Wrestling fans and wrestling games go hand-in-hand. That said, is it really a surprise that fans of pro-wrestling of the Japanese variety can typically be seen as fans of Japanese wrestling games? Nope. Guess what, folks. I like all the above. I also really like the Dreamcast (understatement), so today I bring you a review that encompasses everything mentioned here, with a little known game (at least outside of its niche audience, myself included) that arguably beats the snot out of its generational western counterpart (I’m looking at you, WWF Royal Rumble)…
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Giant Gram 2000!!
Released back in 2000 (shocker) the back of the box proudly states: ‘For Japan Only’. But for any self-respecting fan, that clearly means nothing – especially not with the ease of which the Dreamcast can break the walls down on region encoding. Bless that machine. That said, the whole thing is Japanese text based, so you’ll likely need a translation guide on your first few attempts playing if Japanese isn’t your first language. Yet don’t you dare let that dissuade you!
The third game in the Sega published All Japan Pro-Wrestling series of video games (based off the real world promotion, d’uh) it follows AJPW Featuring Virtua (literally featuring Wolf and Jeffry from Virtua Fighter as playable wrestlers) on the Saturn and directly builds upon the original Giant Gram (which was also on Dreamcast). As with most sports (loose term with prowres, I know) games and fighters, it is essentially an upgraded instalment. But the refinements here make it all worthwhile and allow it to actually stand on its own two feet as very much its own game. That’s not in some of the negative ways the SmackDown! series managed over the years, either.
As mentioned with the presentation, the graphics are nice and smooth. In fact, smooth could be the word of the day in terms of them. GG2K doesn’t suffer from any awkward blockiness of some 3D wrestling games, nor do the aforementioned animations ever feel clunky or worse: glitch-ridden. Heck no. Sega don’t play that game, folks.
Although not using every bit of power of the mighty Dreamcast, it’s certainly rocking a healthy dose of it, that’s for sure. The subtle use of pre-rendering works in the games favour as every wrestler in the game now as with then looks as close to reality as you’re likely to get in a video game, especially one of this time. It’s one of the best looking grapplers of the five-year cycle and undoubtedly the best looking on the system, even if Toukon Retsuden 4 gives it a run for its money. Just like the gameplay, the graphics are very well balanced.
Lastability wise is purely dependent on what you want out of Giant Gram 2000, to be honest. Many fans will wanna bust through each individual mode, unlock all competitors and prove to the world they’re top dog at the game with no need of added Achievement Unlocked popping up as primary reasoning to 100% it. If you just want it as a disc you can crack out, whack in and have a laugh with up to four mates at a time, then you can’t really go wrong. As with any retro multiplayer, or any modern for that matter, it’s that which will likely have you clamouring for more with its enormous fun factor. But for the more anorak-adorned geeks in the crowd, there’s so much more to it than just that. With the many refinements going into the control scheme and move list to make happy the gamers who love their ‘realism’, it’s all to be expected.
For a fighting game fan alone, the amount of combos and reversal moves you can throw out alone make this a worthwhile addition to the lastability list, as will mastering the all too devastating BURNING METER, which builds with your variation of domination and playing to the crowd successfully. Think WCW/nWo Revenge on steroids.
There’s multiple ways in which you can gain victory over your opponent. The most obvious being by gaining the Fall by way of a pinning combination. But you can also make your opponent give up (by applying pressure to a broken body part), referee stoppage (break three body parts) or by time limit. In the case of a time limit, it goes to the guy with the most stamina, so you don’t wanna be winning that way. That’s just less pain-inducing! You wanna be hitting devastating head drops and punishing finishers, you’ll be dying to hit those faux X-Ray inducing skull crackin’ manoeuvres. It’s only natural. It’s addictive.
The very feel of Giant Gram 2000 is very much that of an arcade brawler. So if you were expecting intensely ‘worked’ match-ups with slow builds to big finishes ala the Fire Pro series, this may not be the one for you. But if you want an incredibly deep, yet easily pick up and playable game from the Land of the Rising Sun? You’re certainly in luck!
This games presentation is close to flawless. While it may graphically (but only in parts) look dated, it still holds its own at least through have the PS2’s lifespan of similar titles. The entrances are perfect, seriously. When the music hits and the crowd light up, you’re treated to some great animations of your favourite AJPW (mostly NOAH at this point but I’ll spare you the wrestling history lesson) stars brilliantly mimicking their real world counterparts. From “Sunrise” as Hansen whips the ringside crowd with his bull rope, to Baba’s epically stoic walk. Oh and gawsh the STREAMERS~! when your competitors name is announced. It’s all there and if you’re a fan, you’ll be marking out hard. Equally, though decidedly faster that real life; the signature moves are all spot-on. It’s ridiculous how ‘right’ many of the animations in this game are.
The playability, as roughly mentioned; I’ll unashamedly tell you is “off-the-chain”, to quote a certain colour commentator. The ease of getting into the game is only amplified by the wonderfully simple control scheme that fits the Dreamcast’s control pad like a glove. With much of what is on show here soon becoming the standard as next-gen wrestling games rolled on, to go back in retrospect and find that the button mapping is essentially how you’d guess it to be (though not spot-on for an SD! iteration) just makes the playing experience all that much better.
Response times are sharp, which you’ll need with the copious amounts of reversal opportunities. You could argue that you’d be able to get away with plain ol’ button-mashin’, but that’s only true if you’re facing a novice because the difficulty curve Vs COM is fair yet also a harsh mistress at times. But you’re never left with a sour taste in your mouth, feeling cheated. This aint Montreal.
There are 45 grapplers in total to choose from, including legends (with the likes of Bruiser Brody, Jumbo Tsuruta, Bruno Sammartino, The Destroyer and Rikidozan) and secret wrestlers (in an AKI-ish fashion featuring obviously modelled from real life competitors the developers didn’t have license for; hence Inoki is The Killer, etc). To unlock the secret wrestlers is gonna take time and effort as you plow through arcade mode and historic matches with set precautions you may not be totally aware of (o hai internetz). But that’s where half the fun can be derived, you want that complete roster and darnit you’re gonna go for it (I did, thankfully I still have my save)!
The historic mode will very much be playing off your personal knowledge of pro-wrestling (or at least All Japan) history. This can either be a positive or negative depending on your preference, but there’s always arcade for you to stick to. It must be said that despite a good selection of modes to choose from, you shouldn’t expect to see any over the top gimmick matches and such. Sorry, FMW fanboys.
Speaking of bulking out a roster, the Edit Mode (or CAW as it’s mostly known these days) is brilliant if you want to give it the time of day. There’s a multitude of real life styled wrestlers you can create, alongside a large option just to run wild and make a hulking vision of yourself. Good stuff. Anyway I’ll start wrapping this up as I can bore you for days on rasslin’ games, especially when I love ‘em like this…
The long and short of it? Giant Gram 2000 is frakkin’ awesome. Be all, end all. If you like wrestling games and have a Dreamcast, you’re missing the heck out. Seriously. Everything is top marks here from me. So grab it, play it and go nuts!
Verdict:- Giant Gram 2000 on Dreamcast is a game and it’s a good game and I love it and you should play it. Cool.
No but seriously, it’s an incredible game. Tight controls, pretty graphics with sweet animations, good sound and a deep roster/moves set. This is a game for those hot summer eves and cold winter nights. A wrestling game for all seasons and one for the fans.
So if you’re sat there playing WWF Royal Rumble, just remember there’s a sea of games awaiting you across the pond. You don’t even have to swim.
Second Opinion:- This is a game about men in trunks grappling other men in trunks and everyone has lots of oil on them, thought this was a family website?
Transbot although uber powerfull and mighty bows to the will of the main reviewer here and also agrees this is one wrestling game people need to go out and play
Transbot Scores:- 6.5 out of 10