I fell in to a burning ring of fire!
I’ve been a big wrestling fan and for years and years, and I had heard how brilliant the Fire Pro. Wrestling games were. Their heritage goes right back to the Famicom in Japan and the series continued on the PC Engine, Mega Drive, Super Nintendo and on to the 32-bit generation. It wasn’t until I got an Action Replay for my Sega Saturn though that I got the chance to find out what these games offered for myself. As these titles were only ever released in Japan, importing them is the only way to go. These days, thanks to the likes of eBay and Amazon, this is incredibly easy to do. No more begging dad to send a cheque off and praying you got something back, like it was when I was a nipper! I was so excited to play this Saturn iteration after hearing how it was the best game in the series, so let’s start by saying that I sure wasn’t disappointed!
The first thing you will notice is that Fire Pro. Wrestling S is a proper old school wrasslin’ game with an isometric ring and hand drawn sprites – nothing like the WWE games on modern machines. In fact, nothing like the two terrible WWE/WWF games released for the Saturn either! The actual wrestler line-up is huge, and I mean HUGE! You can choose from a set of different rosters, each with their own wrestlers, and while not officially licensed in any way, there are loads of real grapplers here that you will know and love. Outside of Japan, western players will recognise the superstars from the WWF (as it was then), WCW (before they were taken over by WWE) and the no holds barred ECW (before they went bust). Stars like Mick Foley, Hulk Hogan, Sting, Kevin Nash, Rob Van Dam, The Undertaker and Bret “The Hitman” Hart are all selectable. They come complete with their own unique move sets and trademark finishers too! The game gives them all Japanese names but thanks to the handy editor it only takes a few minutes to go and correct this. By playing through the various tournaments, it is also possible to unlock even more stars like Andre The Giant, Ric Flair and (being English) one of my very own wrestling heroes – The British Bulldog! Once these are unlocked, they can be saved to the system memory for future use.
Fire Pro has a very realistic tempo of match progression: you have to start off with light moves, work them down, and then move to medium moves. Once they are looking a bit tired you can start to pull off heavy moves and then land your finisher. This is much like a real life wrestling match as you watch a grappler work his way through his own move set towards a spectacular finish. Another true-to-life feature is the way you have to take moments out to rest your wrestler or you will suffer from fatigue. This is done by using a special breath button, and it does take some time – so I suggest a nice ring escape while you recoup. Much like more modern wrestling games, Fire Pro. Wrestling S, also offers up lots of ways to taunt your opponents. It’s a great way to increase the aggro and really wind your opponent up! Fun in single player, this feature is even better when you are playing against one of your friends.
The graphics in Fire Pro. Wrestling S are 2D pixel heaven with the well-animated and highly detailed sprites fighting in a multitude of colourful arenas. The sound is pretty average though and real wrestling aficionados will miss the signature entrance tunes, but it’s nothing to complain about too heavily. The only real downfall of this game is that it’s all in Japanese, and this becomes more of a problem when you see how many options menus and game modes are available. Thankfully there is a guide to the entire game in English that you can download and print from the internet (only took me a quick Google search to find it) and soon enough navigating the screens become second nature. Fire Pro. Wrestling S is, without an doubt, an essential game for the Saturn, especially if you are a real wrestling mark like myself!
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Sega Saturn (reviewed); Publisher: Human Entertainment ; Developer: Human Entertainment ; Players: 1-6 ; Released: 1996 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: N/A