How Do You Like Your WWE – Old School or New School?

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2009 was a big year for the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), what with WrestleMania celebrating its 25th Anniversary and all, and THQ made sure to cash in on the occasion, releasing not one but two WWE games this year, each catering to different branches of the WWE fan base.

I’ve been playing around with both and got to thinking about my days growing up as a proud wrestling fan (I haven’t followed it over the past five years or so), beginning with the wrestling action figures I used to collect and the old VHS tape of WrestleMania III I used to watch all the time as a youngster all the way through my high school days in the late ‘90s/early 2000s when I was able to catch a couple live shows at the MCI Center (now Verizon Center) in D.C., and how the WWE has evolved over the years. An evolution that can be seen in the two WWE games THQ produced this year.

WWE Legends of WrestleMania came first, launching early in the year to tie in with the WrestleMania XXV spectacle, and was basically created as a love letter to long-time wrestling fans (like me) who grew up during the “Golden Age” of the WWE…you know, back in the 1980s and ‘90s when it was called the WWF and was more about actual wrestling drama than sophomoric soap opera (OK, I guess I just tipped my hand here folks…)

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Then more recently came the release of the 2010 edition in THQ’s vaunted WWE SmackDown vs. Raw franchise, a game continuing the WWE’s SmackDown, Raw and ECW brand wars and predominant focus on attitude and theatrics (which is kind of why I lost interest).

The good news is that both games are excellent – save for the pitiful audio production in SvR — and are sure to please their target audience a great deal. Of the two I would have to say that SmackDown vs. Raw offers the most complete WWE experience and thus is the better buy if you can only get one of them.

Minor refinements aside, it pretty much plays the same as previous installments, which is fine because the core play mechanics have always been very solid (save for the imprecise targeting). It’s also loaded with more WWE superstars and mode and match types than you can shake a steel chair at, including a revamped Royal Rumble, new Road to WrestleMania storylines, a helpful training mode seamlessly accessible at the opening menu screen, and a nifty Story Designer providing the tools to script out your own WWE storylines and upload them for others to play.

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WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 is indeed the more robust WWE game, but there’s something magical about Legends of WrestleMania that makes it my wrestling game of choice despite its limited mode count and QTE-heavy, casual-gamer-oriented gameplay. I guess you can chalk it all up to nostalgia, as the game’s simplified play mechanics remind me of many of my old wrestling video game favorites, such as the WrestleFest arcade game, Super WrestleMania and Royal Rumble from the SNES/Genesis era, and No Mercy from the N64, and the awesome Relive, Rewrite and Redefine modes allow me to go back in time with old greats like Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, The Ultimate Warrior, Mr. Perfect, and Jake the Snake and reenact classic matches I fondly remember from my childhood – both Macho Man Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat are missing from the roster, though, and it’s definitely sad to not be able to relive their epic bout at WrestleMania III (it was always my favorite match of that event, much more entertaining than the overrated Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant match-up).

I also love how old video footage from the depicted matches and rivalries is presented before every match, and appreciate how the wrestlers look slightly exaggerated in appearance – making them look larger than life only plays up the nostalgia factor for me.

I’m only 26, but I’m an old school guy at heart, so Legends of WrestleMania is such a perfect fit for me. The game has been slammed by most reviews out there, but I don’t care. It’s so much fun to play and is sort of like a WWE game and time capsule all in one — it’ll stay in my collection for a long time to come, whereas I’ll be ready to move on from SmackDown vs. Raw long before the next installment arrives.

That’s how I feel anyway. What about you? Do you like your WWE old school or new school?

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!