WWF Super Wrestlemania for the Super Nintendo was the first WWF wrestling game on the new system at the time and it feels like it. Its not good by any means, but it is a stepping stone to building a better games later down the line. Let’s start with the positives, because you’ve got some of the WWF’s biggest names at the time: Hulk Hogan, Jake “the Snake” Roberts, Ted Dibiase, Randy Savage, Sid Justice, the Undertaker, the Legion of Doom and the Natural Disasters.
It was a real step up from previous wrestling games, but the console itself was a step up. Its tough to compare the two without seeing that the SNES is obviously better. Even the presentation, there were photos of wrestlers. The ring announcer announces the participants. It was mind blowing at the time, but eventually, it just becomes a long process. Bobby Heenan and Vince McMahon are even seated at the commentary table behind the ring. See them, but not hear them. In the ring, you’ve got a referee in the ring for the first time in a WWF game.
As a wrestling game, you can run the ropes, leave the ring, throw opponents into barricades outside. You can even hip toss opponents over the ropes. If your partner is getting pinned, you can run in to break up the pinfall. Climb the turnbuckles and jump off at an opponent. If you’re on the outside, you can cheat to drain your opponent’s health. Anything is legal outside the ring. It was almost revolutionary to have that sort of control with the Super Nintendo.
That’s where the positives end and it gets real. Super Wrestlemania is a button masher. You can move all around the ring and even the outside. You’ve got a punch, run and grapple buttons for the most part. When you lock up with the grapple button that’s where the action happens. Its a sort of tug of war, see who can mash buttons faster, but depending on the button will result in a different maneuver. An Irish whip to send your opponent running, a body slam, a suplex, an atomic drop and any number of moves. Six buttons, six moves, the bigger maneuvers require you to have more control. While it is button mashing, there’s a sort of science to it, a wrestling match of who can push buttons faster.
Later games have meters above the grappling wrestlers to show how much control you had so you can effectively do a bigger maneuver, but in Super Wrestlemania, you had to watch the graphics. You’ll literally see a wrestler with more control lean in further. Its a subtlety that I didn’t see as much as a kid.
The real problem is every wrestler has the same moves. In an industry where everyone’s maneuvers are trademarked and nicknamed, its surprising that there wasn’t more effort put in to make things different. Maybe its the limitation to the game, but other games managed to do it, so why not Super Wrestlemania? Finishing maneuvers weren’t even in the game. Well some kind of are. Hulk Hogan’s finisher is a running leg drop and well everyone has a running leg drop.
Since this is the first wrestling game for the SNES, there are a limited amount of matches. At least you can play with two players either versus or cooperatively. You’ve got one-on-one, tag team and my favorite, the Survivor Series elimination matches. These let both teams select four wrestlers and you need to eliminate all four to lose. It makes things more interesting and if someone is getting low on health, just tag out and switch to someone new. For those that need a challenge, there are three difficulties.
The matches end when someone is pinned, one, two, three. There are no submissions. Well there are sleeper holds and illegal chokes, but that’s only to drain your opponents health. Everything is based on the health meter. Once you have no health, you won’t be able to kick out of a pin, no matter how much you button mash to kick out. So really its all about wearing out the other player’s stamina and not just your opponent’s health. More pins, more effort needed to button mash to kick out. The health turns this into a sort of beat’em up, just in one single venue instead of walking down the streets, brawling with people.
While it was a definite step up from previous wrestling games, its two SNES successors are just so much better. They go into details like finishing maneuvers, different move sets and even having Royal Rumbles. That’s why I still say this was a good stepping stone to better games.