Long time readers of RapReviews.com are well aware of my passion for three things: rap music and culture, professional wrestling, and video games. If you’ve visited my YouTube channel even once you’ve definitely found an abundance of the latter. I used to keep discrete channels for all three, but when Google decided to restrict monetization to only those who reached a high enough threshold, I started consolidating all of the videos into one place. It’s not as though they don’t routinely intersect anyway. There are no shortage of pro wrestling games, rappers routinely mention pro wrestlers in songs, and on occasion we even see rap stars step into the ring.
When I was offered the opportunity to take an advance look at WrestleQuest for a review I could hardly turn it down. It was yet another intersection of two of my three passions, and one which put an interesting spin on the proceedings. Most wrestling games expect you to treat the character you are controlling like a real fighter having a real fight. Your ability to win a match is directly influenced by a roll of the dice when creating your wrestler. If you go too hard spamming your big moves you can “gas out” and have no stamina, leaving you vulnerable to being pinned or submitted. If your opponent (AI or human) has better stats, their cardio or strength might allow them to do moves you can’t. You have to work your way up the ranks, stringing together enough wins while improving your stats with training, to eventually be strong enough for a title shot.
What if there was a different way to achieve the same goals? WrestleQuest takes the role playing formula and applied it to the world of pro wrestling. Your protagonist is Randy Santos, an aspiring wrestler who idolizes the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and the world he inhabits (a “toys come to life” scenario) even built a statue of him that playfully references one of his famous promos. From the very moment you’re introduced to the world you see other wrestlers who lent their voice and likeness to the game — Jeff Jarrett, Diamond Dallas Page, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, etc. The developers deliberately went out of their way to cater to an older generation here with these names and the pixel art look and feel of the presentation, and you won’t catch me complaining about it.
The key difference is that instead of controlling your protagonist directly, moving them around with the controller to lock up with their opponent and hit moves, you’re selecting from a list of available actions you can take and then attempting to enhance the moves with well timed button presses. Paper Mario fans will immediately recognize how this works as will most long time RPG players. In some respects this feels more real as a pro wrestling fan. Sometimes your favorites lose because they’re scripted to lose. That happens frequently in role playing games as well. You lose a fight not because you didn’t work hard enough, have the best stats or equipment, or form the right party. You lose because you were scripted to. The game has a story to tell. If you win all of the time you never invest in the character you control emotionally. You lose early but work hard to win big later.
Will this approach work for everyone? I’m sure some detractors will say it takes the established tropes that have made games like No Mercy and SmackDown vs. Raw fan favorites and mocks it. Personally I disagree. Even if they are not as well known or beloved as those games, there have been plenty of different ways to interact with the squared circle besides direct combat. There are simulators where you set the wheels in motion and see what happens. There are management games where you run a wrestling promotion and try to make it a success. WrestleQuest isn’t even the only attempt to have a pro wrestling RPG that I know of, although I do prefer having a computer keep track of my outcomes rather than rolling dice and tallying the results. The bottom line (as Stone Cold might say) is that there are plenty of ways to play wrestling games, and I found WrestleQuest to be a fun experience. Perhaps you will too. DIG IT!
EDITOR’S NOTE: A promotional download was provided by the publisher for review, but neither our video nor this review were screened ahead of time. WrestleQuest is on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck starting August 22nd, 2023. Pricing and availability are at the discretion of Mega Cat Studios, Skybound Games and their respective partners.