FIRE PRO WRESTLING WORLD [Anime Expo 2018]: Best Bout Machine.
While not much new info about Fire Pro Wrestling World (PS4) was said during the Spike Chunsoft panel at Anime Expo 2018, the game was fully playable on the exhibit floor. And what a treat it was. My pal and I hit the ring with New Japan Pro Wrestling legends Hiroshi Tanahashi and current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega, going back and forth in a fun, yet semi-frustrating duel that lasted roughly 12 real-time minutes (24-minutes on-screen). The timing of the match, an element far more important to NJPW than, say, WWE played into wrestler fatigue and also told a story within our battle…
That might be the best part of Fire Pro Wrestling World, too. Lots of stories are going to be told without much of a need for a story mode, although this new expansion has one. Each match is set to offer marks much of the technical drama of a traditional New Japan Pro Wrestling experience. That, despite the NJPW brand being new to the franchise and a select add-on for the PS4 release on August 28th — which happens to be my sister’s birthday, so I should buy her the game so she can give it to me. Actually, she loves wrestling games and 2 gals around her age playing the game (with Kota Ibushi and Juice Robinson, to my wonder) just before us at Anime Expo looked like they were having more fun with FPWW than we did.
Fire Pro is real easy to jump in and play, with an arcady selection of weak/medium/strong grapple buttons (combined with the left stick presents several different move opportunities) and a pixelated, SNES aesthetic that make the game very approachable. But the initial in-ring reality couldn’t be any different; there’s a certain method to playing FPWW, with mechanics that require far more than button-mashing. Simultaneous strikes from opposing wrestlers does nothing, with a completely absent collision detection if there’s no strategy in play. The good news is that much of the grappling and in and out-of-the-ring action requires no button press. Simply walk into your opponent and your fight for supremacy shall begin. The battle over who would suplex, snapmare or hip-toss who was arguably the most enjoyable aspect of our gameplay. I wish punches and kicks had more impact when not timed right or attempted from the correct angle, but I completely understand why the game was designed this way…
Fire Pro Wrestling World is a real sim that doesn’t solely depend on reversals, a strategy game designed as an in-ring brawler that will probably take a good hour (or 10) to get the hang of — and perhaps become even a preference. Once players shifting over from the 2K world “git gud” in the Fire Pro arenas and enjoy all the little nuances they absolutely will not see in another wrestling title, there’s a game deep in customization to be had, too. This is the element of FPPW this wrestling critic is interested in the most, and wasn’t yet able to explore.
The game’s throwback graphics, a very cool-looking mish-mash of 2D sprites and 3D ring, appeared far more impressive and detailed than I imagined, that, despite some screwy in-game mechanics, I definitely feel compelled after my lengthy first bout. But being able to do whatever the Sabu Hell I please in the game — from having exploding ring deathmatches to personalizing mat logos to creating/sharing countless “name” wrestlers from around the world, including my beloved local PWG — is really what this franchise will be all about. I’ll no doubt Gotch Piledrive countless hours of my own squared-circle sandbox with Spike Chunsoft’s Fire Pro Wrestling World!