Back when I was still a pro wrestling fan, I obtained the PC version of WWF Wrestlemania, a port of the arcade game. (For non-gamers, “ports” are simply a version of a game for a different system, in this case the PC.) This is back when World Wrestling Entertainment was still known as the World Wrestling Federation before the World Wildlife Fund (now the World Wide Fund for Nature…hmmm) finally whined to right judge and made them change it. All of the major game consoles picked up their own version, but not having them I went with the PC. This is a game I can no longer play thanks to Windows Vista, and if I ever upgrades to Windows 7, I have a feeling that wouldn’t play it, either. As it says on the manual’s cover, this plays inĀ  Windows DOS mode. Although there is an installer for Windows 3.1 it won’t play in that mode or any Windows mode.

There is a program called “DOS Box” that can emulate the old DOS form and allow you to play MS-DOS games, but why I downloaded it, I still won’t use it on this game. Long story short, I didn’t enjoy it, despite a lot of fan love I’ve seen for it.

Instead of pictures, I found videos of the game on YouTube, which I’ll post to break up the text. Like so.

I never played the arcade version (the only arcade version I’ve seen in my area is WWF Superstars) or any of the console versions, so I can’t judge them. However, my experience with this game was more the failings of MS-DOS than the game itself. In order to play the game I had to manually set up the sound and MIDI cards, which back then wasn’t a piece of cake. Each list had a few different cards to choose from and if your exact card wasn’t up there (or you didn’t know for sure what version you had), then you had to settle for the closest one. If this just screwed up the sound, then fine, trial and error but at least you could play it, right?

Wrong! In some settings the game wouldn’t start up at all, and sometimes even if I got it right once, it may not be perfect and the game wouldn’t start up the next time I tried to play it. Maybe my computer at the time couldn’t handle it or something–that could have been a factor. At any rate just getting the game started and not crashing were exercises in frustration. And if I could get it to work, there was still the problem of control. MS-DOS games wouldn’t acknowledge my controller (a Microsoft Sidewinder that also won’t work on my current computer due to the changes in plug-in ports for today’s computer–everybody uses the USB plugs now) so I had to play it using the keyboard. Ever try playing a fighting game with a keyboard? It’s not easy.

Which was my personal problem with the game when I could get it to run–it was a fighting game, and not a wrestling game. While there are a few wrestling moves it still played like a Street Fighter game more than a wrestling game. I wanted a wrestling game and WWF Superstars had been a wrestling game. The characters had special attacks that would have been better suited for Street Fighter. For example the Undertaker could throw ghosts at his opponents, Doink the Clown would have clown props flying everywhere when he was hit and use a joy buzzer out of a cartoon, and so on.

As a fighting game (when I got it to run) it was fairly decent. In addition to the Undertaker and Doink you could play as Bret “Hit Man” Hart, “The Heartbreak Kid” Sean Michaels, Razor Ramon (who now wrestles as Scott Hall), Lex Lugar, Yokozuna, and Bam Bam Bigelow. The wrestlers could use some of their signature moves (except for submission holds–no “Sharpshooter” for the “Hit Man”) by using a combination of button hits, just like a fighting game character-specific special move. The controls worked as well as they could for a keyboard (again, my controller wouldn’t work for this game), and if a fighting game was what you wanted this was certainly a fun one.

The game used digitized graphics, essentially photos of the actual wrestlers, an arena, and a crowd, as game sprites. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler (back when Vince wasn’t playing “Evil CEO” and “The King” was a bad guy–at least in the WWF, since was a good guy in the USWA) provided the commentary with actual recordings of their voices saying “you have to give credit to (insert name here)”, “what a rip-off”, and other expressions to make it appear that they were commentating the match.

You had two modes in single player. “Intercontinental Title” (the second most important title in the WWFE at the time) had you squaring off in four one-on-one bouts, then a set of one-on-two matches, and finally a one on three bout. Then there was the “World Wrestling Federation Title” match, a two-on-one handicap match set, a series of three-on-one matches, and finally a Royal Rumble (a battle royal match where two wrestlers start off, with one more coming in every two minutes instead of everybody in the ring at the start). With only 8 wrestlers in the game, these tournaments sometimes led to your wrestlers fighting a copy of themselves and sometimes multiple copies. I swear to God I remember a game where I was playing Bret Hart against two or three other Bret Harts. That’s pretty funny.

I didn’t find video of two-player mode, had tag-team and player-vs.-player options.

Decision: Goes

.I don’t want to go through the pain of trying to get the sound and Midi set-up to let me at least play, and I think I’d be better off getting a ROM (I paid for a version of the game, why not have one I can actually play). Add in the fact that I wanted a wrestling game, not a fighting game, and there’s no reason for me to have any version of this game. It’s a fun game, but not the one I’m looking for.