The newest WWE video game series may be prettier, but Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is the game pro wrestling fans will want to marry.
The Japanese import recently found a new home when Sony re-released the game for folks to download on the Playstation Network. In 2007, North American gamers got a chance to devour the addictive and impressively deep game that Japanese fans had already been playing.
The graphics are dinky. There aren't the online options, story modes or slick presentation that other great wrestling games have had, but in spite of that, Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is the best wrestling game ever.
Greg Miller of IGN.com wrote that it is "a game the right fan could get lost in for years." Michael Donahue had even higher praise. He wrote on 1UP.com that, "Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is the best wrestling game ever. That's not an exaggerated statement."
From its depth to its accuracy, there are several reasons why Fire Pro Wrestling Returns outshines its competition. Let's dig into those reasons, starting with the overwhelmingly large roster.
As robust as the roster for WWE 13 is, it has nothing on Fire Pro Wrestling Returns in terms of sheer number.
The game sidesteps licensing issues by giving real wrestlers fake names and changing their appearances slightly. Fans know though that Kerry Texan is meant to be Terry Funk and that Saber is really Vader. That allows Fire Pro Wrestling Returns to deliver a long and varied roster.
Fans of Japanese wrestling will be most happy as a large portion of that 327 is occupied by wrestlers from the various Japanese promotions. In addition, gamers can control wrestlers like Abdullah the Butcher, Bret Hart, AJ Styles, Sabu and Karl Gotch.
That allows for dream matches that no other game can provide.
Pit Giant Baba vs. Andre the Giant, Jushin Liger against Sting or recreate the Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask's series of classics. The mix of generations, of Japanese, Mexican and North American wrestlers, and the famous and obscure provides a glut of choices.
Throw in the fact that Fire Pro Wrestling Returns even includes MMA fighters like Royce Gracie and Wanderlei Silva and the decision of who to play as becomes a very difficult one.
If over 300 wrestlers from past and present isn't enough, gamers can create up to 500 more.
The detail-oriented "edit wrestler" mode lets players create any number of made-up wrestlers as well as any of their favorites who might be missing from the game. Want to know how to make Yokozuna, Ricky Steamboat, Randy Orton or Kurt Angle? Just check out forums like this one where gamers post comprehensive guides that detail how to create these stars.
The 1,649 wrestling moves available and the superior A.I. help make these creations not only look like the wrestlers, but fight like them too.
Other games have excellent "create-a-wrestler" modes, but few are as engrossingly deep and none allow the player so much space for their creations.
The GM Mode from SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 was fun, but not as involved and addictive as the fantasy booker mode in Fire Pro Wrestling Returns.
Ever wanted to be in Antonio Inoki, Paul Heyman or Vince McMahon's shoes and put your wrestling genius to work? Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is your best option to fulfill that fantasy unless you marry into the business.
Gamers have to manage operating costs and please the fans starting with a limited set of promotions, including Michinoku Pro, Big Japan Pro Wrestling, Dynamic Dream Team and Osaka Pro. You're given a rating based on crowd response and profit.
Do well and more promotions will open up. Again, it is attention to detail that makes this game, and this mode specifically, such an enjoyable experience. Like the rest of the game, it’s short on flash, long on substance.
Other wrestling games have their share of gimmick matches, but Fire Pro Wrestling Returns dominates in terms of brutality.
Where else can you have Tatsumi Fujinami and Sting battle it out in a barbed wire deathmatch or take on your friends in a match where landmines explode in the ring?
With these matches, players can customize how many weapons will be available, how many falls are in the match and whether there will be florescent light bulbs or barbed wire boards in the corner.
Fans pining for the days of ECW's prime or those into Japan's most gruesome brand of wrestling have a sadistic playground to call home with Fire Pro Wrestling Returns.
The A.I. built into Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is sometimes so realistic that it's spooky.
Masahiro Chono wrestles like Masahiro Chono. Bruiser Brody wrestles like Bruiser Brody.
The level of detail adds to the game's realistic feel. Players have the option to customize referees, in-ring logos and various other aspects. This translates into allowing fans to live out their wrestling fantasies or recreate the past in convincing fashion.
Ignore the goofy graphics and the overall feel of the game will suck you in.
Gamers may even forgo playing the game and just watch a computer simulation instead. Watching the computer-controlled wrestlers go at it can be almost as exciting as the real thing. That's a rarity for wrestling games.
Other games have glossier, prettier graphics. Other games have more intuitive menus and better overall presentation, but no other games feels as much like pro wrestling as Fire Pro Wrestling Returns.
No other game feels as much like a love letter to the industry.