There’s been a few games over time based off of the then World Wrestling Federation’s annual January PPV extravaganza. A couple in the 90’s in the form of Acclaim’s SNES and SMD releases are stand outs in the licensed-western realm of the pro-wrestling game genre. But in 2000, the year the real life event hit terrestrial TV here in the UK by way of Channel 4 (on live-delay with bloody adverts, cheers guys) another game hit the arcades and eventually the home thanks to SEGA!
Yes, this is a review for the 2000 Dreamcast release of WWF Royal Rumble! Developed by Yuke’s (the folks behind the WWF SmackDown! games on PlayStation) and published by Sega as a Dreamcast exclusive, which followed the trend from the early THQ era of exclusive titles per system (for example the AKI-developed WWF No Mercy and earlier WrestleMania 2000 in contrast to the SmackDown! titles from Yuke’s). Unlike the sister games previously mentioned, WWF Royal Rumble was of course an arcade conversion rather than being built from the ground up as a home console grappler, one that just happened to run on NAOMI hardware (and had a sweet version of the cab with two screens). Gameplay is practically identical between the arcade and Dreamcast versions, which once again showed the might of the Dreamcast itself in its uncanny ability to feel like a cab-in-a-console.
Even though the Royal Rumble match itself is traditionally a 30-Man over-the-top-rope Battle Royale dealio, this games roster is made up of a mere 21 WWF Superstars. Competitors will repeat through a Rumble match-up with alternative attires (which can be unlocked if you smash 100 eliminations in No Limit option). It’s an odd choice by the developers if I’m being honest and while it may not detract from the fun, it certainly detracts from a wrestling fan stand point. It seems almost inexcusable, in fact. There was easily a decent set of wrestlers that could have been chosen to flesh out another 9 spots. B’ah!
When it’s 2018 (such is the time of writing), you have a much wider scope of pro-wrestling games on the retro market to choose from than having a Dreamcast and limiting yourself to just WWF Royal Rumble. On one hand, that may make it a more difficult sale to an audience reading this. Hell, it’s not even the best wrestling game on the system. The Dreamcast after all also has Giant Gram 2000, which is everything you’d want and/or need in a fiery arcade wrestling game. Albeit, it is certainly the most fun under the WWF (or ECW, actually) banner. So, for those out there unwilling to go Japanese, WWF Royal Rumble is the obvious go to and ergo recommendation.
Personally, I have a lot of fond memories of playing this game back in the day. I will forever remember my then-best friends (Marc) older brother (Lee) getting it on import (for an outrageous £70), going around his house and sitting there playing it with Lee while Marc was kicked out of the bedroom until the early hours. Just tremendous, arcade like awesomeness! Also, my own copy of the game even has its quirk of being the PAL box and disc, yet the NTSC (USA) manual. Simply because I initially bought it on American import, but the disc was knackered, so the local indie game store swapped it out for a PAL version for me but couldn’t find the EU manual. So yeah, there’s a fun fact if there’s ever an Olly023 collection quiz in the future.
At the end of the day, WWF Royal Rumble isn’t a particularly deep game, but one that should do well for a multiplayer set-up and thus best played with friends on a couch in front of a big ol’ TV. It’s a classic arcade gaming experience that will be a tad Marmite to the contemporary crowd, especially considering it already was that in 2000. Approach with caution, I guess – but also an open mind. Give it a go and have fun, just like me!
One of the key aspects to the gameplay is the specials system. You build up and bank them (represented by a special bar and S’s (for the banked ones)) by battering folks left right and center. This allows to unleash finishing moves (such as the Stone Cold Stunner, etc.) and make quick recoveries. It’s a in-part carry-over from the SmackDown! games that works well here. It keeps with the theme of keeping things simple and ultimately at a break-neck pace.
Graphically the game still looks as pretty now as ever. It has a quasi-realism feel that the SmackDown! games had, just bolder, smoother and just outright superior. Animations are rarely if ever choppy and so you need not worry about slowdown, even with up to 9 men in the ring at once, which is something so rarely replicated since that it stands the test of time in so far as being an impressive feat. The fact its now an adult in the eyes of the law age wise, you could argue that makes it even more impressive. Though, I may be reaching with such a statement. However, my eyes were as pleased revisiting this as they were back in 2000.
The game is less impressive in the sound department, though. While sound FX themselves are fine and certainly do a job, the music is mostly dull and repetitive even if the menu and intro themes are memorable. A few more recognisable and/or licensed tracks sure as heck wouldn’t have gone a-miss in comparison to the more stock standards that are featured.
In many respects the gameplay for WWF Royal Rumble puts it in more a category that exists the likes of WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game or its sequel WWF In Your House. Just don’t take it too seriously, plug in four pads and enjoy the mayhem. As hollow an experience those may lambast the game for being, what it does do well it does to a high level. It’s certainly far from terrible, despite misconceptions. The partner system for Exhibition Mode is a positive, as already mentioned. As is the lack of ridiculous mini-game for Rumble eliminations (rather it’s a case of if you’re hanging on, waggle that D-Pad about like your life depends on it).
Verdict:- Numbers aren't everything - as the review score here and the fact this is a 21-man roster for a 30-man match - both prove! As yes, I am actually still positive on and giving you all a recommendation to try this very video game!
It may not be the best, but it's far from the worst and if it's the Royal Rumble weekend, there's no better time to give this bad boy a run out. It is after all only in the interest of fairness...
AND THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE!
Second Opinion:- While the WWE may have had its Womens Revolution in recent years, Transbot is unamused by the lack of mechanical love shown by the Sports Entertainment giant. Seriously, where dem bots at?! Bzt.
It goes and gets Transbot all wires-crossed. That said, this game is a mild blip on the radar when it comes to the ocean of grappling titles available in the wider world of retrogaming in general.
It is a Sega game. So gets a pass. Just!
Transbot Scores:- 5 out of 10
Seriously though, where was Hardcore Holly, Chyna (who became the first woman in a Rumble match in 2000), Too Cool, etc? There’s four perfect examples right there. Hell, ‘Taker makes an appearance and he wasn’t even in the picture in 2000 until he rocked up sporting his American Badass gimmick at Judgement Day! Wrestlenerd rage aside, there’s some good possible selections. I mean, who didn’t want The Godfather to win the Rumble and main event WrestleMania? Ho trains for all!
Aside from the limited roster, what got the goat of many when Royal Rumble came home to the Dreamcast was a sheer lack of variety and or options that really didn’t make full use of the system, nor did it make the game look very substantial a replacement for 2000’s other wrestling titles on rival consoles. Instead of a gang of choice with stipulations, there is two distinct game modes. Obviously, the Royal Rumble match/mode being the star attraction here.
But, the game does also have an Exhibition Mode which has you select a WWF Superstar and an indirectly controlled partner which you can call to arms in the singles matches with one of three button combos, you can select one of three Types for said option, which include things like having Mankind run in with Mr. Socko, or have your pard break up a pinfall attempt, etc. It’s a nifty and unique addition that can provide some extra fun to factor on in here. There will be multiple run-ins outside of your selected competitors and opponents, too – which sort of makes each match its own breed of clusteryouknowwhat. For those looking at having a more stripped back multiplayer experience, the game includes a Vs. Mode for said folk.
The gameplay its self for WWF Royal Rumble is turned up to 11, taking the arcade origins straight to heart. It’s fast and furious from the moment go. Entrances are replaced by short taunt-like intros, you can’t exit the ring unless you get abducted by what I always assumed were aliens and transported to a backstage area (seriously, it’s all rather strange but amusing). It’s basically a pure button-masher in contrast to the more simulation attempting AKI games. This can polarise opinion, of course – but personally it didn’t bother me much then much like it doesn’t now.