Posted on September 21, 2012 AT 08:19pm
There is something about the name Fire Pro that really stirs up some strong emotions within me, which for a videogame series is a bit odd. Yet, here I am, pushing 30 and there is a videogame series that I’ve been playing for a good portion of my life, and it has taken up many, many hours. So, you’d imagine the… skepticism that I experienced when it was announced that Fire Pro was coming out in the US on Xbox Live Arcade and that it was a weird game that uses Xbox Live Avatars as the wrestlers.
Basically, I need you to understand how much Fire Pro games have meant to me in the past. This dates back to 1996 or so, when the game first popped up on my radar as a kid. I was an obsessive professional wrestling fan, and when I say obsessive, I don’t just mean that I watched WCW and WWF, I mean that I became obsessive. The internet was still in its infancy, but it afforded me the ability to discover that ECW was shown on my local Spanish station at 2am on Saturday nights, as well as some assorted Jerry Jarrett promotions from over the years. This soon led into online tape trading, weekly tape purchases, an obsession with Japanese pro wrestling (so much so to where I don’t call it puroresu, because that is just a Japanese pronunciation of the American name, not some different form of it) and whatever else.
Fire Pro first came on my radar when I read about it in 1996 on Northeastern independent wrestler and ECW darling Rob Van Dam’s web site. Why? He was in Fire Pro Six Man Scramble on the Sega Saturn. The bummer was that I didn’t have a Sega Saturn as they were expensive and kind of weird, and it needed to be modded to play that. Bummer. I did find that on the internet you could *cough* acquire a thing called ROMs for a Super Nintendo emulator, and that there were already some crazy enough fans to translate the latest in the SNES portion of the series, Super Fire Pro X Premium. It was love at first boot up. The game was weird, really weird, and kind of awkward. Guys kept getting suplexed into the ropes and then both falling together, you could fall out of the ring just by walking near the ropes, the grappling was weird and timing based and it took forever to learn to play. The thing is, once I learned how to play, I was hooked.
Then I discovered the Edit mode. Edit mode was just, I don’t even know how to explain it. Many games, not only wrestling games, give you the ability to create your own characters and run them through the game, but none did it like Fire Pro did it. Every wrestling move you could ever imagine was in this game, the way you customized appearances meant changing out little parts of the color palette for each part, and as long as you used your imagination, you could do whatever. When I was able to create what I felt to be a picture-perfect version of ECW’s Taz, along with his suplex variations and his choke finisher, I knew this was my game. By the time 1999 rolled around, I was ready to purchase the latest installment, Fire Pro Wrestling G. FPG, as we fans lovingly call it, was amazing. I must have printed out 200 pages of translations just to play it, and to this day I can navigate the entire game — and every game after it in Japanese — without a second thought.
This is all a long primer, I know, but this is for you to understand how far back I go with this series. Fire Pro R, the last PS2 installment was the game with the lasting appeal. It was actually released in English in the US years after its release, and it sold moderately well after the two Game Boy Advance games sold kind of poorly. At this point, I became pretty well known in the strange world of Fire Pro simulating, where we’d stream live matches of CPU vs. CPU or even record them and post them online for each other to watch. Hell, I even wrote some guides on how to properly set up your computer logic to put on better matches between your created wrestlers and people still use them to this day.
So here we are, and Fire Pro Wrestling using Avatars on XBLA is out, and I was dreading this day. As soon as it was up, I paid for it and downloaded it. I knew I had to, even if it sucked. In a way, this is the fifth 3D game in the series, following Iron Slam ‘96, King of Colesseum Red and Green and King of Colesseum 2. To say that this game varies from those is not hard to imagine, as those were fully licensed Japanese games meant to be professional wrestling simulators, while this is an Avatar game intended to be goofy and fun. You won’t find a lot of those games in this; the grappling, the striking and all of the animations are different, very different. The mood and the feel is clearly way different, and the intended audience is different.
Yet, Spike has still pulled something interesting off with this game; it is really, really fun. I wasn’t expecting to like this, in fact this same group of people who used to join together to watch CPU sims of FPR matches and myself have been making fun of these moves since we’ve heard about them. I mean, c’mon, the TICKLE TACKLE. It is literally a move where you tackle your opponent and tickle them to the mat. Yet, I’ve been playing this game all day and have leveled up my first character to level 20 and purchased the evil day one DLC, just to have it for the future. The developers have enough experience to understand how to make a wrestling game fun and addicting, and I gotta say, while it can’t rival the WWE games in terms of depth, it is incredibly fun and well worth the 800 Microsoft Points.
If you like wrestling games or fighting games, at least try out the demo, because this game is just really, really fun. It reminds me a lot of the super fun Android/iOS touchscreen wrestling game released this year by MDickie called Wrestling Revolution, it just lacks the depth and sense of seriousness that Wrestling Revolution has.
Fire Pro Wrestling Avatar is available now on the Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points.
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