Friday, April 22, 2011

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Shin Nihon Pro Wrestling '94 (1994)

This is perhaps the longest import game title I've ever encountered -- that is, the game's title itself is impressively lengthy.  Shin Nihon Pro Wrestling '94: Battlefield in Tokyo Dome was released for the Japanese PC Engine Arcade CD-ROM format in 1994.  There were lots of wrestling games on the PC Engine, but not a lot of games that required the system's final generation CD-ROM System Card, which was used primarily to port SNK Neo-Geo arcade fighters to the platform

So this is an unusual technology combination from a little-known publisher -- Fujicom Co. Ltd., founded in 1994 shortly before this game was released; the company produced some Dreamcast games as well, and still survives today as an electronic parts supplier.

This is also an unusual game in that it's fully licensed based on New Japan (Shin Nihon) Pro Wrestling, so we get to hear professional ring announcer Hidekazu Tanaka introducing the lineup of twenty-one combatants.  The tag teams have colorful names (mostly in English) like the Jurassic Powers and Hell Raisers.  These characters aren't as intentionally goofy as most American pro wrestlers, but there's still a degree of flash and hyperbole in these intros:

And Jushin Thunder Lyger, at least, has a certain cheesy Ultraman vibe about his costume:

The game has four play modes, colorfully known as Battle Field in Tokyo Dome - Super Dream Match, G1 Climax Super League, Battle Scramble and my favorite, Vs. Battle Super Explosion Bout.

The Super Dream Match mode is just a single match -- each player selects a wrestler and they go at it until one player's health bar is whittled down to nothing.  The matches can actually last for quite a long time -- even if the bout goes past the regulation five-minute mark, the game will keep the wrestlers going until one of them definitively defeats the other.

Each match is introduced by Hidekazu Tanaka, and in an unusually wide-ranging license agreement, even the referees appear to be based on actual personalities known to fans of the organization:

Sound effects are solid, with satisfying bass-enhanced punches and thuds, and the unseen audience cheers, hollers and claps convincingly and with quite a bit of variety.  The figures are smallish but animated with a comprehensive repertoire of moves, including all the standard stuff -- bouncing off the ropes, pile drivers, and the ever-popular... whatever this is, I'm sure there's an official name for it but I always think of it as the schoolyard bully maneuver:

Collision detection is a bit approximate, and often leads to odd results -- here, the opponents have bounced off the ropes and collided while running at each other, leaving both figures apparently occupying the same physical space with only sprite display priorities to help sort it all out:

An interesting touch is that a player can voluntarily climb out of the ring, setting off the ring-out timer while taunting his opponent or nursing his wounds.  The AI doesn't quite know what to do with this, it seems -- I once saw a computer-controlled opponent follow my wrestler outside the ring, and then after I had climbed back in, he continued to stand there, unmoving, for six whole counts of his own twenty-count ring-out limit.

The G1 Climax Super League mode sets up a matrix of matches, which play out in the traditional manner.  This display tracks the wins and losses for the red (player one) team versus the blue (player two or computer) team.

Similarly, the IWGP Tournament Battle Scramble mode sets up a traditional tournament tree, whittling a field of 16 wrestlers down to a single champion:

And the Vs. Battle Super Explosion Bout, despite its colorful name, is not an extreme version of the game involving dynamite or other pyrotechnics.  It simply allows a single player to select both of the wrestlers, instead of leaving the choice of opposition up to the computer's random whims.

Shin Nihon Pro Wrestling '94: Battlefield in Tokyo Dome is a competently executed wrestling video game -- the additional memory afforded by the Arcade system card makes for reasonably fluid animation and quality sound.  But it's still just another 8/16-bit wrestling game; it's notable on these shores mostly for its unfamiliar but fresh and officially licensed cast of colorful wrestlers.

This one should be inexpensive if you can find it in stock -- you might turn up a copy here.

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