High flying acrobatics, huge biceps, and colorful characters make WWE Legends of Wrestlemania a game made for fans of the old glory days of wrestling entertainment. Spanning matches from Wrestlemania 1-15 Legends recreate matches using three game modes; relive, rewrite, and recreate. Each classic recreated has its own short video montage of actual real footage that covers the events lead up to the match, the match itself, and its aftermath of the match. This double dose of story and nostalgia help set Legends apart from every other wrestling game and helps build up some excitement for the upcoming 25th edition of Wrestlemania next month.
With a rooster of over 40 wrestling superstars and some managers Legends brings new life to our favorite wrestlers of days past. Each character model is exaggerated which gives the wrestlers a super human appearance and in some cases a muscle mass that isn’t physically possible. Rather than being comedic this augmentation was done intentionally because, as senior designer Paul Edwards told me, that is how the fans remember them; as almost super men.
The nostalgic look works well in the ring while playing the game but there is a moment right after transitioning from the video montages where you can be shocked by the difference between the real world video footage and the appearance of the digital wrestler. The game also ships with a collection of venues from Wrestlemania 1-15 and a couple other stages from in from different events of that era. To augment the already substantial roster for legends you can transfer data from a WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 save file and incorporate characters from that game into Legends giving players a potential 100 plus roster of wrestlers to play with.
With a simplified control scheme that only uses the four face buttons, the left analog stick, and sometimes the directional pad Legends is much easier to pick up and play than WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 which uses every single button on the controller (except for the back/select button if I recall correctly). Attacks are X, grapples are A, counters are Y, and B is a context sensitive button used for action like pins, climbing the top rope, and picking up weapons. This may seem like a dumbed down control scheme but it has been smartly implemented to maximize what you can do with just those buttons. Tapping or holding the attack or grapple button will perform different moves and using the directional pad in conjunction with the reverse button will yield a counter or a block. Hitting both the grapple and attack button is used to trigger a finishing move and hitting the reverse and action button at the same time will make your character perform a taunt that will temporarily boost their abilities for a short time.
The finishing moves, taunts, and even some of the different grapples, can only be used at certain times during the match. Below the bright yellow endurance bar on the HUD there is a smaller red bar and the numbers 1-3. These indicate your level of moves available to you and the red bar is filled when you pull off any attacks. At first level only basic moves are available with the third level unlocking all moves, the finisher, and the taunts that can make or break the match. This system of tiered moves makes the moment of your character in matches that much more important and forces you to not only pay attention to how well your doing but also on what level your opponent is at so you can be prepared for their potential finishing move.
Now I need to tell you about the quick time events. I can already hear some of you groaning and rolling your eyes back (which is fine if you’re doing an Undertaker impression) but really they add to the game play rather than detract. Let me explain. Video games can only go so far in imitating real life. This is why despite the control lay out in SmackDown vs. Raw being incredibly complicated it still cannot give you a real sense of control because it does not allow you to control every aspect of your on screen character. Most of the moves are static, meaning they’re not directly controlled but happen automatically without more complex commands from the player. The quick time events in Legends allow for more complex moves and attacks to be pulled off without making the controls more complicated. Not only that but they were implemented smartly.
Instead of the typical try until you succeed formula that is behind most quick time events the button presses that flash on the screen can either be activated by the player or the opponent. It becomes a real test of patience and reflexes when those quick time events pop up because however hit’s the correct button first, if they don’t hit a button to soon, will gain an advantage in the encounter and the person who initiated the grapple may not come out on top. The quick time events happen whenever a grapple is used on a stunned opponent sometimes with context sensitive outcomes and when the player or opponent attempts to pull off a finishing move. They happen quite often and completing a sequence successfully can mean a huge boost to your red bar and a clear advantage in the match.
It seems no wrestling game would be complete without a few create-a-modes and Legends has got ‘em. The create a legend mode has an impressive array of different hair styles, out fits, and facial features to rival any RPG and it even includes sliders so you can tweak certain body or facial features to make your created wrestler as weird as you want. There wasn’t an option to create a female wrestler which seemed a little strange but then I doubt any of the retired wrestlers would want to see a game made where the player can use a woman to kick their collective digital assess. The create-a-move set is identical to that of SvR 09 (for better or worse).
There is also the create-a-tag team mode which allows you to pair up regular or player created legends. Last is the create-an-entrance mode. Create an entrance mode allows you to create an entrance for one of the regular legends, one of the player created legends, or one of the tag teams. After picking which type of character the entrance will be for you select easy or advanced set up. Limited to only remixing the pre animated entrance animations of the legendary wrestlers and maybe adding an explosion or two and changing the lights means this create a mode much to be desired. I had a love hate relationship with the menus. Even though they menus looked great and functioned well for the most part I was very frustrated with the ever present loading screens. There’s a load screen to go from the title screen to the main menu, one to go from the main menu into the modes menu, one before the video clips, and one before the actual match. That’s four load screens just to get a match started. I even installed the game on the hard drive with no discernable change at all.
After that we still haven’t gotten into the different game modes yet. There are five different game modes in total. The three major game modes, and really the reason to get the game, are relive, rewrite, and recreate. Each match in these three modes is unique to that mode which is unfortunate because if each match had been used for all three modes it would have added a lot more play time to the game disc without much more effort. The goal for relive, rewrite, and recreate is to not just win but play the match in a way that recreates or rewrites history. This is achieved by objectives that must be completed in order to unlock medals which in turn unlock things(like new costumes) However achieving the objectives is not required for continuing on in the series of matches for that mode.
Relive places you in the shoes of the winner of a classic match in Wrestlemania history with the objectives being much more specific on what you should do to earn a medal. Rewrite has you playing as the loser of a match and changes the match type from what it was in the past. The objectives for the rewrite mode are generally less specific than the relive mode. In the recreate game mode you can select the winner or loser of a match and the rules have changed from the original. Naturally the objectives for recreate mode are very nonspecific so they can apply to both wrestlers.
Outside of the three major game modes we have a survival style legend killer mode where you can put your created legend to hard work and the standard exhibition mode that allows you to arrange a match however you want. The legend killer mode is the only way to improve the stats of your created wrestler and this is done by earning experience points during one of the ten match gauntlets and then applied afterwards to one of 5 different attributes.
The point based system for the attributes allows for tweaking so you can add experience points into areas like durability and strike which are essential however the higher the attribute point the more experience is required to purchase that point so it is generally more beneficial to spread out the experience so your created wrestler grows in strength overall gradually rather than maxing out on attribute and still being weak in others. The experience earned during matches is based on your performance for that match and while I will not break down the list here I will suggest that winning consecutive matches is one of the best ways to get extra experience for your wrestler quickly.
Audio for Legends is well done the entrance tracks for each legend are here and even the ones that originally did not have entrance music had new tracks created for them. The commentary is provided by the same voices frin SvR 09, Taz and that other guy (ok I do like Taz more) and while some fans maybe a bit disappointed that some of the old announcers weren’t recorded for the game the current ones do a fine job and the dialog is context sensitive so they will break out of their banter every once and a while to spout “and there’s the elbow” and so on. The crowds roar paces the match fairly well (despite them looking less than stellar) and strangely enough I didn’t really notice any grunts and groans coming from the legends as they were being smacked around.
If you’re looking for achievements this might be the game for you. With very few achievements worth at the very least 30 points each it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get a bunch of points. The hardest achievement to get would possibly be the “complete a match only using grapples” achievement named grapple mania. Rent it for the weekend and play for about 8 hours and you could feasibly get all the achievements in the game without much trouble.
Well we’ve reached the end of this long review and I’m bet you’re wondering “He’s described the game a lot but what’s his opinion?” The answer is difficult. This game has some great things going for it but doesn’t offer much content. The three major game modes, though short lived, do offer some great nostalgia for wrestling fans and the option to incorporate wrestlers from SvR 09 offers some great match combinations. I did enjoy the simplified controls and video clips but with not a lot of different game modes to explorer there wasn’t much content left on the disc I hadn’t beaten or watch after about 10 hours total play time. This game truly is for fans but I have a word of caution. The arcade style controls and game pay aren’t for everyone. Thankfully there are demos for WWE Legends of Wrestlemania on both Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network so you can try it out if you have a high speed internet connection. My advice is that if you try the demo and like the controls then you should consider buying or renting Legends and if not then it might behoove you to just stick with a copy of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009.
WWE Legends of Wrestlemania is what I like to call casual core game, easy to learn hard to master, and excels at giving fans nostalgia for the past glory days of wrestling with the Relive, Rewrite, and Recreate modes. However the create a legend and survival style legend killer mode does little to add any depth or worthwhile content to the game. The simplified controls are great for a younger audience and fans of a simpler time in video games. For older fans of the WWE this may seem like a quaint amusement or history lessen rather than a game to replace their copy of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009.