Rumbles Roses

It’s not a big surprise that games with attractively designed female characters sell in big numbers. It’s also not a secret that professional wrestling video games have steady success year after year. So, a game with a one-two punch of pretty women and backbreaking pro-wrestling should do doubly well, right? Rumble Roses puts the two together and, for the most part, succeeds in delivering an entertaining game.

Rumble Roses is based on a simple premise: hot polygonal women in hand-to-hand combat. That’s it. There’s a story in there, but really, it’s not very important. The game delivers on all the promises made by the opening video, giving you all the bouncing breasts and brutal bouts you can handle.

The game is polished, but it seems to fall short of delivering all of its potential. The player gets this feeling right after the opening video. The main menu immediately betrays one of the game’s weaknesses: lack of game modes. Your options are Exhibition, Story and Gallery mode; that’s it. No tag matches, no cage matches, or any of the other match variations that have come to be expected in wrestling games. The action takes place in either a wrestling ring, or the game’s much-touted “Mad Mud Match” mode, which puts the girls in bikinis and in a mud pit. No matter where the fighting takes place, the goal is the same: to get the victory through pinfall or submission.

Exhibition lets you choose two ladies and let them have at it. This is the only point in the game where two players can play against each other. The main purpose of Exhibition mode is the “Vow System”. By taking a pledge to do or not do certain things in a match (such as winning without taking any damage or winning without attacking an opponent while they’re down), the character can gain Face (“good guy”, chivalry) or Heel (“bad guy”, treachery) points. Accumulating these points will change the character’s personality drastically, unlocking what essentially amounts to another character. The catch of this system is you can only have either the Face or Heel version of the character unlocked at one time. This means no Light side versus Dark side battles of your favorite character. After achieving a 100% rating in either category, a character can compete for the championship title in Exhibition mode.

Winning and defending this belt will allow the character to be selected in the Gallery mode, which consists of the character bouncing and stretching in their dressing room, or just lounging on a beach while the camera circles around them. The best part of this mode is getting to hear the character being interviewed. Following the completely un-serious nature of the game, the answers the girls give to some of the questions are pleasantly ridiculous. It is interesting to note that the way to hear the interviews is to set the controller and let the computer-controlled camera scroll languidly over the girl. Whatever in the world do the game creators expect the player to be doing while waiting?

Story mode is the where the majority of playtime will occur. The player chooses a fighter and fights up to eight opponents in a row, with cut-scenes in between matches to further the story. The story is suitably campy. The Rumble Roses Organization has set up a tournament (the narcissistically named Rumbles Roses Tournament) to determine the most powerful woman in the world. But, all is not as it seems with the organization, and soon, not only are the women fighting for the title, but for their lives and the fate of the world. The main story is admittedly much paper-thin, but the individual stories for the characters are often entertaining until the central plot comes to the forefront. In what other game would you see a teacher joining a wrestling tournament to retrieve a truant student who’s also entered the tournament? The player can play either the Face or Heel version of a character, and experience a different storyline for both versions. The best example of this is the previously mentioned teacher. In her Heel incarnation, she becomes a dominatrix who decides to not only retrieve her truant student but also punish her and all of the other “naughty girls” in the tournament.

Players used to the mainstream “sports entertainment” provided by World Wrestling Entertainment will get a nice introduction to the Japanese strong and highflying wrestling styles with this game. From neck-snapping piledriver variations to sadistic submission holds, there are moves in this game that have legitimately shortened careers when performed in real life. However, keeping with the theme of the game, many moves serve the purpose of holding the girls in compromising positions. The vanguard of this category would have to be what is best summarized as the “Spread Eagle Suplex”. The character will hoist her victim onto her shoulder to deliver a modified belly-to-back suplex, but instead pause and spread the victim’s legs open while parading around for a moment before dropping the victim on her head.

As one can imagine, this would be very humiliating for the victim. This leads into another trademark of Rumble Roses: the Humiliation System. As in other wrestling games, successful attacks will build a meter which will allow the player to unleash a signature maneuver on their enemy. That’s still very much the case in Rumble Roses; the game even gives you a choice of two different moves. But the momentum meter and the Humiliation meter combined allow the player to . . . well, humiliate their opponent. The Humiliation move always consists of a pinning attempt or submission maneuver that completely earns the Mature rating on this game. Witness the schoolgirl’s Humiliation hold that lays the victim on the ground and keeps her legs open until she submits. The blatantly sexual holds notwithstanding, the actual wrestling is excellent in its execution. Konami made the smart move of contracting Aki to handle the gameplay, the same masterful group who programmed fan favorite wrestling game WWF: No Mercy for the Nintendo 64, as well as other countless wrestling games in both American and Japanese markets. Consequently, the game plays as a modified version of previous wrestling games. Strikes are mapped to a single button, giving the option of either performing a quick strike combo or performing one of several more powerful striking attacks. One of Aki’s major additions to the grappling system in this version is the ability to use one of two grapples to take the opponent down to the mat instantly. The option to stick to standing grapple attacks is always open of course. The reversals are accomplished with well-timed button presses. Damage can be applied to the major areas of the body: head, arms, body, and legs.

The entire system enables a player to fight exactly how they’d like. The play can wrestle an extremely technical match and isolate a single limb, or simply pound away at the enemy until the final bell. Of course certain characters are more suited to one strategy over the other, but if a player tried hard enough, it would still be possible to make a brawling character wrestle like Chris Benoit. Rather than this being a positive for the game, some may find this detracts from the experience. This makes the characters feel a bit generic, as if the only real difference between the characters is their appearance. But then again, this game probably isn’t meant to be dissected and tiered as a more serious competitive game would be.

The soundtrack is a mixed bag. The music playing in the background of the actual matches can be quite repetitive, and unfortunately there seems to be only three tracks of background music. The soundtrack really shines in the arena entrance themes of each character. The themes range from Japanese pop to hard rock to classical orchestra; each one well done, and a few of the names may surprise the keen observer. Castlevania fans will be treated to a few pieces by eminent composer Michuru Yamane, and internationally renowned punk band the Killer Barbies contributes sounds as well. With the exception of the interview questions in the gallery mode, every line in the game is acted. The voices are done well, even when the script gets unbelievably campy. Worth particular note is Lilia Silva, the voice of Dixie Clements. Her Texan accent is perfectly done, and the corniness of her storyline is made palatable by the voice actress’s performance.

Most of the sound effects get the job done; slams to the mat sound as they should, but fighting outside of the ring and in the mud matches sounds very muffled. The one detraction in the voice department is Aigle, the nomadic Mongol. Keeping with the nomad theme, she speaks like the Native American stereotype from a bad Western, as if she would “trade all land for shiny wampum”. This is not the fault of the voice actress; just the script. But every single voice talent really shines in the previously mentioned interview sessions. The only noticeable error (and this is mostly a nitpick), is the name of a Lethal Move is announced by the actress as “Reflesshia!”, and spelled that in the voice sampling mode, but at the character select screen, the move is spelled (correctly) as “Refresher”. Not a major thing, but that is the only script error I could find. The voice acting and the script is that polished.

The graphics are expectedly excellent. Characters are bigger than in most other wrestling games and are much more detailed than in competing games. But, let the buyer beware. The girls in the game are anime styled, so anyone expecting a more realistic digital representation of the female form may be disappointed. But then again, if that’s what you were expecting, you probably wouldn’t be buying this game. There are very few graphical errors in the game; clipping is a rare event, and these usually happen during the Humiliation moves to “unimportant” parts of the character models. The other time noticeable clipping occurs is when, through use of a code, the character entrances are swapped.

As is common practice in wrestling games, the entrances are movies rendered from statically mapped polygons. What this means is that the props in an entrance are mapped for the character the programmers intended them to be for, and when other characters wear them, they get clipped behind the character model. In terms of character design, almost every notorious fetish is represented. Nurse, schoolgirl, teacher, cowgirl, biker chick and martial arts maiden are all ready to throw down.

The game’s other claim to fame, the Mad Mud Match, comes off as more sideshow than sexy. The mud is too pale to accurately portray mud; instead of looking like mud, it instead most closely resembles the gravy from Kentucky Fried Chicken. While it does melt away in a somewhat realistic fashion, it doesn’t cover the entire body. No mud will ever cover a character’s head, no matter what attack is used. It’s incredibly odd to see a character entirely covered in mud, only to have the mud magically stop in a straight line at the character’s neck. During the story mode, the graphical engine really shines, as the cut-scenes appear to be rendered on the fly with the same attention to graphical excellence as the game has during a match, and the lips are well synched to the dubbing during the cut-scenes.

This game falls into an interesting category. It’s not a pure wrestling game, but it’s not close to being a fighting game. It can’t be a party fighting game like the Super Smash Bros. Series, not just because it doesn’t have cross-market appeal, but also because it only supports two players. As a one-player experience, it has a solid base, but it feels like there should be more to it. The combat is good and balanced, but the game is so focused on being aesthetically pleasing that the characters don’t feel as unique as their designs would have you believe initially. This game is a promising beginning, and if some careful thought and expansion happens, the ostensible sequel could be something excellent. If you are a wrestling fan, or a fan of anime babes, definitely at least rent this game. If you can remember what classic game this article’s subtitle comes from, then you should rent this game. As it stands, it feels as if it is just missing a few elements before being good enough to pay full price for.

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