WWE 13 vs. Microleague Wrestling: A Look Back at WWE's First Video Game

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WWE 13 vs. Microleague Wrestling: A Look Back at WWE's First Video Game
Photo from thq.com

WWE's newest video game, WWE 13, will feature a roster of more than 80 past and present wrestlers (via thq.com).  The game includes everyone from Mike Tyson to Dude Love. 

Players can create their own superstars and storylines, reshaping WWE history or writing its fictional future.  It will easily consume hours and hours of happy gamers' lives. 

We've come a long way since WWE's first video game effort.

The first-ever WWE video game was a trailblazing effort, even if it now can't compare with the latest version.

Microleague Wrestling came out in 1987 for the Commodore 64 and Atari ST.  Micro League Sports Association Inc. also created Microleague Baseball which, like its wrestling equivalent, was heavy on the simulation and light on the pizzazz.

When WWE 13 comes out in stores on Oct. 30, it will mark the next step in the journey in WWE video game evolution.  Microleague Wrestling is where that journey started. 

 

Options

The game was packed onto a floppy disk with each side featuring a different match.  On one, gamers could play Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage.  On the other, Paul Orndorff vs. Hogan. 

That was it.  No dream matches between generations, no recreating popular rivalries, no cage matches. In an age of video games where choice and freedom is so abundant, it's hard to remember (or imagine for younger folks) how limiting gaming used to be. 

the Microleague Wrestling front cover

If you wanted more matches, you had to buy additional disks.

One expansion disk featured Randy Savage vs. The Honky Tonk Man, and Jim Duggan vs. Harley Race.  The other gave fans the chance to play Hulk Hogan vs. Ted DiBiase, or Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude.

Mean Gene interviews the wrestlers before their matches.  There aren't dialogue options for the player.  The same script is played out every time you play the game.  

Gamers do have the option of having the matches either 10, 20 or 60 minutes in duration. 

Today's gamers are spoiled with options.

We can play online, create our own superstars and arenas, relive Mankind vs. Undertaker's Hell in a Cell battle or rewrite the Attitude Era. 

Microleague Wrestling didn't have to satisfy the insatiable hunger for variety that we have now.  They could rely on the power of novelty to sell games. 

It was the first-ever chance for WWE fans to play such an interactive role in their beloved sport.  The game provided another way for wrestling nuts to experience the WWE. 

 

Gameplay

Folks at the E3 conference got the first glimpse of WWE 13 gameplay.  The demo video that ran there showed fans a gorgeous, smooth-looking game. 

Microleague Wrestling, of course, didn't have the benefit of such realistic graphics or such natural-feeling gameplay.  

The game was stripped down, forcing the player into the role of spectator for much of it.  

Each wrestler has a list of 10 moves on the sides of the screen.  They range from simple strikes like stomps and punches to more powerful moves like double ax handles. 

The moves are placed in order from weakest to strongest, the last one being the wrestler's finisher.  Using the finisher is the only way to score a pin. 

You select a move.  Your opponent selects a move. 

Somehow one of them wins out.  The formula is a little unclear. 

The moves are shown via digitized images spliced together to make a rudimentary video clip.  A Hulk Hogan elbow slowly plops on Randy Savage's head. 

In a way, it's like you're controlling a series of video clips, operating a bizarre DVR-like system.

Jess Regan on 1up.com said of the strategy, "Maybe there’s a rock/paper/scissors symbiosis between the moves that I'm missing, but from what I've seen there's no clear path to victory."

While you wrestle a herky-jerky match, Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura provide text commentary for the action.

The various expansion disks feature different commentators including Bobby Heenan and Bruno Sammartino.

A strategy-based game was an odd way to go for a WWE title, especially when it's unclear how to properly utilize the strategy.    

 

Final Thoughts

Fans old enough to remember Microleague Wrestling may look at it fondly through the haze of nostalgia.  There is something charming about it, something unpretentious.    

It was a part of WWE's expansion from regional promotion to wrestling empire.  Vince McMahon envisioned a promotion that didn't just sell wrestling tickets, but everything from T-shirts to ice cream bars. 

Young fans who have known nothing but games on the level of WWE 13 may not truly appreciate how incredibly advanced it is.  Short of some form of virtual reality where it feels like you're actually doing a moonsault, it's hard to imagine wrestling video games getting much better than this.

In another 25 years, though, we may be looking back on WWE 13 as a quaint, antiquated game. 

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