Super Fire Pro Wrestling
A Puroresu Game Review by Kevin Wilson

Platform: Super Famicom
Release Date:
December 20th, 1991

On December 20th, 1991, a new era of pro wrestling games was born on the Super Famicom. This was not the first Fire Pro Wrestling game, as the original came out on the TurboGrafx-16 in 1989. This was however the start of a beautiful series of games, as Human (the developer) would go on to make a total of nine Fire Pro games for the Super Famicom. Each one slowly built on the last one, and by the time Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium came out in 1996 it was one of the best puroresu games ever made. But I am getting ahead of myself as it all started with Super Fire Pro Wrestling, back in late 1991.

Graphics: One of the awesome things about this game is that because of the more 'simple' style, every wrestler is at least somewhat recognizable. A few of the Japanese wrestlers look similar in the game since you can't really see their faces very well, but if the wrestler had any distinguishable traits (a different outfit, face paint, hair, etc.) it was fairly obvious who the wrestler was. Also things such as the mist and blood both were very clear. There were some glitches here and there as some moves weren't animated right (see below, picture #4), and throwing wrestlers out of the ring had no animation really so it looks unrealistic, but overall the game's graphics does not hold it back.

Controls: This game is hard, and one of the reasons it is hard is that it isn't a button masher like what was common back then. Fire Pro set out to do things differently as it is all timing based, it doesn't matter who starts the grapple, just who hits the button at the right time and which wrestler was going for the stronger grapple move. If you try a move too early, well you aren't going to have a good time. The game is quite smooth, 'run' always ran when I wanted to run, getting on the top turnbuckle was no issue (hitting a move was a different story), and there are three strike buttons depending on how strong of a strike you wanted to do. Not a lot of grapple options, less than ten per wrestler by my count which is a bit low but not uncommon for this era. The only 'controls' related issue I had was that picking up a wrestle didn't always work right and you can't move your opponent around so if you pick them up near the ropes, you are kinda stuck there.

Gameplay Options: The main gameplay options include a singles series and a tag team series. Each series had a different boss, with Rikidozan leading the singles section and Brody/Hansen leading the tag team section. Nothing about this is easy, even on the easiest setting I was losing on a regular basis. Also of course you can play with a friend.

Wrestlers Available: Super Fire Pro Wrestling has 24 wrestlers available to play as. This may not sound impressive, but trust me, it was. Just for an example, WCW Super Brawl Wrestling came out in 1994 and only has 12 playable wrestlers, so 24 was definitely setting a high bar that Fire Pro games would continue to keep raising going forward. Even more awesome is it included wrestlers from many different promotions so you got wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, the Road Warriors, the Ultimate Warrior, Vader, Maeda, Hansen, Great Muta, and Inoki all in one game. Sure they had to change their names but their moves were the same so no loss there. It was an all-star cast for 1991 for sure.

Historical Significance: This was in a lot of ways the game that started it all. I don't have sales numbers but I doubt that Fire Pro Wrestling was a big seller on the TurboGrafx-16, but Super Fire Pro Wrestling set the stage for many years to come. Fire Pro games for the Super Famicom were spit out faster than any other game franchise in history on one system, with nine games appearing over a five year period. But since today Fire Pro is one of the most fondly remembered wrestling series, it is important to remember where it all started, as if this game wasn't fun there may not have been so many Fire Pro games and Spike may not have been interested in continuing the series many years later.

Overall Thoughts: This game is incredibly difficult, make no mistake, but once you get the hang of the timing there is a real sense of accomplishment once you win. There is no hand holding here, on the easiest setting I lost the opening match the first time I played the game, I was out of practice for Fire Pro games. Each wrestler doesn't have a lot of moves available, that would be added later, so it can be a bit repetitive as you run through the singles series. There is also no CAW which was a staple of later Fire Pro games. Still though, it was overall an enjoyable experience, since I have the other Fire Pro games I highly doubt I will ever play this one again but it was a good starting point for the series to build on. If you have the later Super Famicom games there is no reason to pick up this one, but it is still better than anything else you will find made in 1991 or earlier.

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game reviewed on 3/14/15