Recently, the Nintendo 64 has come under the criticism that there just aren't enough games available for it. This criticism still stands, but to this reviewer's pleasure, one of the few available for the N64 is New Japan Pro Wrestling: Tohkon Road/Brave Spirits (NJPW). While this game isn't quite as good as Asmik's wonderful Virtual Prowrestling 64 (VPW), it can still hold it's own on the market.
One of the most noticeable aspects of the game is the control of the game with the N64 analog control pad. At first, I found it extremely difficult to preform otherwise simple moves (in other Wrestling games) such as a basic grapple, or a running attack. But after a few minutes of play, the control became very easy to deal with, and gave this game some new life, because instead of using the the VPW or Fire Prowrestling style grapple system, NJPW takes advantage of the N64's button layout, and lets you preform moves without grappling, usually by a combination of buttons (Z+A, Z+B+A, etc.). Running attacks are performed by using the C directional buttons (which I still find a bit difficult to do, just because of the button placement on the controller).
The graphics in NJPW, while nice, are really nothing more than standard N64 fare. There's nothing really that impresses me other than the textures applied to the wrestlers, since the polygons themselves are still blocky and tend to break up. All Japan Pro Wrestling for the Sega Saturn and Toukon Retsuden 2: New Japan Pro Wrestling on the Sony Playstation show better use of the hardware though, with more better shaped polygons and excellent light-sourcing. None of which is really found on the N64. I believe the boys at Yuke's are finding out that the N64 is a totally different animal (and different programming environment ^_^) than the Sony Playstation.
The sound is what you'd come to expect from the N64, with some nice voices thrown in as a bonus. The music though, is horrendous. Once you go from CD audio on the Sony Playstation to the MIDI audio capabilities of the N64, there's no comparison. The in-match music is a terrible loop of about 10 seconds of music for the entire match (with a match lasting upwards of 30 minutes), but thankfully there is an option to turn it off. When the music is turned off, it gives us and opportunity to examine the sound effects, which are really just average. As I mentioned before though, the character voices (for Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan) are a nice addition to the sound effects. Since the N64's biggest system weakness is the sound, it really shows in NJPW.
Despite some less than stellar comments about the game, I do think that it is above average, and right now, while it isn't the best wrestling game out (for N64 or not), it ends up near the middle of the pack. If you can't get your hands on a copy of VPW, I would definitely reccomend NJPW, and if you can get your hands on a copy of both, do it. They're totally different games, with each excelling in some areas and each falling behind in others.
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