N3 – Volume 1 – WrestleMania XIX

As I mentioned in the introduction for N3, I didn’t play the GameCube that much while it was still an active console. This was down to a combination of two major factors. Firstly, I could only afford one console and had plumped for Sony’s PS2 machine already.

Secondly, I only knew one person who actually had one; meaning occasions where I would get to play on a GameCube were scarce. Thankfully, the friend who owned this GameCube was my long time buddy, Adam, who also happened to be a big wrestling fan, so I got the chance to play on WrestleMania XIX a decent amount, which is good because it’s an exceedingly fun wrestling game, if not without its flaws.

These days 2K Sports release the same wrestling game across all the major console platforms, but up until the end of the sixth generation, each console would normally see its own unique wrestling games that were made especially for that platform. There were some crossovers, of course, such as Super WrestleMania and Royal Rumble seeing releases on both the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive/Genesis, with a few tweaks here or there. But on the whole, until the dawning of the seventh generation, most consoles would have their own version of a WWE game.

Sony and its PS2 had the “SmackDown” series of games, Microsoft and its giant brick version of the original Xbox had the “Raw” series, which left Nintendo and the GameCube with the “WrestleMania” and later “Day of Reckoning” releases.

Off all three series, SmackDown was probably the best overall, but the GameCube games were a not too distant second, owing much to the excellent gameplay which payed homage in some areas to the controls seen in the AKI/THQ games. For example, the idea of having a “spirit” or “attitude” metre returned. As you do well in the bout, your spirit metre grows and momentum starts to swing in your favour. Even if your opponent delivers one of their most powerful moves to you, if your spirit meter is high, then there’s a good chance you can still recover and take the fight back to them.

Along with this your wrestler also has weak and strong strikes, as seen in the N64 games. The weaker strikes, performed by tapping the “B” button, are quicker to pull off and more difficult to counter but tend to do less damage. By holding the button down, you’ll perform a stronger strike, which will deliver more damage but will also be much easier to counter.

If you are a fan of the N64 wrestling games, you should find enough familiarities with the gameplay in WrestleMania XIX that you’ll quickly get to grips with it. The gameplay isn’t perfect and can be downright frustrating in some areas, but it is still much better than the Raw games and does enough things differently from the SmackDown games to make the game standout on its own.

Frustration tends to come from the overly sensitive hit detection. Any grapple hold or move can be interrupted at any time by opposing wrestlers. Though this is indeed more realistic, it isn’t always conducive to a fun gameplaying experience. I can understand being able to break up pins and submission moves, but there’s something just overtly ridiculous about seeing one errant punch interrupt a top rope super-plex in mid motion.

It does add a layer of tactics to gameplay, in that if your tag team partner is caught in a submission move, you can break it up by body slamming another foe on top of them instead of having to scurry over and break it yourself directly. Ideally, it would have been better to find a happy medium where submissions and pins could be broken at any time, but with a concession that once a move reached a certain point in progress, it couldn’t then be stopped.

Set around early 2003, the game has a star studded roster featuring the likes of Stone Cold, The Rock, Goldberg, Brock Lesnar and Hulk Hogan, along with other recognisable names, such as Matt Hardy, Rob Van Dam and Scott Steiner. Indeed, to look at this roster and then one of the more recent WWE games, it really is shocking to see how depleted the current roster is when it comes to depth. Chances are if you were a wrestling fan in the 90s and 00s, most if not all of your favourites will be selectable here.

Create-A-Wrestler Mode returns and is as fun as ever, as you can now amend not just your wrestlers’ height and weight but also the size of their appendages, meaning you can create some exceedingly impressive looking freaks to unleash on the unsuspecting wrestling world. My buddy Adam and I spent lots of time making wrestlers like the Road Warriors and Steve McMichael before sending them into battle with the in-house wrestlers. The impressive collection of moves on offer means you should be able to take a decent stab at recreating most wrestlers with a good level of accuracy. We spent literally hours playing as the Road Warriors and demolishing everything in our path back in the day, it was great fun!

The only area that really lets the game down is its single-player campaign. Rather than being the standard fare of controlling your favourite wrestler and taking them to the summit of the WWE as was seen in most games during this period, WrestleMania XIX instead goes with something called “Revenge” mode, which begins with your chosen wrestler getting thrown out of WWE by security at the behest of owner Mr. McMahon.

Disgruntled and vengeful, you are approached by McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie, who offers you a chance at vengeance by putting the screws to the boss’s plans of building a brand new stadium in which he plans to hold the following year’s WrestleMania event.

Why Vince McMahon would bother building a brand new stadium to house WrestleMania when cities literally fight to outbid each other every year to bring the money making event to their home makes very little sense, and the ensuing gameplay of you having to pummel construction workers and chucking them off ledges does little to enthuse, although it is somewhat perversely entertaining to see wholesome heroic wrestler Hulk Hogan flinging blue collar workers off large structures into the ocean below and their inevitable deaths.

I mean, let’s even try to analyse this entire concept with any semblance of common sense; even in the ridiculous world of pro-wrestling, throwing something like 200 builders and security personnel off an unfinished giant stadium to their DEATHS would almost certainly lead to a SWAT team showing up and gunning your muscled body down with extreme prejudice. I’m all for suspending my disbelief and getting lost in a good story, but this is frankly ridiculous even by wrestling standards. This is a brand of entertainment where it’s perfectly acceptable to have an undead zombie wrestler make lightning come down from the heavens, and even in that world this whole storyline premise is overly stupid.

It would help somewhat if the gameplay in these sections was at all entertaining, but it really isn’t, and the whole mode is a massive chore and a giant wasted opportunity.

Despite the lousy single-player campaign, there are plenty of multiplayer thrills to be found within WrestleMania XIX, and I’d certainly recommend it to any GameCube owner with three spare pads and three grapple hungry friends.

Thanks for reading

Until next time;

Enjoy Yourselves!!!

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