Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is a 2D game based on professional wrestling and mixed martial arts, made by Spike Co. Ltd. It is a long running Japanese series, featuring multiple installments over multiple systems. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns (henceforth FPR) is the second installment for the Playstation 2 console. FPR is only the third game to be released abroad, and the first on PS2. The game has a very dedicated following (a few community members are thanked in the Special Thanks section of the manual) amongst general gamers, and also wrestlers. Stevie Richards and Rob Van Dam, among others, have cited the Fire Pro series as their favorite wrestling game.
Seeing as the game is based on wrestling, there are real world wrestlers included, the default wrestlers included in game (around 300) are based primarily on Japanese professional wrestling legends, with a limited amount of American wrestlers. The names of the wrestlers are changed so as not to actually violate intellectual copyright. The appearances are unchanged except in a few specific cases involving fighters from the now defunct PRIDE Fighting Championship. This isn't a big hindrance, though, as the edit mode allows you to convert the names and appearances of all wrestlers, although you can only have one custom outfit among their four default outfits.
The gameplay is based on timing instead of button mashing. As wrestlers get close to each other, they will initiate a grapple. There is a split second where a command must be input when the arms of the wrestlers touch and a slight slapping sound is heard. The fastest person to insert a command has an advantage to having their move performed, but other factors can determine whether or not that move will be countered. If the inputs are too close, a Test of Strength (the palm-to-palm pushing battle) is initiated, and the wrestler who pushes the other wrestler back farther will get to perform their move. This is a common sight on higher difficulties
Instead of relying on fighting game mechanics like other wrestling games, the Fire Pro series gives very little overall feedback as to how well you are doing in a match. Instead of a silhouette of the wrestler, damage is visually represented on the models of the wrestlers. The only things resembling a user interface during a match are a timer in the bottom right corner, and a referee circling the ring to count pins, ring outs, disqualify rulebreaking wrestlers, argue with managers, and all of the usual things a professional wrestling referee gets involved in during a match. The advantage to the spartan interface is that a dramatic feel is created, where the person playing genuinely does not know what will put a wrestler away for the three count, in counter to moves with dedicated special move mechanics such as the AKI games or the WWE Smackdown! series.
Also in opposition to normal wrestling games, each wrestler has access to your entire moveset from the start of the match. However, basic wrestling psychology must be applied in the usage of those moves. The players must build up from the start of the match and basic moves (arm drags, shoulder blocks, chops), graduate to middle strength moves (suplexes, DDTs, atomic drops), and then end up at higher strength moves (Superkicks, Pedigrees, Stone Cold Stunners). Wrestlers have specific moves that are assigned as finishing moves, that are granted many different properties dependent on many factors.
The majority of the aforementioned factors can be customized within the incredibly in depth wrestler creator. Where most wrestling games allow you to customize basic characteristics, appearance, and movesets (all of which FPR has), FPR allows you to edit what they refer to as CPU Logic. CPU Logic is the behavioral patterns of the wrestlers while they are under computer control. Through a large database of specific percentages and situations, the creator can customize exact personality quirks. A more detailed example is provided below. The game also allows the creator to make over 500 custom wrestlers, space you can use to either make modern superstars, legends of the sport, or completely original creations,.
The Combat System
The matches are conducted as close to simulating professional wrestling as possible. There are no visible meters, but there are intuitive statistics that must be kept in mind on both sides of the match. The goal of play is to outwrestle your opponent. You can make them chase you, you can set them up for a specific move, you can weaken a body part to disable moves that they enjoy using, or you can just punch them until they are KOed.
Moves are performed with the face buttons and arrows. From a standing position, you have five strikes available. One weak, one medium, two strong, and one very strong. So the weak move would be something like a chop, the medium move would be something like a kick to the gut, the strong moves would be more eccentric strikes, like muay thai kicks or spinning elbow attacks, and the very strong move would be something very unusual, like a dropkick or similar. The division in moves does not mean that weak moves wont show up in slots for medium moves, or medium in heavy, but it does not go the same way. If you're in doubt of what is weak or strong, the basic symbols are Square for weak, X for medium, Circle for strong, and Square and X together for very strong. Triangle is set as a Running Activities button. If you are standing still, you will start running. If you are holding someone, you will throw them into the ropes etc.
Different button presses during different situations will do different things. If the player were to press circle and performed some move that knocked someone down, and then pressed circle again while they were on the ground, it would perform a move relevant to their current position. This logic applies all around, to moves from the top rope, running moves, catching moves (for when someone is running at you), and grapple moves. Some situations do not have weak moves, others do not have strong moves. Trial and error (or, the manual) is the best way to find out.
There are multiple more complicated moves, such as a variety of dives to the outside, top rope maneuvers, and a new addition, Corner to Center moves, in the style of Sweet Chin Music, or the Spear. The moves are very much reliant on the opponent being in the center of the ring and tired enough to stand still for you to make the approach.
Damage is recovered in one of two ways, either through taking breaks to breathe, or turning on Ukemi, which is essentially allowing them to gain the upper hand. Ukemi's benefit is that if it goes long enough and you mount a comeback assault, your spirit and stamina will be recharged. This creates a gambling situation where a wrestler can play dead for large periods of a match, then come back with a nightmarish flurry to level the playing field and disorient the opponent.
Matches can end either through default means as determined by rule set and match type, but at any time a match can end on account of Criticals. When Criticals occur, a bright logo flashes across the screen, saying "CRITICAL!" and the opponent is rendered unconscious, immediately submits, or cannot escape a complicated pin. During rule configuration, Criticals can be modified from High to Off, and each wrestler has their own critical style. Most often it is Finisher style.
FPR is a cerebral game, and a very unique experience.
The Damage System
WARNING: The following section is heavy on conceptual thinking, practical application, and words. The best way to summarize it is that it's all shown through the body language of the sprites and common sense, and you're fighting not just to damage your enemy, but to make him tired enough to lose, and to keep yourself from getting tired enough.
HOWEVER: If creating realistic wrestlers interests you, this part is vital.
Sixteen parameters determine damage, and very few of them are actually visible.
The first of these parameters is Attributes. These fall into offensive and defensive categories. These are assigned to 12 different move types, including punches and kicks, feats of strength, joint locks, old style stretches, and rulebreaking. The second of these parameters is Affinity. Wrestlers all have two set affinities, Fight Style and Return Skill. Fight style determines not how much damage the move does, but how much the move tires the wrestler.
A practical example: say Luchadeer and a Yeti were wrestling. Luchadeer, since he is a Luchador, will have great agility, but will struggle with feats of strength akin to overhead throws or powerbombs, where as the Yeti will find himself favoring nonathletic moves favoring his size, like basic punches or kicks, and if all else fails, falling elbow first onto a prone opponent. Moves opposite of these kinds of settings will tire either of them. That's what these stats determine.
More specifically, certain kinds of moves have two parameters, Primary and Secondary, which are all the same as the Attributes. So a jab will have Primary and Secondary attributes as a punch, but a slap to the face will have Punch as a primary, and Rough as a secondary. Fight Styles assign different moves as having different effectiveness, from A to E, and they all differ from style to style. The Attributes determine the counteraction or supplement of the Fight Style. The Return Skill is your defensive abilities, where you can defend well against certain moves but not others. The exact feedback as to a Return Style's effectiveness is intuitive. A luchador will defend well against flying moves. A Submission return style will defend well against submission moves. All-Around is etc.
Everything past this is not a visible statistic, but it is a real and testable statistic.
So that's how tired the moves make people. Now to how much actual damage they do. These stats are Stamina, Spirit, Breathing, Neck, Arms, Body, and Legs. Every wrestler has different strengths for different categories of this, from low to high. In the case of the first three, there is a different statistic for how well it works while the person is bleeding, and in realistic cases, this is set to one setting lower while the wrestler is bloody. Certain enemies respond better to certain moves, and worse to others. The trick is to find where their weak point is and exploit it, and this is all intuitive, by watching how they naturally react instead of making your own hole. Different moves do different kinds of damage, obviously. Determining which moves attack body parts is easy except in a few cases, usually involving suplexes with vague landings.
All moves attack stamina since all moves hurt. Moves that attack spirit are embarrassing, like basic tackles, provoking, like slaps, or overly flashy moves, like lucha libre in general. Moves that attack Breathing either are attacks to the windpipe, firm attacks to the midsection like spinebusters and spears, complicated pins called roll-ups, or just run of the mill chokes.
Going back to limbs and tiring, all moves have specific limbs that are used, and if those limbs are weakened, performing them will hurt your stamina and make you tired. Again, for a practical example, someone who has had their arm nearly broken for twenty minutes will not have full force invested in throwing elbow strikes or punches in general.
The last statistic is called, simply, Critical. Different wrestlers have different settings for Criticals, from Finisher to Striking, Suplexes, Submissions, Power moves (Powerbombs, heavy throws, clotheslines), and Technical moves like roll up pins. Certain moves can be criticals in this style, but some moves cannot be any kind of critical. Usually, these are very weak moves and not often seen.
Through testing done by third parties, it turns out that the statistic of Recovery is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT, and has been since Fire Prowrestling G on the PSX. That's when Recovery and Breathing were split into separate categories. Since then, when the game has been instructed to check the Recovery statistic, it instead checks the breathing statistic.
Basic Match Types
- Normal Match
Normal matches are basic wrestling matches without as many unusual quirks. You can customize things such as participants by customizing how many Players or Computers per corner (example: if 1P*1P was set for the Red Corner, and CP*CP in the blue corner, you would have a basic tag team match where you controlled both participants. You can also set the roles of each player by designating them to either be wrestlers or accompanying people, such as managers. (This limit goes up to four wrestlers per corner, which means it would be possible to do 4 on 4 Survivor Series styled elimination matches). You can also set time limits in varying increments, from 5 minutes to 60 minutes- as well as unlimited- select the referee that will be officiating the match, the arena it will take place in (from a basic dojo with about three or four people watching, to a recreation of the holy grail of wrestling venues in Japan, the the 65,000-seating Tokyo Dome).
- Cage Deathmatch
Cage Deathmatches are just regular cage matches. Amongst customizable rules are the amount of participants in the cage per corner, the amount of weapons in the cage (1-8), and whether or not victory through escaping the cage is possible. In multiman cage matches, this means the first person with all the members of their team out is the winning team. Another unique factor of the cage match is that certain wrestlers with reputations for being daredevils can scale to the very top of one of the cage corners, and perform moves similar to top rope moves, such as moonsaults, elbow drops, dropkicks, etc. Most wrestlers, however, do not have these kinds of moves.
- Barbed Wire Deathmatch
A unique Japanese deathmatch. The ropes are lined with barbed wire and electrified, so sending an opponent into the ropes causes a large flash of pyrotechnics and severe damage. A series of plastic explosives are set outside the ring on a separate timer, and the blast causes knock downs of heavy damage on both sides, and occasionally knock outs if the other wrestler has been tired enough. The timer for the explosives is set similarly to the timer for the match, with the default setting being 30 minute time limit, with the explosives set to detonate at the 15 minute mark.
- Landmine Deathmatch
Another unique Japanese Deathmatch. There are wooden planks set up in the corners of the ring, blocking maneuvers off the top rope. These planks can either be wrapped in barbed wire, or have fluorescent light bulbs attached to them, which can be used as weapons. The area outside the ring is all lined with planks of barbed wire, that have charges underneath them. If a wrestler is thrown onto them, the charge detonates and does significant damage.
- SWA Rules Match
SWA Rules Matches are difficult to describe. They are exclusively singles match affairs, with more realistic setups focused on, instead of pinfalls, submissions and knock outs, through TKOs or ten counts. Yet, basic wrestling moves are still allowed. These matches can be arranged into round format, for example a three round match with ten minute rounds, or a five round match with five minute rounds. Disqualifications are not a factor, but... the author stresses how difficult to describe how this match differs without an in depth knowledge of the promotion it is based on, entitled BattlARTS. It is a very unique rule set that plays very differently, and is a good challenge.
- S-1 Rules Match
S-1 Rules Matches are kickboxing matches, seeing as S-1 is the fictionalized name of the kickboxing organization K-1. Professional wrestling moves and throws are disabled, and instead turn into clinches instead of suplexes. Knock outs come fast and furious in this mode, and it is very much a game for those who enjoy the striking element of the game. This mode can also be set up in round fashion.
- Gruesome Fighting
Gruesome Fighting is a take on the UFC style of fighting, where the game play is adjusted accordingly. Disqualifications are tight, so things like biting or spitting poisonous mist are discouraged. Submissions and sudden knockouts are the paths to victory in this mode, as there is no judging system, and pinfalls are pretty obviously not allowed, although things like the one footed standing pins are good for demoralizing human opponents.
Exhibition is the main single and multiplayer component. It's a basic contest that has a large amount of customizable features. From here you can select basic match types, detailed above, and play a single bout under the rules you like.
Tournament mode allows to set up tournaments of the same basic match types as listed above in lovely detail, and allows you to set competitors into brackets of 16, with two sides, creating a 32 entrant tournament. The catch is this: in Japanese, the mode translates roughly to "One Night Tournament", meaning that the matches happen in the same contextual place (the same show, in other words), so accumulated damage will take effect. So if a wrestler barely made it through one match, he will probably lose his next in fairly short order.
League mode allows for the creation of round robin tournaments, inspired by the Japanese wrestling event named the G1 Climax. After choosing a basic match type, you can set a field of competitors, from 1-64, and divide them into different blocks (1, 2, or 4). Every block will have winners, and the top finishers of those blocks will go on to a one night tournament to determine a winner. You can set the blocks to send multiple places from their blocks to the finals.
- Team Battle
Team Battle is essentially a team Gauntlet match. Each side chooses from either a set team of five, or a custom team, and embark into round combat. Essentially, the singles matches unfold basically, and the winner of one singles match goes into the next match in a slightly improved condition than the match before, so there is incentive in going fast and going for the big hits early to save your stamina for bigger challenges. This goes until the last member of either team is eliminated.
- Battle Royal
A gigantic disaster of a match, the Battle Royal is the only match type to have it's own subset of dedicated match types, explained briefly:
- Normal: Basic match, where pinfalls, submissions, or ring outs cause the wrestlers to leave.
- One Fall: A chaotic sprint where the first man to score any kind of victory is declared the winner.
- Endless: Normal match, but the eliminated do not leave. Their sprites fade to a shadowy kind of shade, to illustrate that they are no longer an active competitor in the match, merely around to fight and cause havoc
- Over the Rope: Elimination only happens when foes are thrown to the floor from the ring.
- Timed Battle: Similar to the Royal Rumble, Timed Battles are when
- Title Match
In collaboration with the Title Edit in Edit Mode, this match type allows you to wage battles for one of your eight created titles in the fashion dictated by the rules assigned to the belt. The title mode tracks the history of the title, and allows a basic text input to signify anything special about the win, but only six characters.
- Match Maker
A followup to a highly popular feature in one of the Game Boy Advance games, Match Maker allows the player to set up wrestling cards with the federations in the game, and then use the quality of the matches, entitled Fan Reaction (another highly popular feature of the GBA games), to judge how well your created card was laid out in terms of crowd reactions and match quality. Unfortunately, the majority of the behind the scenes work, such as foreign shows, advertising and marketing distribution, covert contract signings, and talent scouts for hidden wrestlers were cut from the mode, but what remains is at least a fun diversion
Wrestler is where all wrestler management takes place. Federations can be created or destroyed, as can individual groups (faces, heels and stables). You can rename wrestlers, recostume one of their costumes, and swap them around into different places and groups. Wrestler creation is also in this mode. Expanded upon below.
Custom Referees are created here. Appearance, adherence to standards, speed, count speed, and other factors are created.
- Edit Ring
Rings are created here, for custom promotions. Using logos from logo edit as the canvas, the color of sides of the mat can be changed, as well as ropes, turnbuckle styles, and apron styles.
- Edit Logo
Logos are created to apply to custom wrestler groups and custom ring edits.
- Edit Belt
Create belts to use in Title mode. Select from a variety of plates, from face plates to side plates and edit the colors, then name the title, and set limits (gender, # of competitors, specific rule sets) and save it for use.
Create groups for Team Battle, aforementioned
Creating a Wrestler
All created wrestlers have 380 points to work with. Sections that require these points for editing are italicized as well as bolded.
- Name Edit
Select a surname, first name, and nickname for wrestlers using a large set of English characters and symbols.
- Skill Edit
Statistical information is contained here. Customize weight class, height, weight, gender, birth date and home country. Also allows editing of Wrestler Rank from E to S (a new wrestler is E, Ric Flair is S, to put it simply) and Charisma from E to S (how they perform in match maker mode). Next is Fight Style, Return Skill, Critical skill, and Special Skill. Special Skill is a wrestler specific quirk that works in special situations. For example, the special skill Stardom is a skill that when stamina is near empty (in game character is hunched over and unable to move), a taunting maneuver will increase the damage qualities of the move by 25%. Other skills have other specific contextual effects, and others yet just reduce critical rates for specific moves. Following that are the strengths for Stamina (Recovery, in game), Spirit, Breathing, and the various body parts. Then, there is running speed, climbing speed, and the ability to do turnbuckle moves. Lastly is selecting favorite weapon, music, and styles of voice. Two voice samples are selected from a large voice bank, and you can apply those to moves in the Move Edit.
- Appearance Edit
Allows incredibly in depth customization of appearance. The apparel is separated by limbs: Head, body, upper arm, lower arm, hands, thighs, shins, and feet. Each section has dozens of options, with up to three being applicable per limb (Except hands and feet). Each item has multiple color shades that can be edited with a Red-Blue-Green template that numbers from 0-255 in each category.
A note on head editing: Most of the edits are for heads of other wrestlers, sometimes with hairstyle. Direct facial customization is not available since they are 2D drawn assets, but enough options exist to come at least close to desirable.
- Moveset Edit
Assign wrestling moves. There are nearly a hundred different situations for hundreds of different moves to assign, and a large amount of versatility to each kind. Uses basic Weak-Medium-Strong style as discussed above, as well as the attributes and fight style. A creator could assign either voice sample to any of the moves as well as assigning Special and Finisher qualities to each move, which yield larger crowd reactions and make the wrestler less tired. There are four special moves and one finishing move,
- Parameter Edit
Assign points for all 12 attributes on Offensive and Defensive categories, from 1 to 10.
- Instant Power
- Arm Power
- CPU Logic Edit
CPU Logic is the AI subroutines of a created wrestler. Each situation is given a few different qualifiers. Standing, for example, means standing outside of a grapple, just standing around. A number of tactics, either moves or different subroutines like circling opponents or keeping away from them are under here. There are different sections for different phases of damage, so the more hurt a wrestler is, he will switch into other subroutines.
These situations are managed by percentages. In each situation, there is 100% assigned to be distributed amongst all available options. If a wrestler circles half the time, then the appropriate behavior is marked at 50 percent. If a wrestler favors certain moves, those moves are raised in their situation to occur more often.
There are also AI routines that are not dictated at all through moves, but are straight personality traits and habits, such as how often they will use Ukemi for what parts of a match, and sequences of moves (finisher to pin, taunt to elbow drop, etc). The most important to creating a wrestler are Entertainment, Discretion, and Flexibility.
Entertainment determines risks that are taken and assaults that are given. A risk taker will have this maxed at high, where as a mat wrestler should be around 70, and an MMA fighter should be between 30 and 0 on high. Discretion determines how interested the person is in winning. Someone who is focused entirely on winning over entertaining should have low entertainment and high discretion. For effect, most terrifying monster types have their discretion very low, to accentuate their want to punish over win. Flexibility is a governing setting of how adaptive a wrestler is. A wrestler with high Flexibility will adapt his game plan to having a good match or having the match the other settings will determine, while a wrestler with a low flexibility will follow logic plans to the the strictest margin.
- Finisher Name
Name your finisher.
- Profile Edit
Create a profile, only two lines long or so.