Nostalgia is a beautiful thing. Rose-tinted goggles make us all long for the days when we ran home from school so fast your chest felt like it might explode. Why did we willingly do such a thing? To put the TV on and watch, well, there's an endless list of fondly remembered 80s shows. Here's some of mine: Transformers, Thundercats, Airwolf, The A-Team, Defenders of the Earth, Dungeons and Dragons, Knightmare and... WWF.
Which is now WWE of course, a result of the World Wildlife Fund and a few angry letters, I'd imagine. For me, the WWF was all about Hulk Hogan (55, TV star), The Ultimate Warrior (49, retired) The Undertaker (43, still wrestling), Big Boss Man (died of a heart attack age 41), The British Bulldog (died of a heart attack age 39) and Bret "The Hitman" Hart (51, retired). And, as a young gamer, the WWF was all about the WrestleMania games on the NES and SNES.
But I grew out of professional wrestling. As other things became important, all that spandex-fuelled drama became, well, just a bit silly. I cast the WWF aside, left it languishing in the memory of my childhood. It was forgotten. Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III, Hulk Hogan versus The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI and Sgt. Slaughter versus Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VII, all fond but distant specks housed somewhere in the vault of my brain. Until now.
WWE Legends of WrestleMania, THQ's latest Yuke's-developed wrestling game, has one goal: to rekindle all those fond childhood wrestling memories guys like you and me thought were lost to time and YouTube. Its roster of wrestlers is a who's who of superstars made famous by WrestleMania throughout the 80s and 90s. It allows you to relive those famous matches in virtual form, and feel your childhood, those long Sunday afternoons spent "practising" body slams in the park, come rushing back in a veritable flood of euphoric nostalgia.
Legends of WrestleMania is cleverly structured to make the most of this. The main game mode, WrestleMania Tour, presents three options: Relive, Rewrite and Redefine. Relive allows you to take control of the victor in a WrestleMania match up, Rewrite lets you take control of the loser and attempt to change history, and Redefine lets you choose who you want to win, in a match-up based on real-life classics but with modern twists.
Before each match a live-action montage of archived footage plays, setting the scene for the match. It's real "from the vault" stuff, and includes all that "to the camera" trash-talking and finger pointing that defined WWF during the glory days. Shawn Michaels has a full head of hair, Undertaker is a lean, young machine, packed stadiums, catchphrases, slogans, spectacular signature moves, cheesy entrance music, it's all there, and it's great fun to watch and hear.
In-match, Legends of WrestleMania plays very differently to THQ's current SmackDown vs. Raw series. The WrestleMania Tour matches ask you to win, of course, but they also challenge you to complete a number of objectives designed to coerce you into recreating moves that were actually performed during the real match on which they're based. So, for example, one of the objectives in the Hulk versus Andre the Giant match is to body slam Andre, just like he did at WrestleMania in the early 80s. There are loads of these objectives for each of the 19 playable WrestleMania matches in the game, ranging from simply damaging your opponent before he damages you, to more complex actions based on from the top rope moves, strong grapples, contextual attacks that use the environment and finishers.
The objectives tie into the new, some will say dumbed down but I say streamlined, control system. Legends of WrestleMania requires only the left thumb stick or d-pad and the four face buttons to play. The triggers or shoulder buttons aren't needed. On the Xbox 360 (the version tested) X punches, A grapples, B runs/pins and Y counters/blocks. If you want, you can make do with that and get plenty out of the game. The game's heavy on quick time events. Like marmite, you'll love 'em or hate 'em. Irish whip your opponent, for example, or perform a finisher, and a QTE triggers that sees both players try to press the right button first. It's actually decent, albeit simple fun, and, because the more spectacular moves require QTE chains, you're able to switch proceedings to your advantage mid chain if you beat your opponent on a QTE. In many games QTEs simply get in the way of the action, focusing the eye on a small part of the screen when all you really want to do is absorb the entire cinematic. This is something that Legends suffers from, but at least the QTEs are competitive.