Ah, 1998, my freshman year of High School. What good time it was for a 13-14 year old teenager to be alive. 3-D gaming was still in its infancy, making every new 3-D game on the Nintendo 64 an excitable prospect (even pedestrian games were interesting at the time).
It was a magical time where Britney Spears was every young boy’s crush, and cable TV was at its Zenith. The world was pandemic free, and rappers still looked they could kick some butt while barehanded (no 6ix9ine cringe worthy personas). Professional Wrestling was at its peak, TNT and USA battled it out on Monday Nights, as the two wrestling titans of the Era the WWE (Then WWF), and the WCW engaged each other in an all-out ratings war.
The climate was right for all things ‘Pro Wrestling’. Wrestling magazines populated news stands in pharmacies, and retail stores. Some of the most enduring wrestling icons were born during the 90’s decade. Steve Austin, The Rock, and Bill Goldberg coming to mind.
Naturally, wrestling games also saw a rise in popularity, and complexity on home consoles of the time. The Nintendo 64 prominently featured the best line up of wrestling games by the hand of publisher THQ and Japanese developer AKI.
While many will point out to 2000’s WWF No Mercy (also developed by AKI after THQ acquired the WWF license) as the peak of the wrestling genre on home consoles. My teens, and young adulthood were defined by hundreds, if not thousands, of hours spent playing WCW/NWO Revenge.
I have yet to play a better wrestling game. I was – admittedly – more of a WCW fan at the time than I was a fan of the WWE, though I would watch both programs (Switching channels back and forth), I was a bigger fan of the WCW cruiser weight division with featured prominent acrobatic wrestlers at the time like Rey Mysterio Jr. Juventud Guerrera, Ultimo Dragon, and for a spell Blitzkrieg. Bill Goldberg was also more fascinating to me than any wrestler on the WWF’s roster.
To top things off, my favorite wrestler of all time (since I was a child), Bret “The Hitman” Hart, made a jump to the WCW during this time. Still, I did own both WWF Warzone, and Attitude. Both Acclaim published titles suffered from stiff motion captured animation, and frustrating clunky controls.
Apart from their awesome presentation, and incredibly deep character creation modes those WWF games didn’t play well at all.
It is in the gameplay arena were the AKI developed WCW titles completely obliterated its competition. Before we get deeper into that discussion, it must be noted that WCW Revenge was a massive improvement in terms of presentation, and animations over its predecessor WCW/NWO World Tour. It featured real WCW Arenas, including all of the Pay Per View ones like Starrcade, Bash at the Beach, Havoc, etc.
In terms of gameplay, the first advantage that Revenge had over the WWF titles was in the animation department. The Animations were smooth and fluid. Having two cruiserweights fighting each other felt, an looked like a session of brutal ballet. The difference was that AKI hand drew all the animation work by hand, which was a more efficient way to do things at the time, as motion capture technology was in its infancy.
Every move, from Rey Mysterio’s Hurricanrana, to Goldberg’s Jackhammer looked as natural as they did in real life. The more colorful approach towards designing the wrestlers also worked better than the Acclaim published WWF games’ realistic, but robotic looking rendering techniques used in its own wrestler design.
The controls were super responsive and simple. Anyone could pick up the game, and start busting important signature moves within a few minutes of play. This made Revenge the perfect party game with friends. The 4- player modes were pure mayhem and fun. Featuring over 60 wrestlers in its roster, and all 50 WCW/NWO wrestlers at the time (one notable exception was Ric Flair) it was also a game that pleased even the most hardcore of WCW fans.
THQ would go on to acquire the WWF license, therefore ditching the WCW universe ( the wrestling company began to lose the rating battles to the WWF at around this time) , and focused instead on developing games for the more popular brand.
WWF Wrestlemania 2000, and No Mercy were born out of this partnership. No Mercy is considered by most pundits as the “Greatest Wrestling Game of All Time”. Still, those games followed the gameplay blueprint set in stone by Revenge. It is a shame that no wrestling games after the Nintendo 64’s golden era, controlled and played as well as Revenge did.
Revenge remains the best Wrestling game that I have ever played, and as it stands, deserves a purchase (it can be found on Amazon for under $30) merely because its gameplay mechanics and controls have yet to be surpassed by the more modern WWE games. With 2.38 million units sold Revenge was also a resounding commercial success at the time.
We salute you WCW/NWO Revenge, your memory will never die.