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WWE Legends of Wrestlemania
Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Yukes
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 6; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Wrestling)/ Arcade/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
There's nothing quite like a good old fashioned, slobber knockin' wrestling match. Wrestling today just doesn't have the same charisma and captivation that it did during the 80's and 90's. The basic premise for Legends of WrestleMania is to relive the glory days before wrestling was exposed as "entertainment" and still somewhat of a "sport."

It seems that THQ and the developers wanted to retain the memories by designing all of the Legends while wearing a pair of rose-tinted glasses. All of the wrestlers in Legends of WrestleMania look a lot beefier than they ever did in real life. It works for the best, because no one wants to see a washed-up, beat-up, wrestling has-been wander around the ring for a while. The character models all look great. They capture the persona of their pugilistic actors very well and do them all justice.

The only downside to the graphics is that what is happening in the ring is the only thing you should be concentrating on, so they skimped on the smaller details. The crowds look absolutely abysmal. The on-lookers are blurry, pixilated, repetitive, and overall dreadful. Not that any of that really matters, because most of your focus should be on what your wrestler is doing.

By far, my favorite thing of Legends of WrestleMania is the soundtrack. Hearing the old entrance themes again really takes me back to when I was a kid staying up late so I could find out how the newest feud would end. All of the wrestlers in Legends of WrestleMania have their original entrance themes and that includes all of the superstars that you import from SmackDown vs. Raw 2009. I found myself singing more than a few of the songs while I was in public without realizing it.

The other impressive effort was the announcer's track. J.R. and The King recorded new tracks for the old wrestlers and it really spices up the old matches. As good as the announcers sound, I sort of wished that they would have be more vintage by using Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon, or at least make Vince announce some matches. But all in all, they sound good and they don't repeat themselves too often.


Gameplay:
Legends of WrestleMania is most certainly not a deep or complicated wrestling game. That becomes a blessing and a curse. The wrestling system is very simple and very friendly to newcomers, but as you spend more time with Legends of WrestleMania, you start to hope for just a little more depth. I think if there were modifiers to some of the attacks, it could have made the world of difference.

Unlike SmackDown vs. Raw, Legends of WrestleMania is focused on the new "Chain Grapple" system. Instead of coordinating complex attacks and throws, it is supposed to focus more on a series of quick-time events that builds up a meter so you can pull off specials and more powerful attacks. These quick-time grapples are context-sensitive depending on where your fighters are positioned. It takes a while to understand what attacks happen in which areas, but once you learn, it becomes much more fluid.

Match types tried to include everything they could think of. Standard one-on-one matches and Tag-Team matches are the expected returns. Hell in a Cell, Steel Cage, Royal Rumble, Ladder Matches, and Hardcore matches all show up to test the might of the classic faces and heels. All of the regular exhibition matches can be played locally with a friend or online and it holds up pretty well. Though most people will find the real reason to play Legends of WrestleMania is for the WrestleMania Tour Mode.

WrestleMania Tour Mode is essentially a way to progress through more difficult matches to hone your skills. Spanning 15 WrestleMania's, the tour breaks down into three distinct scenarios: Relive, Rewrite, and Redefine.

Relive Match is exactly as it sounds, you relive specific matches from the grandest stage of them all. For example, one match will have you in the role of Bret "The Hitman" Hart against Stone Cold in a submission match. Each of the matches have a video package that plays before you start that recaps the highlights that you are supposed to re-enact. Each match has a list of objectives that you need to complete to earn medals and access new unlockables. Rewrite and Redefine follow the same formula, but these mix it up by either making you fight as the underdog or changing the rules of the match and seeing how the new match turns out.

As I mentioned earlier, you can import most of the roster from SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 and add to the already impressive roster of legends, but you can also create your own wrestler in the Create a Legend Mode. Create a Legend is more or less the same as what you would find in SmackDown, except that once you are finished, you can put him through a series of gauntlet matches to earn experience. I liked the customizability of their appearance, but I would have liked to see more in custom finishers and move sets, but that is a problem with the simpler nature of the fighting system instead of the Create mode.


Difficulty:
I have been talking to plenty of people who have played Legends of WrestleMania and I hear conflicting reports on the difficulty. Some people say that because it is too simple means that it just makes it that much harder to earn a victory. Others say that because there are fewer buttons to use, it almost makes it too easy to be any fun. I think it straddles the line between too dumb and too complex fairly well. It is all about the investment that you put into it.

If you are the type of gamer that would spend hours learning the ins and outs of a single wrestler, then your interest won't be held longer than your first real match against a person. If, however, you understand a few basic strategies and just want to see Honky Tonk Man beat the snot out of King Kong Bundy, then it is really easy to get what you want.

The WrestleMania Tour Mode is where most people will measure their time spent with the game and there are around 20 unique matches to replay and that doesn't take more than a few hours to get through all of them.


Game Mechanics:
In any wrestling game, the grapple system is far and away the make or break feature of it's success. Although Legends of WrestleMania's system isn't perfect, I think it does it's job well to keep things fun. For each attack or grapple, you press any direction and either tap or hold the attack button to get a different action. When the quick time events appear, it isn't just for the attacker. The first person to input the prompt correctly gets credit for the move or (if you were a defender) reversal.

That isn't the only way to reverse moves either. Holding (Triangle) blocks most attacks and pressing away and (Triangle) reverses them. I think that this is the only spot where I can say that Legends of WrestleMania falls apart. Reversals are incredibly easy to pull off and after I learned the right timing, I rarely lost a match because I never let my opponent gain any momentum. I can see how most people would ridicule this if they wanted a deeper wrestling experience, but for what it is, it works well enough.

The last peeve about Legends of WrestleMania is how they handle finishers. After your meter has built up from pummeling your opponent, you press (Square) and (X) at the same time to initiate the finishing sequence. Note how I used the word "sequence" because it doesn't just pop off a finisher. Instead, another series of quick time events occurs with two signature moves that builds into the ultimate finisher. You still have to pay attention to the little visual clue instead of the match, so you don't get to see the payoff. I think there has to be a more elegant way to pull that off without sacrificing the uncertainty of a botched finisher.

I would be lying if I said I didn't want Legends of WrestleMania to be more complicated, but I only felt that way after spending more than a dozen hours playing it. I would also be lying if I said that I didn't have more fun in the first few hours than I ever did in a SmackDown game. It is simply a newcomer's game. If you aren't too familiar with wrestling games or were too intimidated by what is currently available, then Legends of WrestleMania is a great place to start. Slowly working your way through classic matches is a ton of fun and my favorite part are all of the video packages that summarize some of the greatest feuds in WWE's history. If you find yourself torn between Legends of WrestleMania and SmackDown, I say go for Legends because big, dumb fun trumps being frustrated and confused any day of the week.


-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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