Published on June 24th, 2013 | by Shawn Long, Features Editor
Games That Could Have Been Great: Episode VII – Showdown: Legends of Wrestling
I recall walking into a Gamestop in a neighboring town when I was about 20, and seeing the most glorious poster on the wall. It conjured up memories of my youth and was just marvelous to look at.
I couldn’t turn away from it’s glory. What was this poster? Well, it was what turned out to be the box art for Showdown: Legends of Wrestling.
I had played Legends of Wrestling 2 and thought it sucked, but the gentleman at GameStop told me how the game boasted a new art style, controls and better presentation. The store was taking pre-orders, and you even got a dope T-shirt for doing it.
Since it was a 35-minute drive to this location, I decided against pre-ordering, but knew I had to get my hands on the game.
What it did Right:
Showdown: Legends of Wrestling, at the time, had the best graphical style for a wrestling game, and it still manages to hold up today.
Although they were a bit exaggerated proportionally, every playable wrestler looked solid and had multiple attires from various points of their careers.
A large roster of legends such as Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Savage, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and more, were included, and although there were some omissions, it felt like a solid line up.
The game included legendary announcers Tony Schiavone, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and “The Living Legend” Larry Zybszko. Various arenas from wrestling history, such as Madison Square Garden, were included.
Match modes were expanded and included ladder and table matches. Wrestlers had proper entrance mannerisms and taunts in the ring, and finishers were spot on. It had all the components to be the premier wrestling game for fans of the golden age of wrestling, and seemed to be poised to be a classic game that could be enjoyed by fans young and old.
So what the hell happened?
What it did Wrong:
Well, for starters, the publisher Acclaim was in the process of going out of business when the game was being made. So to say this game was rushed is a bit of an understatement.
Commentary, while good for what it was, ended up being repetitive and seemed like it was recorded in the day. The game advertised Jerry “The King” Lawler on commentary, but he was omitted from the game. Odd.
There wasn’t a story mode to be mentioned, and the “Create A Legend” mode, where you customized your own wrestler, was laughably bad in execution and way too hard to use. But once you were in the ring, that’s where things got really bad.
It seemed like while they got the finishing moves and taunts right, every other bit of the moveset was just generic and terrible for each wrestler (why is everyone doing a mummy driver?!). Wrestlers would fly across the screen, sometimes disappear, hit detection was terrible, and controls were unresponsive.
Animations were very stiff and canned, and it just didn’t feel right. The controls were decent but also didn’t seem to work half the time. The game had a tendency to either freeze up or crash as well. Nothing worked as it should, and it was obvious that the game was relying on initial sales because it wasn’t going to get much after people had gotten the word of all the issues it had.
It’s funny though, because with all the negative things this game has, I still enjoyed playing it. It’s almost so bad it’s good. The roster is charming enough to keep me coming back, and there are slight moments where the game feels like it should.
Those few and far moments of greatness is why I still like the game. It’s funny because you can somewhat parallel Acclaim to a legend wrestler. Once on top their respective worlds, this was like Greg Valentine performing at a gym for scratch money.
Acclaim was just trying to get one last payday.