30 Days of Xbox: Wrestlemania 21

Quite possibly the best looking bad wrestling game of all time.
Wrestlemania 21 was, as it tends to be, all about the spectacle, with a Hollywood theme and matches including the first Money in The Bank ladder match (well before the concept got rather tired), Shawn Michaels vs Kurt Angle in a match that they couldn’t possibly do these days and HHH vs Batista in a match I bet they wish they could do today if big Dave hadn’t gone and made himself a movie star. Also, the promos were… rather special:

Eddie Guerrero. That guy could turn anything magical.

Anything… except maybe Wrestlemania 21 for Xbox. Because while that year’s ‘Mania was a spectacle, Wrestlemania 21 for Xbox is just spectacularly bad.
Not that you might spot it at first, because for its age, it’s actually quite an accomplished game. The roster (which feels weird, because you’ve got stalwarts like The Undertaker or The Big Show very much present, but then there’s also less stellar examples such as Eugene) is well represented visually, maybe better than anything else that was current at the time the game came out.
Then you start playing, and it all goes to glitchy, AI-missing hell. Seriously, this is one of the best looking wrestling games with some of the worst logic ever seen. I won a couple of three way matches not because I was better or sneakier than my opponent, but simply because it seemed to amuse them to actively watch me pinning the third participant, rather, than, say, break the pin up. Working out when a strike would hit or not seemed to involve pure guesswork rather than careful aiming or timing, and I’m still not 100% sure how to change focus on characters.
I own a lot of wrestling games, and while there are some real stinkers in there, Wrestlemania 21 stands out as one of the biggest “missed opportunities” out there. It’s one thing to have cheap visuals and a cheap simple engine, but quite another to have something that looks like it should be quite good, but fails the more obvious logic of being an actually interesting game to play. Not even Eddie could save this.

Fat Duck Tech Retro Xbox Game Rankings

  1. Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time
  2. Taito Legends 2
  3. Sid Meier’s Pirates!
  4. Panzer Dragoon Orta
  5. Outrun 2
  6. Ninja Gaiden
  7. Black
  8. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
  9. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
  10. Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb
  11. Godzilla: Save The Earth
  12. The Punisher
  13. The Hulk
  14. SSX Tricky
  15. NFL Street
  16. Disney Extreme Skate Adventure
  17. FIFA 2004
  18. NHL Rivals 2004
  19. Rocky
  20. Spy vs Spy
  21. Combat Elite: WWII Paratroopers
  22. Rugby League
  23. Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death
  24. Wrestlemania 21
  25. Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball

It’s getting tough to properly differentiate at the top, but it’s even worse at the bottom. Wrestlemania 21 tries hard, which isn’t Beach Volleyball’s forte, but then I like pro wrestling, so it should be so much better than it actually is. Wrestling fans with Xboxes really didn’t get much love at all in this generation.
Next time: Time to get FUNKY.

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