The Fire Pro Wrestling series has returned but does the latest iteration lived up to the legendary offerings that came before it? Join us as we explore Fire Pro Wrestling World.
Developers making a sequel are faced with an impossible question; how do you make the new game enough like the old game to reflect all its positives while adding enough of the new to make it worth buying? For whatever unknown reason the result, more often than not, is a sequel that fails to live up to its ancestor.
Fire Pro has a long history of pulling off that nearly unachievable feat but could Spike Chunsoft do it again? With Fire Pro Wrestling World (FPWW) I am happy to say Fire Pro has returned. I want to make it clear that the version on Steam is not a final launch version. FPWW is in early access which means updates and adjustments will be made and bugs will happen. That said, compared to many early access games I’ve bought Fire Pro already feels like a near complete game. So how does it compare with Fire Pros of yesteryear?
(From Steam page) Why Early Access? “Customization is a key component in the Fire Pro series. Our initial goal was to recreate the classic gameplay and key editing features. From here we can have users help customize the game!”
Newbies to the franchise might be a bit surprised when they load up the game and see a bare bones roster, that is because Fire Pro isn’t a game that tells you what it is, it’s a game that you make into what you desire. Want to make your own WWF? New Japan? ROH? ECW? UFC? Pride FC? Capcom vs Street Fighter? You can do it and thanks to the Steam Workshop it’s never been easier! Currently featuring near ten thousand creations with more being added daily, downloading every character you’ve ever desired and uploading the ones you chose to make has never been easier. From your favorite pro-wrestlers to Dana White and Bob Ross (Bob Ross 3:16 means I just beat the devil out of my brush!) the Steam workshop is bursting with competitors ready for download. I’d like to see the work shop expand to more created assets but more on that later.
Graphically our beloved sprites have never looked smoother. Is there room for further enhancements without losing the nostalgic Fire Pro look? I think so but one thing all Fire Pro fans and developers understand, maybe the most important thing, is that gameplay always trumps graphics. A great looking game with terrible gameplay is worthless. Meanwhile, simple looking games with great gameplay are still great games. The gameplay in FPWW is on point with prior iterations.
If you’ve played Fire Pro before, and chances are you have, then you won’t miss a beat. Going from Fire Pro Returns to World I didn’t notice a difference beyond a few additions that I won’t spoil here. The gameplay is everything you’ve grown to love and still deep enough to feature a full-fledged mixed martial arts game within the regular game itself! I expect to see even more surprised by the official launch and it sounds like the developers agree.
(From the Steam page) How is the full version planned to differ from the Early Access version? “More robust editing tools and additional game modes/match options.”
If the gameplay is the foundation, then Fire Pro’s AI is the concrete that forms it. At first glance, FPWW looks simple if not unrealistic. How could these little sprites immerse me? How can they reflect their real-life counterparts? This is not an overstatement. As a lifelong wrestling gamer, I can attest that AI in Fire Pro makes the characters act more realistic than any other wrestling game I’ve played. In no other game do I spend as much time playing as I do watching the AI sim matches. Compounding that AI with complex gameplay results in organic wrestling stories told like they were in the glory days of wrestling yesteryear, between the ropes not on the mic. The ring is your paper, your actions within it your pen, the crimson ink drawn from your opponent’s brow!
(From the Steam page) How are you planning on involving the Community in your development process? “Let us know what features you would like to see implemented! Edit Mode can be daunting for new players. We’re counting on Fire Pro vets to help the community unlock the full potential of the toolset!”
Online mode has been under construction so I haven’t been able to feel it out. It remains to be seen if it can overcome the lag issue that plagues wrestling games. Beyond that where else can Fire Pro go? More creation features? Better arena edits? Enhanced entrances and upgraded graphics? Maybe, but this fan would like to see mods. Developers are finding ways to keep their games selling far longer than the average by letting their dedicated community members mod their products. Looking at what the FPWW community has already done it’s safe to say giving them mod ability would lead to great things for the franchise. I don’t know if Spike Chunsoft will allow for modding but I certainly hope they consider it.
Fire Pro Wrestling is many conflicting things both as a game and beyond. It’s long term fan desired development is a testament to the gamers that never stopped supporting it and to Spike Chunsoft for listening. It’s a metaphor and a symbol, a callback and a step forward. A contradiction with a loyal niche of fans. There is only one other entity capable of such diverse juxtaposition and that is that art of pro wrestling itself. In that Fire Pro Wrestling is exactly what is needs to be but most of all, even in early access, it’s a lot of fun!
Now if you will excuse me I have a best of seven storyline featuring Fred Rogers vs Bob Ross in barbed wire death matches. After a series of such matches, a mutual respect is likely to form leading to an eventual death match tag team title run. Bomaye!