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.
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