natural than the WWE2K games and you never feel overpowered.

The other main single player mode and the one I recommend all newcomers begin with is Mission Mode.  Here the game challenges you to complete objectives, like get 60% rating in a match or win a match via submission with the specific characters assigned to you. It’s a great way to learn the game’s mechanics since it slowly introduces you to every mechanic and match type while also rewarding you with new moves for the edit mode.

And now the main event: The Edit Mode. Also known as “Create-A-Wrestler “in other titles, here is where you make new wrestlers, referees, rings and title belts.  The Edit Mode is one of the most in-depth I have ever seen.  Not only do you design the wrestler’s looks and move set, but also tweak how he behaves through logic and parameters. It takes some time to learn how to use it properly, but once you master it you can make your creations behave as close to how they do in real life as possible.  You can tweak which moves they like to follow another move with, like for example, how often does your Bret Hart follow the backbreaker with the Sharpshooter or how often does your John Cena follow the ProtoBomb with the running first drop.  You can also tweak percentages for the use of moves under certain situations, like early in the match or when on the top rope. You are not only creating characters for others to play with: You are creating how they behave when the CPU uses them. This gives the game a level of realism other games lack. The system is so good that there is a niche group of people who buy this game and never play it: they just create characters and simulate CPU vs. CPU matches and guess what? They are fun to watch. Fire Pro Wrestling World is tailor-made for the Twitch era.

You can share your creations through the Fire Pro website and download them from anywhere (even your cellphone or tablet) and they will show up on your game once you boot it up, as long as you sign in into the website with your PSN ID.  This has become a new obsession of mine: When I am not playing Fire Pro I am downloading stuff from my phone.  There are so many talented creators that you can find pretty much every wrestler, boxer and MMA fighter from the past 30 years and even video game, movie and comic book characters.  Ever wonder who will win a Battle Royal between Hulk Hogan, The Terminator, Mega Man, Mike Tyson, Sonic the Hedgehog and Spiderman? You can simulate that in Fire Pro (minus the otherworldly powers of course).  The Edit Mode is my favorite aspect of the entire game. It’s so deep and flexible that I have seen some user-created versions of Kenny Omega or Tanahashi that play and look better than the ones the developers created!

Another new addition in Fire Pro is Online Play. I am not going to delve too deep into it because I didn’t like it.  Matches are hit or miss depending on whom you are playing against and the status of the connection. Some play flawlessly while others become unplayable. Even a hint of lag will throw off your timing and basically require you to adapt to every single match.  Once you find a Fire Pro lover who wants to have fun and put on a good match you will enjoy it, but there is way too many people who approach the game like any other fighting/wrestling game and that’s not my cup of tea.  On the other hand, I see Fire pro becoming the go-to platform for E-Feds and simmers since it makes for a great spectator sport and it’s easier to “work” a match with a pre-determined result between two players.

The graphics have been improved since previous versions thanks to an HD facelift and thousands of new animations. Sure, it’s 2D and outside of the HD it could have been done reasonably the same back in the Dreamcast or Playstation, but the animations are so well done and the emotion of the sport has been captured very well. Moves feel impactful, faces show the varying degrees of emotion and pain, blood stains their faces after been whacked with a chair and you can tell who is who at a glance. This is one of the best-looking 2D games I have ever seen.  I, for once, hope the series never leaves this art-style behind and switches to 3D.  The sound does need some work mostly because some of the grunts and impacts sound unrealistic, but they have become part of the charm of the series.

The controls are easy to grasp, but still need some tweaking. Is it really necessary for the run and grab weapon buttons to be the same, especially when we have some other buttons going unused?  This is also not an easy pick-up and play game and I recommend everyone goes through the tutorial and at least the first 5-6 missions in order to grasp the basics. Using the Edit Mode with a controller can be cumbersome, but this could be just me coming from the PC version and having to adapt to not having a mouse and keyboard.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Fire Pro Wrestling World is everything fans of the series have dreamed of. No longer do we have to mod a console, print hundreds of pages to translate the menus and download save files from total strangers over the internet to get the characters we want. Everything is at your fingertips. The ability to seamlessly create and share over the internet, coupled with the trademark deep wrestling engine makes this the best Fire Pro of all time.  This is the REAL wrestling simulation, is a great spectator game as well and provides the tools for unlimited creativity. This could be the last wrestling game you’ll ever need.