Fire Pro Wrestling World (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gabriel Jones 03.11.2018

Review for Fire Pro Wrestling World on PlayStation 4

There are few wrestling promotions as revered as New Japan Pro Wrestling. The best of the best compete for the highest honours, as well as the adulation of the crowd. At this very moment, it's the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 13, the biggest show of the year. However, just as Kenny Omega and Hiroshi Tanahashi are about to lock up, the threadbare fabric of reality finally snaps. A massive portal opens inside of the Tokyo Dome. Thousands of men and women, dressed in all manner of strange attire, step out of the mysterious gateway. It seems that warriors from all over the universe, both real and imagined, have arrived to challenge NJPW's greatest wrestlers. As crazy as it all sounds, this is just a typical day in Fire Pro Wrestling World.

Explaining the appeal of Fire Pro Wrestling World is not something that can be done in a couple sentences. These days, wrestling games are something of a niche product, and this one presents itself as the niche within that niche. Visually, it looks like an upscaled PlayStation 2 game. The spartan presentation and budget production values won't impress, either. If it wasn't for the NJPW tie-in, the starting roster would be about as inspiring as a cinder block. Outside observers are bound to be left scratching their heads, as dedicated Fire Pro fans try to explain why the franchise is so beloved.

Nevertheless, this review is going to try and give it a shot. What makes this game work is that it sparks the imagination. It gives players the necessary freedom to craft an experience that suits them. Aside from a couple of entirely optional modes, the person holding the controller owes no obligation to the developer. They can participate in every match, learning the grapple system, and the secrets to winning. Alternatively, they can sit back and allow the CPU to simulate bouts. Yes, this is one of those rare titles that are as much fun to watch as they are to play. A fully-featured edit mode and a community website, featuring tens of thousands of downloadable wrestlers, guarantees that the meagre starting roster can be quickly addressed.

Understanding the basics of wrestling is fairly simple. Whenever two opposing wrestlers get close enough, they will automatically grapple. What the player has to do is input their move at just the right moment, since there's something of a "sweet spot." The closer they are to that specific frame, the better their chances of winning the grapple and hitting their move. Since there aren't any meters or gauges, it's entirely possible for someone to use their finisher in the opening moments of a match. However, the chances of that actually happening are less than zero. The idea is to weaken the opponent with a variety of striking attacks and basic throws, wearing them down until they are susceptible to a big finish.

Screenshot for Fire Pro Wrestling World on PlayStation 4

Stamina is also a concern worth paying attention to. Big moves take a lot out of both wrestlers, so take some time to breathe (hold L1). This helps to prevent one from getting knocked down by a slight breeze, or to recover slightly faster from a massive slam. Then again, if a player is truly confident in their ability, they should allow their opponent to get some hits in. Whenever a match ends, there's an evaluation rating. A good pro-wrestling match tells a story. The baby-face makes an unbelievable comeback; the heel steals victory at the last possible moment. There's not a lot of value in seeing someone get absolutely squashed. Whether the player wins or loses has no effect on the evaluation.

The mission mode serves two purposes. As a tutorial, it gives everyone an explanation of all of the controls and abilities available to them, and then provides them the opportunity to test what they have learned. It's especially useful for learning how to win grapples. Once the tutorial is completed, the mission mode ups the challenge, testing veterans on how capable they are of performing advanced techniques, or winning under certain conditions. Achieving the vaunted "S" ranking adds an extra layer of depth to the mode, prompting players to learn how to put on a good match if they truly want to master the game.

Part wrestling, part visual novel, the scenario mode "Fighting Road" has players create a wrestler and then lead them on a journey to hopefully become the IWGP champion. The route changes depending on choices made throughout the protagonist's career. After each match, wrestlers earn training points, which are used to boost stats and abilities. New moves are also unlocked, allowing greater freedom in creating the ideal wrestling persona. At first, the storyline is a bit slow, but it serves as a great introduction to New Japan Pro Wrestling. Things start to pick up once the newcomer gets a handle on the basics.

As with Mission mode, some bouts in Fighting Road have specific clear conditions, which can sometimes get a little annoying. Early on, one of the matches requires the participant to land 16 signature moves. Imagine John Cena hitting his opponent 16 times with his patented "five knuckle shuffle." It sounds ridiculous, but considering the intense training regime necessary to keep pro-wrestlers from seriously hurting each other, then it makes sense. Still, it would have been nice if the game actually tracked how many signature moves were performed over the course of the match. On the bright side, even if the player fails, they are allowed the option to continue as if they actually completed the mission. It's an appreciated gesture, to say the least.

Screenshot for Fire Pro Wrestling World on PlayStation 4

Of course, one of the biggest time sinks in the Fire Pro franchise can't be ignored: in the Edit mode, players have a full slate of tools to create their ideal wrestler. After deciding on the appearance, gamers can customise their design with 100s of different moves, and adjust the stats however they like. If someone is inventive enough, there really aren't any limitations. Anyone who is curious about all of the possibilities should check out the official community website.

At first, the idea of using a website for sharing creations seems a little convoluted, especially for a console title. In practice, however, it's anything but. All that needs to be done is to subscribe to the items that are of interest, and then they are automatically downloaded the next time the game starts up. Managing wrestlers in-game involves moving them from "Retired" status to a promotion or stable, but again it's very easy to figure out. In just a short time, players can create their dream bout. Kenny Omega, Chris Jericho, and The Undertaker in a triple threat match? That's nothing. Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Great Muta team up to face Mario and Luigi? If players can create the wrestlers or find them on the website, then it's entirely possible.

Not all created wrestlers are… well… created equally. While the Mission and Scenario modes fix stats to appropriately curve for the player's level of skill, the same can't be said for practically every other mode. The right configuration of stats and special abilities can make for a wrestler that consistently dominates; for example, a wrestler with the "Strikeback" ability gains two points to every stat when they are out of stamina. Since matches can go to the point where everyone is exhausted, the one participant with Strikeback gains a clear advantage. Thankfully, there are communities built around creating fair and balanced wrestlers.

Screenshot for Fire Pro Wrestling World on PlayStation 4

For the most part, the selection of match types is very traditional. Outside of the standard 1-on-1 and tag-team matches, there's also support for tournaments and battle royales. MMA fans have some options available to them, as well. There are even a couple hardcore gimmicks, like barbed wire ropes and exploding rings, but nothing truly out of the ordinary. Don't expect to see any ladder matches, burning tables, or backstage brawls.

As mentioned earlier, Fire Pro Wrestling World is very entertaining, even when the player isn't an active participant. The AI is more than competent and can do a fine job at presenting a thrilling fight. If need be, the created wrestlers' "CPU Logic" can be changed. This aspect determines what moves they are mostly likely to perform in a number of situations. A lot of the time, real world pro-wrestlers have a certain pattern they utilise in most of their matches. This same pattern can be created through CPU Logic, allowing for a more convincing portrayal by the AI. First-timers should probably hunt down a guide before making serious edits, though, as this game isn't always 100% clear when explaining its many features and sub-systems.

Getting into this can feel a little daunting. The learning curve and unique mechanics do take a while to adjust to. Then there's the matter of what mode to take on first. Perhaps the best approach is the one that the player feels most comfortable with. All of the content is available from the outset, so nobody is forced to play through the Mission and Scenario modes, just to unlock parts or moves. It's perfectly reasonable to accrue 100s of hours of playtime participating in (or watching) exhibition matches. The simulation aspects are quite engrossing, and some might find themselves creating storylines for their promotion. The old adage "You get out of it what you put into it" certainly applies here.

Screenshot for Fire Pro Wrestling World on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Above all else, Fire Pro Wrestling World presents a level of freedom not often seen in videogames. Dedicated players have every opportunity to craft their own wrestling experience. Whether this experience adheres strictly to well-known promotions or something wholly unique is up to them. Anyone seeking a solidly crafted and entertaining experience won't be disappointed, either. The action is soundly compelling, and there's enough depth to stick around for the long term. It's also worth taking the time to explore both the Mission and Scenario modes, as they really add a lot of flavour to this excellent wrestling game.

Developer

Spike Chunsoft

Publisher

Spike Chunsoft

Genre

Sport

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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