Retro Respawn – WWE WrestleMania X8 (Nintendo GameCube)

I’ve still yet to get internet in my flat (BT Open Reach can suck my ridges, by the way), so I’ve been turning to my retro games consoles again as a way to stave off boredom during the cold winter nights. I’ve been focusing more on my GameCube this week, a console that I don’t comparatively show as much love to as I perhaps should. I don’t hate the console or anything like that, but I do think it represented a big missed opportunity for Nintendo to really compete with Sony and Microsoft in the sixth gen, despite the fact that the games for it were hardly terrible, as this week’s game “WWE WrestleMania X8” shows.

The GameCube was yet another example of Nintendo handicapping itself in the console market by making a bad decision when it came to what format to use. With the N64, the mistake was using cartridges instead of CDs, whilst with the GameCube, the mistake was using mini-discs instead of full size ones. This almost immediately made most multiplatform games for the console automatically inferior to the PS2 and Xbox. It also meant games exclusive to the console were limited to what they could do right from the off, which meant that a lot of them felt overly trimmed down sometimes. The first-party content from Nintendo itself was to the usual high standard you’d expect, of course, but the rest of the console’s game library felt somewhat lacking by comparison (with some notable exceptions).

WWE WrestleMania X8 (named after a real WWE Pay-Per-View event from 2002) does a good job of providing enjoyable arcade thrills, but when put up against a game like WWE SmackDown!: Shut Your Mouth on the PS2, it doesn’t provide anywhere close to the same amount of longevity. This owes mostly to the limitations of the hardware, but it’s also down to a truly barren creation suite and a distinct lack of satisfying single-player modes.

Possibly the best thing about the game would be the gameplay, which is modeled somewhat on the controls from the much beloved THQ/AKI wrestling games on the N64. Each wrestler has a coloured rectangle next to their name, which changes colour as the match progresses. If you do well in the match, then your rectangle will start to change colour from yellow to red, which in turn makes your wrestler stronger and more likely to kick out of pinning attempts/escape steel cages, etc. However, if your wrestler starts taking a kicking, the colour will change from different shades of green all the way down to blue, which will make you far more susceptible to being defeated.

Anyone who has played the N64 games will recognise this as it mirrors the “spirit/attitude” meters from those games, which would also change colour depending on how well/badly you were doing. One bonus for WrestleMania X8 though is that your finishing move isn’t based around your spirit, with you earning finishing moves by filling up a bar under your name. Once the bar is full, you can then deliver a punishing finisher at any time of your choosing, regardless of how well you are doing in the match itself. This is different from the N64 games where you could only perform your finisher once you had filled your spirit meter and flicked the analogue stick, which then gave you a limited time to deliver the move before the meter ran out.

This does add an element of strategy to the game as it allows you to store up a finishing move and deliver it when you choose to, which can then allow you to turn the tide when you’re at your weakest. The other way the control system mirrors the N64 games is that you can perform both strong and weak strikes by either tapping or holding down the “B” button on the GameCube controller. Stronger strikes will do more damage but also take longer to perform successfully, whereas the lighter strikes have a stronger chance of succeeding but will, at best, merely stun your opponent briefly.

Pressing the “A” button a different direction on the analogue stick will lead to your wrestler performing different grapple moves, but unlike the N64 games and later games in the series, your wrestlers can’t perform any strong grapple moves. This means that a wrestler can only hit five moves from the front and another five from behind, which leads to some of them having disproportionately powerful move sets.

For instance, Undertaker has both a Choke Slam and Tombstone Pildedriver as just normal moves that he can hit right from the start with just a push of the A button, whilst someone like Kurt Angle has a Fireman’s Takedown for the same input. This leads to some wrestlers being ridiculously overpowered due to having two or three big grapple moves out of their total of ten, whilst others might only have their finisher and a collection of smaller ones to retaliate with. Thankfully, games that came after WrestleMania X8 allowed for both strong and quick grapples, meaning that everyone at least had one big move they could deliver in normal play.

On the whole, WWE WrestleMania X8 is a reasonably enjoyable game to play and provides an arcade-like experience. Matches can literally end in seconds if you hit a quick flurry in the early going. My friend, Adam, assured me that he won a hardcore match over Ric Flair as Rhyno once by literally hitting a spinebuster right from the bell and pinning him straight away for three. Epic matches don’t tend to be a thing you’ll experience very often, which makes the game enjoyable from a multiplayer perspective but leaves it feeling a bit sparse from a single-player one.

Indeed, the single-player experience in general in WrestleMania X8 is sorely lacking, with no season mode to speak of, other than a mode where you can win individual titles. This mode is little more than a series of matches with no cutscenes or storylines. You win a few singles matches, a few triple threat matches and then a couple of fatal four-ways before having a match with the champion, and that’s it. No cutscenes, no storylines and the wrestlers don’t even wear the belts down to the ring when you finally win one.

This gets incredibly boring after you win a couple of belts, with the only motivation being that winning each belt allows you to unlock some hidden wrestlers. The multi-person matches are also ridiculously annoying, with the computer alternating between teaming up to work you over and standing around gormlessly whilst one of the other computer-controlled characters wins. The number of times the second computer-controlled wrestler would just stand there whilst their CPU counterpart would climb a ladder or escape a cage, not moving a muscle to stop them and thus costing THEMSELVES the match in the process, would have led a shy, bald Buddhist to reflect and plan a mass murder.

Roster-wise, the game was massively out of date when it came out, but that’s less of an issue when you look at it from a retro perspective. Most of the roster that took part on the WrestleMania X8 card is present, with noticeable exceptions being Diamond Dallas Page, Billy and Chuck, and Jazz, who were the European, Tag Team and Women’s champions, respectively, when the show took place. Despite this, it was deemed unimportant to include them, with it instead being imperative to include lower card tag team Scotty 2 Hotty and Albert, who didn’t even compete on the event.

Graphically, the game looks decent, with some of the wrestlers looking a bit puffy but generally well designed, and the arenas also look nice. Things look a little dark sometimes, and the game feels like it could have used a splash of colour here or there, but for the most part, I’d say WrestleMania X8 looks very nice, especially for a game from 2002. One downside is that quite a few of the wrestlers don’t have their real entrance themes, whereas they did in games like SmackDown!: Shut Your Mouth for the PS2. It feels like a cost cutting measure. For instance, Rob Van Dam doesn’t have his “One of a Kind” song from Breaking Point, whilst the New World Order don’t have their traditional “Rockhouse” theme.

The lack of real entrance themes, complete with the old WWF scratch logo being all over the game despite the new WWE logo being on the front of the box, just makes the game feel shoddy and cheap. That would probably be my biggest criticism of WrestleMania X8. It does a lot of things right and has the makings of a decent game, but it just feels like a lot of shortcuts were taken at times and that the game just didn’t have the same effort lavished on it that something like SmackDown!: Shut Your Mouth did. It just adds to the general cheapskate feel that was oozing from the GameCube when it came to anything that wasn’t first-party or Resident Evil. The console was a symphony of bad decisions, which WrestleMania X8 personifies quite well.

That being said, you can get WrestleMania X8 for practically buttons, with my copy costing a whopping £1 from Retro-Reload in Stockport. Second hand game stores are practically giving copies of this game away, and for a single quid you’ll more than get your money’s worth, especially if you have some mates around for some multiplayer action. WrestleMania X8 is not what I’d call a good game, but it certainly has its plus points, and it’s cheap enough that it’s probably worth a curiosity purchase if you don’t already have it and feel like increasing your GameCube collection.

If you’d like to purchase WrestleMania X8, you can view the Amazon page for it by clicking right HERE

Finlay recently uploaded his thoughts on the recent Hitman 2. You can read what he thought about Agent 47’s most recent exploits by clicking right HERE

Thanks for reading and take care till next time!

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