As I sit here with my autographed portrait of Bret Hart in front of me, playing WWE Legends of Wrestlemania, and writing this review, I recall all of the amazing moments that the then WWF gave me. As a kid, my brother, cousins, and a few close friends were all really into wrestling. We were die-hard Bret Hart fans, as were many other kids in the early to mid 90s. Our other favorites were also guys like Razor Ramon, Diesel, and Shawn Michaels…and of course, whenever the Ultimate Warrior ran out on stage, we'd all get up and mimic his rope assault. Those were good times, and even though the dead and gone Acclaim had twice crapped on our nostalgia with their Legends games, THQ cleans the crap up with their version.
There is no denying that the WWE franchise has been in good hands with THQ for close to ten years, now. Unlike Acclaim, whose WWF efforts spiraled downward fast and hard, THQ's consistency and quality with the SmackDown franchise has been surprisingly good (with the exception of the broken WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2008). As you guys are well aware, we've been following Legends for quite some time now in anticipation of a great product. And it looks we got what we wished for.
For starters, you have a game backed by a proper license, allowing THQ to utilize every bit of WWE's assets with ease. Over 40 of the WWE's greatest superstars and managers have been virtually cast for this Legends game, including Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Yokozuna, The Undertaker, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Jake the Snake Roberts, Ted Dibiase, Mr. Perfect, and many more. We were the first to tell you that The Ultimate Warrior would show up in the game, and while many doubted it, we knew the truth would eventually validate our sources. So yes, The Ultimate Warrior is in Legends, and he comes equipped with rope banging and all.
In total, 42 legends can be found, but best of all, you can import wrestlers out of SmackDown 2009 into Legends, for an even larger collection. How about a match with Chris Jericho vs. Bret Hart? Or Ted DiBiase Jr. against his old man Ted DiBiase? It's all made possible with the game's import feature. On top of that, you can even import your created wrestler from SmackDown 2009 and pit him/her in the game's Legend Killer mode. So if you enjoy taking a created wrestler through the ranks and look forward to defeating a league of legends with a newbie, Legend Killer is your mode. You can always create a new wrestler within Legends, but no need to waste the time if you have a save file from SmackDown available. You may be wondering, 'what if I never bought SmackDown 2009?' Well worry not, just hop onto GameFAQs, download a save file to a memory stick or USB thumb drive, and upload it to your PS3. Bam, you've just more than doubled the size of your roster totaling closer to 100!
The core of Legends revolves around reliving the past in a variety of ways, by either recreating it as it actually happened, re-imagining the event by putting your own variations to the fight, or altering it completely to change the course of WWE history, by having a different outcome in the fight. THQ has labeled these three qualities as the ability to: Relive, Rewrite, and Redefine. All of these aspects will come to fruition when you enter the Wrestlemania Tour mode, where vintage footage based around the events you'll encounter will set up the matches. Each "Re" category has its own set of matches for you to participate in; including Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (Relive), Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan (Relive), Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (Rewrite), Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold (Relive), Yokozuna vs. Bret Hart (Redefine), Jimmy Snuka vs. Rick Rude (Redefine), and many others.
The Relive mode should be fairly self-explanatory, this is where you complete the fight as it happened by successfully pulling off an assortment of objectives within the fight. You don't necessarily have to pull them all off, but you'll want to achieve most to score a medal for the round. If you're like me, you'll likely go back and replay a match until you have successfully completed it properly. Next up, Rewrite allows you to have some freedom, putting you into the shows of the losing wrestler allowing you to rewrite the match's events by actually winning. Lastly, Redefine breaks all the rules by taking historic matches and putting a twist to them, how about a Hell in a Cell match with Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd at WrestleMania 1? Or a Steel Cage match with Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna at Wrestlemania IX? Sounds like fun? That's because it is. And you gotta' love this game's presentation, as it's loaded with archived footage – the nostalgia is high here, folks.
The game runs on the SmackDown 2009 engine, but it has been tweaked considerably so that the action is a bit more arcade based, with a larger emphasis on pick-up-and-play mechanics. The rationale for that decision was done as a means of creating a stepping-stone for the franchise in order to accumulate a userbase; if you recall, the original SmackDown games also started out as arcade-based.
But while the game mechanics may be arcadey and simple, the presentation surely isn't. Everything you'll see demonstrates the authenticity behind Legends, as the game accurately attempts to depict the WWF telecasts from the 80s and 90s by featuring all of the signature ring entrances, the commentators, classic venues, and much more. The only genuine thing missing will be the original WWF logo that the WWE doesn't have a right to use anymore, unfortunately.
When I first laid my hands on Legends last year, I loved the fighting mechanics and with the final copy in my hands, I still do. The action feels smooth, and the controls are easy to get used to, as they utilize the face buttons over the analog stick. A modifier button exists to grant you more moves during the match. In addition, the personalities of managers have been realistically pulled off, as certain managers are more prone to interfering in matches, such as placing their wrestler's leg on the ropes during pinfall, or distracting the referee, or even climbing onto the ring and whisper into their wrestler's ear. It's little stuff like that which really makes WWE Legends of Wrestlemania really stand out for us.
Online gameplay is largely based on what can be found in SmackDown 2009, with up to four online players and six local gamers, with all match types playable. It would've been nice to have at least eight or ten online players to make the Royal Rumble experience feel a bit more realistic, though. Hopefully THQ can work on that one aspect for next year's WWE games. The other complaint I can address with Legends is that perhaps the match list could've been a bit more broad, as 11 match types seems a bit thin, even if the game does cover the biggest ones (Steel Cage, Ladder, Hell in a Cell, Submission, Battle Royale, Royal Rumble, Handicap, Triple Threat, Ironman, Tag, and Single). But at least THQ was smart enough to include the Create A Move-set, Entrance, and Tag Team modes.
I have to admit that I'm quite fond of the visuals in Legends. The details on the wrestlers look fantastic, in many cases. Originally, the wrestlers were supposed to boast embellished details with their arms and chests, a similar design trait found in the Legends of Wrestling games, but THQ has decided to revise that idea by keeping the look of the game a bit more realistic. The likely reason for de-Hulking the wrestlers is likely due to the fact that the more realistic SmackDown 2009 roster would've looked awkward and out of place next to the more cartoonish legends. Wrestlers sport very smooth texture work, and defined physiques, complete with really good animation. You may spot the occasional collision detection issue, but it isn't terribly prevalent in Legends. All in all, aside from a few rows of blotchy/pixilated audience members, WWE Legends is a rather fine looking game.
The audio is about what you'd expect, with commentary from Jerry the King Lawler and Jim Ross, some of which are ripped right out of WWE's archive, and others freshly recorded for the game. Unfortunately, the commentary is not very dynamic or in-depth, which sort of cheapens the momentum of the game's matches. Additionally, crowd participation can stand to be louder and more exciting, as well. And yes, with nearly 100 wrestlers, rest assured all of the proper tracks are included, including older versions of certain wrestler's themes.
WWE Legends of Wrestlemania is a game that caters to everyone of my nostalgic wishes. It may be missing a few key wrestlers, such as Owen Hart, Randy Savage, Diesel, and Razor Ramon, but they can be easily created within the game's Create A Legend mode. There's a plethora of things to do in the game, from playing with close to 100 wrestlers, taking down legends in Legend Killer mode, playing through the core Wrestlemania Tour, creating move-sets, legends, tag-teams and entrances, or just sharing the fun with friends across 11 of the WWE's best matches. There's a ton of fun to be had with this game, and if you were a WWF fan as a kid and still hold on to those nostalgic memories, then I highly urge a copy of WWE Legends of Wrestlemania. I loved it. Here's to an even bigger and better next game.