To continue the Forgotten Gems of Gaming column I went back to my parents house and found loads of old games to fuel a dozen more articles. Today, I actually feel it is necessary to include a game that was a big part of my early-teen gaming past, even though it pains me to admit it. The games full title is WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role, or in Japan it had the hilarious title of Exciting Pro Wrestling 2 (but I didn’t actually find that out until today). I have distinct, decade-old memories of controlling sweaty half-naked men throwing each other around a ring in various fashions and formats, as much as I look back and laugh now, at the time I was having great fun.
This was back in the days before those tree-hugging panda-lovers at the World Wildlife Fund forced those poor wrestlers, at gun point, to change their name so that the initials end in a far less punchy vowel. It was the Playstation‘s last look at the SmackDown series, as Know You Role was released just three days before the Playstation 2 hit shelves in Europe. These were the days when I thought wrestling was a serious sport and would grasp any opportunity to watch it, even religiously tuning into Heat (which at the time aired at 4pm on a Sunday on Channel 4).
Developed by Japanese company Yukes, who have a wide a varied history of developing wrestling games and who still see to the modern installments of the WWE franchise, with characters I don’t care about and who just remind me of how wrestling characters obviously reflect the pop culture of the time. But anyway, Yukes also develop the more respectable man to man combat of cage fighting, with the UFC Undisputed series.
The custom character features were surprisingly advanced for the time, and this is reflected in the characters I found on my memory card. The endearingly misspelled sUIcdE and PsYCo, are two creations from my past complete with special moves, entrance music and their own special moves. I also came across Hypothermia Man, one of my brothers creations, was a huge blue fish man that apparently with all the features pushed to the limit, presumable to somehow give people hypothermia.
Playing the Royal Rumble mode with my brother last week, we were both appalled by the ridiculous loading times that the player must endure. The Royal Rumble sees about forty wrestlers enter the ring and each time the game pauses to load the new character. We were amazed that younger versions of ourselves were willing to tolerate such interruptions, in the same way we see houses in third world countries without waters flowing from taps in the wall. The loading screen between the menus and the games were sweetened by displaying a laughable low quality picture of one of the character in the game, the quality of a gif, without the movement.
Know Your Role came out in the same year as its predecessor and only a year later came WWF SmackDown! Just Bring It for the Playstation 2. SmackDown 2 was the peak and end of my interest with the pro wrestling world, unfortunately I was not destine to continue the past time into my adult years, throwing cans of Budweiser at the TV from the comfort of my trailer park sofa. Instead I confined wrestling to my past, but it still holds a place in my heart, as do all games I play no matter how good or bad.
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