Game Review – Return of Fire Pro Wrestling
The North American release for Fire Pro Wrestling Returns was on November 13. That’s a little over two years after launch in Japan. After having spent a full two weeks with the game in my possession, I think I can do a non-judgmental review. I am a long time fan of this series, but I can still acknowledge its flaws. How does Fire Pro Wrestling Returns compare to the most popular competition? Where to start …
There are no drastic changes to the main game of Fire Pro. It’s the same solid grip system that fans have long grown accustomed to. Those who are new to Fire Pro will need to spend some time getting used to syncing. The fighting system punishes button crushers. I would advise newbies to set the COM difficulty to 1 and work up to a harder level. This is one of those games where appreciation is only gained after learning the ins and outs.
The hallmarks of the series are tight gameplay and a great roster. FPR has a total of 327 competitors in real life. To avoid copyright issues, they have all been given a name change. Vader is called “Saber”, Kenta Kobashi is “Keiji Togashi”, and so on. Feel free to change everyone’s name accordingly. You also have the option to change the appeal of the default characters. You don’t have to sacrifice one of your 500 edit slots (CAW) when your favorite fighter switches tricks.
FPR’s star roster includes fighters, boxers, and mixed martial artists from around the world. Puroresu legends such as Giant Baba, Satoru Sayama (original tiger mask), and Jushin “Thunder” Lyger can be selected. As always, the default roster is dominated by Pure fighters. Some of the wrestlers well known to American / UFC wrestling fans include Bret Hart, Sting, Andre the Giant, Petey Williams, Mirco Cro Cop, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
A new addition to the series is a “corner to center” attack. When your opponent is knocked down in the middle of the ring, you can crouch in the corner to prepare a spear, a super kick, or some other maneuvers. This adds a bit more drama and precision to games that feature characters who configure these attacks in a certain way. Because of this new feature, you can create an accurate Shawn Michaels or Bill Goldberg if you are up to it.
Finally a traditional steel cage match has been added. Players can use weapons like barbed wire bats or the cage itself to inflict pain on others. Other types of combat include S-1 (boxing, punches only), Gruesome (a 12-sided UFC-inspired cage), and the Electrified Barbed Wire Exploding Deathmatch. While he has Hell in a Cell, the hardcore Japanese fighters throw each other onto electrified boards covered with barbed wire fur. It’s different, but fun anyway
Noteworthy features include reference editing, belt editing, and ring / logo editing. There is a GM mode called “Match Maker”, but it is very limited. All you do is set up matches between fighters and get rated by the crowd reaction percentage in the match. There are strange special events that happen during matchmaking that do very little to expand beyond its limitations. For some inconceivable reason, created wrestlers are prohibited from use in Match Maker.
The presentation is nothing special. Menus are useful, but accessing some functions can be a chore at times. The 2D FPR graphics remind me of arcade games like Wrestlefest. The character sprites are not high resolution, but they are large and detailed. Spike could have easily recycled graphics from Fire Pro Wrestling Z. Instead, they created new sprites and revived some pre-existing moves. Some animations look a bit robotic, but they are quite fluid.
I’m sad to say that Spike has once again assigned the pick up weapons button to the execute button. Want to get a fluorescent tube from the corner while playing a game of exploding barbed wire? Make sure you are close enough to these tubes. Otherwise, you will bump into the barbed wire ropes and end up looking like a complete fool. It doesn’t ruin the game or anything, but such neglect of the R2 button has me flabbergasted. Overall, that’s one of my biggest complaints with FPR.
I do not give numerical scores or ratings in my reviews. If I was the type to do that, Fire Pro Wrestling Returns would probably receive a 91. It is the best in the series, but like any other game it has flaws. Even classic games that get perfect scores from other reviewers have some glitches or glitches. I recommend this game to anyone who is interested in professional wrestling or the UFC. You don’t have to be in Pure to like FPR, the unique gameplay and customization options are more than enough to pique interest.