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Old 09-08-2011, 06:04 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Retronauts: MicroLeague Wrestling

I'd like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to one of gaming's unsung heroes, the late Bill Kunkel. Along with Arnie Katz and Joyce Worley, Kunkel was responsible for Electronic Games, America's first nationally published video game magazine. Years later, he wrote a monthly column for Video Games and Computer Entertainment under the guise of The Game Doctor, and set a new precedent as the only writer working under an alias who wasn't an obnoxious putz. (Seriously, look back at anything by Quartermann or Sushi-X. You'll want to build a time machine just to strangle them.)

However, Bill Kunkel wasn't just one of game journalism's pioneers! He had many nerdly pursuits, with professional wrestling being at the top of that list. He was such a fan of the sport that he led the design team responsible for MicroLeague Wrestling, the first game licensed by the World Wrestling Federation. (You know them as World Wrestling Entertainment now, thanks to a legal smackdown from another WWF that wasn't too thrilled with the association. The case marked the first and only time tree-hugging environmentalists were able to beat dozens of three hundred pound men trained to throw each other into tables.)

MicroLeague Wrestling takes a novel approach to the sport' instead of winning grapples by crushing joystick buttons into a fine powder, players pick moves from a list on the edge of the screen and cross their fingers. These attacks are arranged from weakest to strongest, with the most powerful blows taking the most stamina to perform. Just like in 'real' wrestling, your best bet is to work up the ladder from the relatively mundane punches and kicks to splashier attacks like leg drops and clotheslines. Once you've thoroughly humiliated your opponent in the ring, you can put him out of his misery with your ring-rockin', crowd-pleasin' signature move.

Kunkel's love for the sport comes through loud and clear in this game. Still shots of real wrestling matches were used to illustrate not only the turn-based battles, but the trash talk before every fight and ring introductions as well, making this the most authentic wrestling experience possible on 1980s technology. There's even color commentary from WWF mainstays like Jesse 'The Body' Ventura (on a lesser man a feather boa would be undignified') and Vince 'I can't believe he was ever that young' McMahon. Sure it's all in text, but there's only so much you can expect from a game that shipped on two floppy discs!

Downsides? There are a few. I don't know what to make of the combat system' there doesn't seem to be much strategy beyond building up to the stronger attacks. Maybe there's a rock/paper/scissors symbiosis between the moves that I'm missing, but from what I've seen there's no clear path to victory. Also, you're stuck with just two wrestlers. Sure, Hulk Hogan and whoever Hulk Hogan is beating up at the moment is enough to satisfy most fans, but if you want to snap into some jobbers with Macho Man Randy Savage, or wield the wooden plank of hillbilly hero Hacksaw Jim Duggan, you'll have to pony up the dough for the expansion packs.

So it's not the total package, but like Lex Lugar, MicroLeague Wrestling was hard to beat in the 1980s. It was the best WWF-licensed game available for years, crushing the bizarrely surreal Wrestlemania for the NES and being dethroned only when Technos released the WWF Superstars arcade game in 1989. It's another achievement for a man of many talents and proof that the essential ingredient in any licensed game is a love for the source material.



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Old 09-08-2011, 05:26 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: MicroLeague Wrestling

Stopped reading when he bashed the Q.
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