Following the recent resurgence of professional wrestling in the west – with WWE and AEW booming – WrestleQuest is here to capitalise on this popularity spike. Mega Cat Studios’ latest release combines pro-wrestling and Japanese role-playing games (JRPG) to offer an entirely unique blend to gaming and wrestling fanatics. Unfortunately, due to performance issues and finite charm, WrestleQuest isn’t an evolution for wrestling video games. As such, it botches, falling from the top rope to ringside rather than making an impactful splash.
WrestleQuest opens with an introduction via a podcast (which includes the likeness of Jeff Jarrett) to the ‘Toy Room’, a location where toys aspire to become wrestling legends. Inhabitants treat ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage like a wrestling god, as evidenced by the statues erected in his honour. Randy Savage is but one of many former WWF and WCW wrestlers to appear in the title. The likes of Andre the Giant, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, Booker T. and Sgt. Slaughter – wrestling icons from the 1980s and 1990s – appear also, many of which can help in your quest.
To no surprise, the Toy Room is a world consisting entirely of toys. Parallels can immediately be drawn to Noddy, Toy Soldiers and, of course, Toy Story; worlds consisting of personified toys with dramatised character archetypes applied. Continuing with the 1980s/1990s aesthetic, influence has evidently been drawn from toy lines prominent in the same era. Transformers, Barbie, G.I. Joe and Mr. Potato Head all impact the vibrant character designs here. I personally love this design choice, honing on child-like nostalgia to provide wonderful fan service, especially for 80s and 90s kids in conjunction with wrestling fans, of course.
Players explore the Toy Room with Muchacho Man, A.K.A. Randy Santos, (no points for guessing his influence here) and Brink Logan. The duo embark on their separate journeys to become professional wrestlers, making wrestling and managerial allies in the process. All of these characters are distinctly influenced by either popular toy lines, wrestlers or both. Brink Logan, for example, is a combination of Bret Hart and G.I. Joe, whereas his sister – Celine Logan – is instantly comparable to Jessie from Toy Story.
Despite a seemingly promising beginning, WrestleQuest‘s narrative falters early. The story is passable, taking players from points A to B but little more. It ultimately struggles to remain interesting because it’s difficult to make an emotional connection with the central characters. I ironically found myself seeing them as toys through their novelties and one-dimensional personas. Not just this, but a heavy influence for this opinion is the sudden switching between Muchacho Man and Brink Logan. Switches are poorly timed and too frequent, whisking me away from any sense of escapism.
Honing once again on nostalgia, WrestleQuest adopts an aesthetic akin to SNES and 1990s titles, such as Super Mario World, Chrono Trigger and more. Muchacho Man or Brink Logan can explore an expansive map before entering spots of interest. While not seamless, this offers an easy excuse to have dramatically opposing environments without them feeling entirely out-of-place. Character models benefit from the aesthetic choices, appearing vibrant, thus wonderfully contrasting each other to provide clear physical identities. I appreciate the graphical and aesthetic decisions in WrestleQuest because of the decent character models on display.
I can hardly say the same for sound design in WrestleQuest. Music is inconsequential, with no more than two memorable tracks. It’s mostly inoffensive so long as you don’t spend much time in one location. What’s frustrating, however, is the multitude of recorded voice lines that begin as welcome additions but become irritating and cringeworthy shortly after. Every single time a character performs a specific move in battle, they will utter the same line. With Celine Logan’s move titled Saddle Sore, she will utter, “You’ll be saddle sore after this,” every single time. It swiftly becomes a headache to hear.
Now, let’s dive into the meat of WrestleQuest, being the wrestling/combat. Battles take place in typical JRPG fashion with turn-based combat that you’ll recognise from Pokémon or Final Fantasy. Characters can use a regular attack, items (which are mostly reskins to fit WrestleQuest‘s aesthetic) and special attacks requiring AP (Attack Points) to use. Taunts are also available, which can divert enemy attention towards a bulky team member, although I found this often didn’t prove successful.
A variety of wrestling moves are available amongst playable characters with powerbombs, stunners and slams galore to offer a further unique selling point to WrestleQuest. Up to three wrestlers can be in your party at one time alongside one manager. Tag Team moves deal greater damage too, again increasing wrestling fan service while providing gameplay depth. Although, I did find myself using the same few attacks throughout most battles. Hype Types also successfully add depth to WrestleQuest, allowing you to use every character in more than one way. With Hype Types, characters can fit into more than one role in your team, allowing for exponentially more combinations.
WrestleQuest absolutely has the potential to be enjoyable for hours on end. It mostly would be were it not for the prominence of Quick Time Events (QTEs). Essentially, your ability to execute QTEs almost entirely constitutes the impact of your moves. Strategy – a staple of JRPGs – plays second fiddle to a quick button press. It’s a baffling decision that makes potentially necessary grinding or traversing through dungeons a chore. Making grinding in JRPGs more arduous is a mistake, for sure. While there are plenty of examples of QTEs being effective in games, my mind always springs back to the endings of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Dying Light for poor use of them.
Up to this point, WrestleQuest would be just fine. Unfortunately, to my disappointment, the game became literally unplayable at around the six-hour mark. On no less than nine occasions, WrestleQuest froze at a particular point so that I could not progress further. I attempted several methods to counter the issue. From deleting and reinstalling the title to performing activities in a different order, to saving the game in different buildings – I attempted everything aside from starting a new save.
With an initial launch date of 8th August, Mega Cat Studios pushed their title’s release date back last minute to 22nd August. Consistent technical issues plague WrestleQuest, proving that Mega Cat Studios needed more time to polish the game. For PlayStation 5 gamers in particular, Reddit contains plenty of user complaints about WrestleQuest freezing and becoming unplayable for them as well. Patches need to happen swiftly; otherwise, players will divert their attention to other games.
All in all, I regret to say that WrestleQuest falls short of expectations. A lack of polish limits my actual ability to even experience the game. This left me deflated after dedicating time to studying and playing it. While aesthetically I was immersed by the world of WrestleQuest, gameplay flaws result in a lacklustre execution. If technical issues can be fixed, I’ll happily give WrestleQuest a second chance. Until then, I’ll leave it here.
Developer: Mega Cat Studios
Publisher: Skybound Games
Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, Netflix Games
Release Date: 22nd August 2023
Gaming Respawn’s copy of WrestleQuest was provided by the publisher.