November Thirteenth was the North American release of Fire Pro Wrestling Returns. That’s a little more than two years after the Japanese release. After spending about two solid weeks with the game in my possession, I think I am able to give an unbiased review. I have long been a fan of this series, but I can still recognize that it is flawed. How does Fire pro Wrestling Returns go against the very popular tournament? Where to start …
There are no significant changes to the core gameplay of Fire Pro. It’s the same solid grappling system that fans have grown accustomed to for a long time. Those who are not new to Fire Pro need to spend some time getting used to the timing. The fighting system punishes button masters. I would advise newbies to set COM difficulty to 1 and make their way up to a more difficult level. This is one of those games that is only appreciated after learning the ins and outs games.
The league’s trademark features are tight game play and a huge roster. FPR has a total of 327 real-life competitors. To avoid copyright issues, everyone was given a name modification. Vader is named as “Saber”, Kenta Kobashi is “Keiji Togashi”, etc. Don’t hesitate to rename everyone accordingly. You also have the option to change the outfit for your default characters. You don’t have to sacrifice one of your 500 array slots (CAW) when your favorite wrestler changes gimmicks.
FPR’s all-star roster includes wrestlers, boxers and mixed martial artists from all over the world. Puroresu legends like Giant Baba, Satoru Sayama (original Tiger Mask) and Jushin “Thunder” Lyger are insulating. As usual Puro wrestlers dominate the default roster. Some of the fighters well known to American wrestling / UFC fans include Bret Hart, Sting, Andre the Giant, Petey Williams, Mirco Cro Cop and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
A new addition to the series is a new “corner to center” attack. When your opponent is hit in the middle of the ring, you can hunt in the corner to set up a spear, superhero or a few other maneuvers. This adds a bit more drama and accuracy to games that feature characters who set up these attacks in a certain way. Because of this new feature, you can create an accurate Shawn Michaels or Bill Goldberg if you were inclined to do so.
A traditional steel cage game has finally been added. Players can use weapons like wire barbed bats, or the cage itself to inflict pain on others. Other matching types include S-1 (boxing, one pound), Gruesome (12 sided inspired cage with UFC) and the Electrified Barbed Wire Explosion Deathmatch. While Hell is in the Cell, the Japanese hardcore wrestlers camouflage each other on electrified boards covered with barbed, shrunken wires. It’s different, but it’s no less fun
Notable features of Buzz include Ref edit, Belt Edit, and Ring / Logo Edit. There is a GM method called “Match Maker”, but it is very limited. All you have to do is set up matches between fighters and rate them according to the game’s crowd reaction percentage. Few strange special events that occur during the game extend beyond its limits. For some incredible reason, proven maker is banned from being used in Match Maker.
Nothing special is present. Menus are usable, but access to some features can cause 2D FPR graphics to remind me of arcade games like Wrestlefest. Character sprites are not a solution to sprites, but they are large and detailed. Spike from Fire Pro Wrestling Z could easily have recycled graphics. Instead they created new sprites and renamed some existing movements. Some animations seem a bit robotic, but they are pretty smooth.
I regret to say that Spike mapped the picked weapon button again to the current button. Want to get a fluorescent tube from the corner while playing in an exploding barbed wire game? Make sure you are close enough to those tubes. Otherwise you’ll run into the barbed wire ropes, so you’ll look like a complete fool. It doesn’t ruin the game or anything, but such neglect of the R2 button has upset me. Overall that is one of my biggest gripes with FPR.
I do not give numerical scores or grades in my reviews. If I were the type to do that, Fire Pro Wrestling would probably get Returns 91. It’s the best in the series, but like any other game it has flaws. Even so-called classic games that get perfect scores from other critics have a few flaws or wisdom. I recommend this game to anyone who is into pro-wrestling or the UFC. You don’t have to be in Puro to enjoy FPR, the unique game play and customization options are more than enough to pique people’s interest.