- Original release year: 2001
- Consoles: Dreamcast
Tonight is the Royal Rumble, WWE’s annual extravaganza that begins the road to Wrestlemania, the ‘Super Bowl’ of wrestling. The Royal Rumble also happens to be my favourite annual event, thanks mostly to the awesome Rumble match (30 participants, send your opponents over the top ropes to eliminate them, only one winner who will go on to headline Wrestlemania) and also because it’s not really as overhyped as Wrestlemania is (which often does not live up to the hype…). So, I figured I’d feature one of the best and underrated wrestling games around, Fire Pro Wrestling D (and yes, Returns is also awesome, but I’ve played far more of D).
The Fire Pro Wrestling series has a bit of a cult following from hardcore wrestling fans and the games attract a rather more niche crowd than the more mainstream WWE series of games. Although some of the WWE games have been good (No Mercy, Here Comes the Pain, to some extent the 2006 and 2007 games), most have been fairly poor, stuck in the ‘annual release’ rut and don’t offer gameplay that is technical enough for some fans. The Fire Pro Wrestling games, on the other hand, are always strong and, for that reason, it’s a shame most have not seen Western releases.
Being entirely ‘fictional’ and not based on any official federations, Fire Pro Wrestling offers the player the amount of freedom that the WWE series cannot and gives wrestling fans the opportunity to create their own dream match ups.
So for those who aren’t too aware of the series and may be sceptical, I guess the first thing to say is to not let the old school graphics put you off (the chances are, if you’re reading this article, they won’t anyways), as the game is far from simplistic. Wrestling fans will be astounded by the number of options and wrestlers available, but the gameplay is also fantastic too, featuring weak, medium and strong grapples and a number of more technical options. Fans of the late 90s/early 00s American wresting will also be happy as there’s plenty of ECW, WCW and WWF/WWE wrestlers to choose from, albeit with their names changed for legal reasons (but, because of all the editing options, you can change their names).
The Fire Pro Wrestling series was vastly ahead of its time, possessing some amazing features. The gameplay is impeccable, especially for hardcore wrestling fans, who love all the different styles and personalities found in wrestling. Fire Pro Wrestling D features lucha libres, high flyers, brawlers, grapplers, technical wrestlers, shoot fighters etc. The match types are also diverse, with cage death matches, battle royals, tag matches, UFC style octagon mathes, barbed wire matches etc. Weapons can be retrieved from under the ring for fans of hardcore matches, like myself and wrestlers can even bleed. There’s a wrestler edit and create mode, which is incredibly deep (and also incredibly in Japanese, so borderline impossible to navigate through for non-speakers). WWE, ECW and WCW wrestlers like Sting, The Rock, The Undertaker, Rob Van Dam etc (all with different names, as mentioned, due to licencing), all play like their real life counterparts, with them having identical moves, similar entrance themes and even the same taunts.
Although wrestling games have moved on a lot since Fire Pro Wrestling D, the wealth of options, match types, attention to detail, depth, great gameplay and customisation on offer make it well worth checking out. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns on the PS2 remains the only Fire Pro game to get localised in the West (besides the two handheld titles on the GameBoy Advance), but Fire Pro Wrestling D gets more play from myself, due to its Career mode (Victory Road), that was taken out of Returns and replaced with a GM mode of sort.