Before WCW vs. NWO World Tour, wrestling video games were very basic. Wrestlers were cartoony, move sets were limited and they primarily offered an arcade-like experience. For video game players of that time, this genre of game was fun for what it was. However, the genre definitely was lacking in the (dare I say it) realism department. As a wrestling fan at the time, I was disappointed in the fact that most of the games in the genre had only a handful of characters, a single shared move list across all characters except for finishers, and limited use of weapons (if there were weapons at all). I wanted to play a wrestling game that felt more like I was actually playing a WWF match, rather than playing a beat-em-up that just so happens to take place inside a wrestling ring.
Then I played WCW vs. NWO World Tour.
At the time of its release, most review outlets did not give WCW vs. NWO World Tour a positive word. To be fair, I don’t blame them. The game had a lot of problems, which would ultimately be addressed in future AKI-developed wrestling games. What the game did well though, was provide a wrestling experience that was light years beyond everything else at the time in terms of realism and playability.
We take this for granted now, but this was the first wrestling game where wrestlers actually played somewhat like their real-life counterparts. Besides having their own finishing moves, each character’s move set was tailored to fit their style. In this game, Rey Mysterio played like Rey Mysterio and The Giant played like The Giant. People take this for granted now, but unique fighting styles based on their real-life counterparts hadn’t really been done in this genre before. As a WCW fan, it went a long way to making the game more enjoyable.
The other major breakthrough that came with WCW vs. NWO World Tour was its controls. Prior to this, wrestling game controls gave you limited options in terms of moves you could do, while forcing you to mash buttons till it hurt. WCW vs. NWO completely changed the way people think about wrestling video game controls by putting an emphasis on timed attacks and grabs. Going this route opened up the game for more possibilities and less button mashing.
Pair those great innovations up with 4-player out-of-the-box and you got yourself the start of a wrestling game revolution on the Nintendo 64. Despite what the critics said, the gameplay shined bright and was fun for wrestling enthusiasts and those simply looking for a fun game to play. During its prime, my friends and I played the heck out of this game. I’ll forever have a ton of fond memories of all of the battle royal action we had.
There’s no point in going back to this game now, as it was outclassed many times over by the AKI-developed wrestling games that came after this. If you’re going to hook up the N64 for some wrestling goodness, WWF No Mercy is the one to go for. In fact, there are many who would argue that No Mercy is still the best wrestling game to-date. Count me in as a member of that camp. With that said, the legacy this game started still shines among the wrestling fans. Though I haven’t followed professional wrestling in years, I’m sure that I would have fun with this again if I were to fire it up for old times’ sake.