Game Corner: Doom 64 (Xbox One)


Released: March 2020
Originally Released: April 1997
Developer: Nightdive Studios
Original Developer: Midway Games
Also Available For: Nintenfdo 64, Nintendo Switch, PC, and PlayStation 4

The Background:
Everyone knows Doom (id Software, 1993), right? The gory, action-packed first-person shooter (FPS) that has seemingly been ported to every console and format known to man and pretty much thrust the FPS genre into the mainstream? Well, if you don’t, then I envy your naivety. Doom was not only the first in a still-ongoing series of fantastic FPS games, it also kick-started a slew of brilliant FPS titles on the PC and home consoles, as well as popularising online “Deathmatches” against other human players.

Doom has been run on nearly every device, including in Doom itself!

In keeping with the fact that Doom has appeared on nearly every piece of hardware available, id Software drafted Midway Games to work on a port for the under-rated Nintendo 64. However, rather than being a straight-up, by-the-numbers conversion of Doom, Doom 64 featured entirely new levels, redesigned weapons, some new enemies, and a greater emphasis on exploration. With the release of Doom: Eternal (ibid, 2020), a game largely inspired by and related to Doom 64, Doom 64 finally saw a wider re-release on modern consoles, bringing this oft-forgotten Doom title back into the spotlight. But does it hold up to the original Doom and its sequel, Doom II: Hell on Earth (ibid, 1994), or was it better left forgotten?

The Plot:
After thwarting Hell’s attempt at invading Mars and Earth, the hard-as-nails Doom Marine (or “Doomguy”) is once again forced to take up arms and journey to space stations and through Hell itself, slaughtering demons in a head-on collision with the Mother Demon herself.

As you should probably be aware, Doom 64 is a traditional Doom FPS through-and-through; as in the classic Doom, you control the Doomguy, a silent, no-nonsense marine who enjoys nothing more than blasting demons with a shotgun or skewing them into bloody sushi with a chainsaw. Unlike modern FPS games, aiming and precise camera control are not necessary in Doom 64; you can more left, right, straight ahead, and backwards, and those are the only directions you can shoot in. There’s also no crosshair or aiming recital; you simply point your weapon in the direction of your target, shoot, and let the game’s auto aim direct your shot.

Combat is generally as simple as: Point and shoot!

This is helpful when faced with swarms of enemies and it keeps the action fast and frantic but it can make picking off demons from a distance a bit trickier; I prefer to clear out rooms and areas first so I can explore unimpeded and this often meant to would blast at enemies hiding above or below the game’s maze-like stages. As the game seems to want you to engage demons at point-blank range, the auto aim doesn’t always shoot at enemies up above or below, making this technique tricky, to say the least. As you explore the game’s massive thirty-odd stages, you’ll be tasked with finding a number of coloured keys to open doors and progress further towards the stage exit. Generally, you’ll need three of these (blue, red, and yellow) to progress, but not always, and you’ll also find secret areas and rooms hidden behind seemingly innocuous walls.

Stages can be frustratingly confusing and maze-like at times.

While this is par for the course with Doom videogames, I don’t remember it being this necessary or difficult in Doom or Doom II; it doesn’t help that every one of Doom 64’s stages is labyrinthine in nature. This is fine in small doses but I found myself wandering around in circles in every other stage, desperately trying to figure out where to go next, and was forced to turn to a guide more than once just to find the next key…only to find it seemingly led to a dead-end room. There are a lot of hidden weapons and rooms in Doom 64 and this extends to certain switches and doors; more than once, you’ll have to press a certain switch, or switches in certain combinations, or stand in a certain place or race to a lowered platform or opened passageway before they close. I don’t mind this in principle but, more often than not, I would activate a switch and open a door or lower a platform that is outside of your viewpoint, meaning I would struggle to see where I had to go at the best of times.

You should definitely make sure you get the three Demon Keys.

Additionally, in certain stages, you can find three Demon Keys; these artefacts can only be acquired after solving some of the game’s trickier puzzles but, with them, you can upgrade the firepower and effectiveness of the game’s ultimate weapon, the “Unmaker”, and will greatly increase your chances at defeating the game’s final boss. Ultimately, Doom 64 offers a classic dose of Doom that will be new for many players, even those more than familiar with the first two games. However, I found my enjoyment of the ripping and tearing soured somewhat by the over-emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving; I find these elements ill-fitting in FPS games at the best of times and they feel especially out of place in a Doom game and incorporated simply to mix things up for those who have played Doom and Doom II to death.

Graphics and Sound:
Graphically, Doom 64 looks and feels like a classic Doom title; stages are build out of three-dimensional polygons and the game’s wide variety of enemies are rendered using 2D sprites. Enemies are largely and diverse but, as always with classic Doom games, they suffer from this 2D rendering; there are very few frames of animation, meaning enemies can appear a bit jerky and pixelated. Thankfully, this doesn’t stop the blood and gore and the game’s creepy, supernatural aesthetic remaining in full force. Pentagrams, fire, and blood are everywhere, lending a creepy ambiance and horror to the game that is punctuated by the ominous (yet rocking) soundtrack that is pure Doom through and through.

Doom 64 sadly omits the classic Doom HUD.

Sadly, however, Doom 64 omits Doom’s trademark heads-up display (HUD); rather than seeing a pixelated representation of the Doomguy react in pain when hurt or grin sadistically when acquiring new weapons, you simply have numbers showing your health, armour, and ammo status. However, the game’s weapons did receive a new coat of paint and it’s always nice seeing Doomguy slot a fresh shell into the super shotgun before blasting a Cacodemon to pieces.

Enemies and Bosses:
Doom 64 features all the classic Doom enemies: you’ll battle shotgun-toting zombies, fireball-spewing Imps, and the lumbering Bull Demons. There’s even a new enemy exclusive to this version, the Nightmare Imp, which is just a faster, more translucent version of the regular Imp but it’s nice to see some exclusivity to this version.

I absolutely hate these bloody things!

Doomguy also battles some more testing enemies, like the big-ass Hell Knight; the worst of which, for me, are the Pain Elementals. These disgusting, blob-like bastards spew the always-annoying flaming skulls known as Lost Souls, which quickly swarm you and drain your health in no time. Seriously, I would rather run in circles like a madman shooting rockets at a slew of Mancubuses or Barons of Hell than take on a handful of these bastards!

Before you face the Mother, you’ll endure an army of demons!

Speaking of which, you’ll often have to battle a rocket-firing Baron of Hell, Mancubus, or Arachnotron as bosses as you progress through the game’s stages but, once you’ve bested them, they’ll crop up in later stages, sometimes in twos or massive groups. In the game’s final level, “The Absolution”, you’ll have to battle through a slaughter of an endurance against an entire army of the game’s enemies, including these bosses, before you can face the Mother Demon…unless you have the three Demon Keys.

Even with the fully-powered Unmaker, the Mother is no cake-walk.

With these, you can close up the portals these enemies spew from and battle the Mother Demon with more of your health and ammo. With these artefacts, the Unmaker will be fully powered, allowing you to make short work of this final boss but, even still, she’s no cake-walk and, without the artefacts, it’s next to impossible to reach the Mother Demon with a decent amount of health, armour, or ammo.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
You begin the game with a simple pistol and the Doomguy’s patented right hand. As you explore your surroundings (or kill certain enemies), you’ll acquire ammo and additional weapons, including the shotgun, super shotgun, the chaingun, a plasma cannon, and a rocket launcher. Doom’s signature weapon, the BFG-9000, can also be found either in secret areas or in later stages of the game; this baby can be charged up and unleash an energy blast that disintegrates all onscreen enemies and makes short work of the game’s bosses. The game’s most powerful weapon, however, is the Unmaker, a demonic weapon that must be powered up with the three Demon Keys in order to cut through enemies and bosses. Ammo for this weapon, and the BFG-9000, is relatively scarce, however, so it’s advisable to only use it when absolutely necessary.

Charge up the BFG-9000 to make short work of demon scum!

Thankfully, you can still grab a chainsaw (this time, it has two blades!) to rip and tear demons into bloody pieces, which won’t cost you any ammo at all. As you explore the stages, you’ll find medikits to restore your health, various armours to increase your resistance to attack, increase your maximum and health and armour points with smaller items, and view any unexplored areas on the game’s awkward map screen. You can also grab the Berserk item to be fully healed and enter a state of rage where the damage you deal with your fists is increased exponentially, pick up a radiation shield so you can walk through lava or radioactive waste, or grab the Supercharge and Megasphere to boost your health and/or armour to their fullest, attain partial invisibility or limited invincibility, or grab a backpack to increase the amount of ammo you can hold.

Additional Features:
Doom 64 features four difficulty settings, each of which affects your health, armour, ammo, and the frequency and aggressiveness of the game’s enemies. There are numerous secrets to be found in each stage, one of which is so well hidden that you’ll be destroying certain explosive barrels in a specific order in order to reach the super secret level, “Heretic”. Once you beat either this stage, or the entire game on any difficulty, you’ll unlock “The Lost Levels”, six additional stages that take the Doomguy back to hell to confront the Mother Demon’s sister (and which form the basis of a link to Doom: Eternal). In addition to this, there are a number of pretty simple Achievements to get on the Xbox One version and, as always, some passwords and cheat codes to make the game more interesting or allow you to warp to the challenging “Fun” stages (however, it is notable that you won’t get an Achievement if you have a cheat code activated).


The Summary:
Doom 64 is a classic Doom experience first and foremost. At its core, its as bloody and action-packed as the classic Doom and its sequel but, because of its additional features and skewed focus, feels like a fresh experience and an entirely new game rather than a straight-up port. Unfortunately, it can’t be denied that the game’s reliance on maze-like stages, exploration, and keys to progress make the game more frustrating than it needed to be. When I’m playing Doom, I like to blast through demons in a largely linear environment; I don’t really play to think, if that makes sense, and I was forced to a guide more often than I would like for a Doom title. Yet, the game is at its best when you’re fully locked and loaded and faced with a hoard of flesh-eating demons just begging to be blown to bloody chunks.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What are your thoughts on Doom 64? Did you play the original release on the Nintendo 64 or did you play it as part of Doom: Eternal? Which Doom is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Doom, or FPS games in general, leave a comment below.

Game Corner: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (Nintendo 3DS)


I’m a little late to the party with this one, but you may have heard that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo EAD, 1998) celebrated its twentieth anniversary last month. Coincidentally enough, I actually got the itch to read through the amazing manga retelling of the videogame by Akira Himekawa and subsequently played through the 3DS remake (Grezzo/Nintendo EAD Tokyo, 2011) once again so I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon and talk about arguably the best Zelda title ever made. Ocarina of Time wasn’t the first in the franchise that I ever played (that honour goes to the underrated The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development, 1993)); however, it was definitely the game that really hooked me into the series. Back in the day, this was one of those titles that everyone had, talked about, and played and, man, did I play this to death!

Link embarks on his biggest quest yet!

So, I mean, it’s kind of redundant to talk about the gameplay mechanics and narrative because surely everyone has played this game or is at least aware of it but let’s just do it anyway. Players are tasked with assuming the role of Link (or whatever they want to name him), an elf-like boy who is finally gifted a fairy companion by the Great Deku Tree, the protector of Kokiri Forest. Link is then tasked with leaving his childhood home and embarking on a quest to stop the evil desires of Ganondorf, who is plotting to obtain the Triforce (a relic of incredible power left by the Gods), overthrowing the monarchy, and taking over the land of Hyrule. Although Link succeeds in the early part of his quest, Princess Zelda is forced to flee when Ganondorf attacks, leaving Link with the sacred Ocarina of Time. When Link uses the ocarina to try and stop Ganondorf, he unwittingly allows the desert thief to access the Sacred Realm and obtain ultimate power. Awakening seven years later, Link (now an adult) is charged by the ancient Sage Rauru to go out into the world once more, free the other Sages, and defeat Ganondorf once and for all.

Z-Targeting makes Link a far more proficient fighter.

It’s fair to say that Ocarina of Time changed the way 3D action/adventure games are played; Link’s fairy companion, Navi, plays a crucial role in allowing players to target enemies and objects of interest with the Z trigger, which locks the camera into a battle-specific perspective. Players have full control of the camera at all times but Z-Targeting really overcame the issues that many 3D camera systems suffered from back in the day, namely getting stuck in or glitching through objects or scenery. Similarly, Link is extremely versatile; he can’t jump but he can grab ledges, dodge attacks, launch himself at enemies, and use a variety of times and methods to traverse the large overworld map. Link’s primary method of combat is through sword-play; Link can stab, slice, and slash at enemies in a number of ways, charge up a devastating Spin Attack, and also block or deflect projectiles with his sword and, of course, his shield. Link can also backflip, side-step, and hop away from danger and duck and defend behind his shield with Z-Targeting.

Link has access to loads of weapons and accessories.

Link’s vast array of weaponry extends to a bow-and-arrow, bombs, a boomerang, hover boots, different tunics to protect him from elements, and even a massive hammer to smash blocks and switches. Each time Link takes on one of the game’s many dungeons and temples, he must acquire a new weapon and use it, and his other items, to overcome both the dungeon and the boss that dwells within. Speaking of bosses, Ocarina of Time has some of the best seen in the series and in videogames. Link tackles giant spiders, living water, an invisible bongo player, and even a gigantic fire-breathing dragon. My favourite boss battle was against Twinrova, which saw Link having to absorb and reflect their ice and fire attacks back at them before leaping in to strike. Each successive boss increases in its difficulty and the tactics players use will evolve and change with each encounter; by the time players go toe-to-toe with Ganondorf himself, players must use every trick they have to overcome the King of Evil and save Hyrule.

Massive bosses will test your skills.

As mentioned, Ocarina of Time features a large and varied overworld; players begin in Kokiri Forest, a small and secluded area that makes Link’s first steps into Hyrule all the more impressive. Hyrule Field is a large expanse of land that Link must traverse on foot in the early going; players can find a ranch (from which they can later acquire a horse, Epona, for some fast-paced travel) in the center of the field, Hyrule Market and Castle at the far north, Lake Hylia in the west, Zora’s Domain in the east, Kakariko Village and Death Mountain, home of the Goron tribe, in the north-east, and Gerudo Valley in the north-west. Each area is unique in its own way and has its own hazards, quests, dungeons, and secrets to discover; by talking to non-playable characters (NPCs), Link can either learn hints or story information, be asked to perform tasks or quests, or obtain key items that will allow him to progress further. Honestly, the NPCs really breathe life into Hyrule, allowing each location to have a unique history and an atmosphere; the Gorons value honour while the Zora’s are a bit more self-entitled; Death Mountain has a ring of fire around the summit that must be dissipated by defeating Volvagia and Zora’s Domain is encased in ice in the future. Solving these problems and restoring the world to peace and prosperity brings a real sense of urgency to Link’s mission and you start to see people and places benefiting from your actions, such as in the House of Skulltula, where the family within will return to normal as Link collects Gold Skulltula tokens.

Every location has plenty to see and do.

Link can play his ocarina to solve puzzles, warp across the overworld, and alter both the weather and the passage of time but perhaps the most integral part of the narrative and is Link’s ability to use the Master Sword to travel throgh time. If you know what you’re doing, you don’t really need to travel back and forth through time all that much to progress the story but the idea of traversing between two time periods, two stages of Link’s maturity, and two very different overworld maps is intriguing. Characters and places you interact with as a child will have changed significantly in the future and, occasionally, Link is required to travel back to the past to solve puzzles and access new areas as an adult. Difficult as it may be to believe, though, Ocarina of Time does has its flaws; character models have obviously not aged too well, Link oddly does not have his sword sash around his chest as depicted in the promotional material, and players were forced to navigate the item menu in order to equip certain necessary items and gear. Some of the dungeons also came under criticism; the Water Temple often makes the list as one of the more frustrating and confusing dungeons in the game, series, and in all of videogames (though I personally don’t really find it that bad, especially compared to the Shadow and Spirit Temples, which were a lot less fun to play through).

The 3DS version improves on many aspects of the original.

Luckily, the 3DS version addressed many of these issues. Link now turns towards people and objects of interest, has his sword sash, and he, like other characters, is a lot more expressive and detailed. The duel-screen of the 3DS really helps with equipping items, especially the Iron Boots, and a lot of the temples have coloured-code hints or other additional aspects to help players navigate and explore. The 3DS version also includes the Master Quest, which was previously only available to Nintendo 64DD owners or those who pre-ordered The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Nintendo EAD, 2002), now with every map mirrored to test even the most seasoned Ocarina of Time player. To be honest, as much as I love this videogame, I often find myself torn between which is better, Ocarina of Time or The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (ibid, 2000). I definitely play Ocarina of Time more, as it is a lot easier to play through, whereas Majora’s Mask is basically one giant side quest filled with a hundred other side quests which, coupled with the time-based mechanics, make it a bit more difficult to play over and over. I find it much easier to just play both back to back and mash the best parts of each into one.

Zora’s Domain…forever frozen…

For example, one of the biggest disappointments about Ocarina of Time is that, while defeating Morpha returns fresh water to Lake Hylia, Zora’s Domain remains a frozen wasteland. Majora’s Mask made up for this with Snowhead Mountain being restored when you defeat Goht, but Ocarina of Time 3D had the perfect opportunity to try and correct this oversight. To be fair, though, if the Water Temple was relocated to the bottom of Zora’s Fountain and the Ice Cavern was swapped to the bottom of a frozen pool at lake Hylia, this would have been solved completely as defeating Morpha would defrost Zora’s Domain and the fresh water would then flow out into Lake Hylia.

Just one of the omissions that could’ve made a welcome return.

Furthermore, it’s no secret that a lot of content and features were removed from Ocarina of Time before its release and I would have loved to see some of these be revived in the 3DS version. The Light Temple, for example, could have been implemented after Link awakens in the future, as could the unicorn fountain and the ability to fire energy waves from the Master Sword. I also would have liked to see the future a bit more nightmarish and ruined; Hyrule Field is actually more dangerous in the past, especially at night, and it definitely feels like more enemies or evidence of Ganondorf’s evil could have been added to the future overworld just so that there was a bit more urgency to Link’s mission. None of these omissions are deal-breakers, obviously, as the title is still a great game to play through but, considering how much was added, altered, improved, and changed in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D (Grezzo/Nintendo EAD Tokyo, 2015), it is a bit of a shame that more wasn’t added to Ocarina of Time 3D.

Still a fantastic videogame twenty years on.

In the end, though, Ocarina of Time more than holds up even twenty years later; the narrative is as rich and layered as ever and playing the game is the perfect balance between challenging and fun, with a progression system tied specifically into your acquisition of items and familiarity with the combat and other gameplay mechanics. For me, given how well the 3DS versions of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask turned out, I would have loved to see Nintendo revisit the game engine and create an entirely new title, returning us to the role of adult Link in the child Link timeline, sometime after Majora’s Mask, to make this a trilogy. It’s unlikely to happen, given Nintendo appears to be favouring the Switch over the 3DS these days, but if the consolation prize is playing through Ocarina of Time one more time then I’ll take that any day.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Game Corner: THQ/AKI Wrestling Retrospective


With WWE 2K18 (Yuke’s/Visual Concepts/2K Sports, 2017) due to be released in a couple of weeks, I thought I’d take the time to revisit some classic wrestling titles on everyone’s favourite polygonal home console, the Nintendo 64. Inevitably, with every new WWE videogame released, debates reignite, resurface, and rage on about why (oh, why, just…why?) can we not get a new videogame in the style of WWF No Mercy (Asmik Ace Entertainment/AKI Corporation/THQ, 2000)? Granted, these debates usually occur on extremely adolescent and unruly forums, such as those on GameFAQs, but there is, nevertheless, a good reason for this. Well, actually, there’s two: nostalgia and the fact that AKI and THQ produced some simplistic and yet incredibly deep and addictive wrestling videogames back in the day. The partnership between Asmik Ace Entertainment and the AKI Corporation began way back in 1996, with Virtual Pro-Wrestling on Sony’s PlayStation, which was later published in North America by THQ as WCW vs. The World in 1997. Following this, AKI and THQ’s wrestling titles would be exclusive to the Nintendo 64 for the foreseeable future and the first instance of this collaboration came with the Japan-exclusive Nintendo 64 title Virtual Pro 64.

Virtual Pro-Wrestling was the precursor to greatness.

I’m not going to delve too deep into the Virtual Pro series as I never played these videogames; instead, with my young mind only grasping the simplest concepts of the pro wrestling world, my first exposure to the series came with the release of WCW vs. nWo: World Tour (Asmik Ace Entertainment/AKI Corporation/THQ, 1997). When I was a kid, this was the wrestling videogame everyone had and everyone played, to the point where I vividly remember finally getting a copy and playing it all through the night during a sleepover with some friends of mine and driving them to near boredom as I worked to unlock and complete everything as they had done weeks and months before. WCW vs. nWo: World Tour’s roster is split into various factions including the titular WCW and nWo but also some fictional wrestling promotions featuring renamed Japanese wrestlers to dance around tricky copyright issues. Each wrestler has four different attires, allowing you to play as Sting in his surfer persona and Hollywood Hogan in the good old fashioned red and yellow. An interesting twist of irony here is that, these days, people will lose their shit about 2K including five separate versions of Sting, yet players of World Tour should be more than used to this given that you can play as Sting and the imposter Sting recruited by the nWo back in the day.

TWO Stings!? Blasphemy!!

World Tour introduced many of the gameplay mechanics that would become staples of this videogame series over the coming years; up to four players can play at once in a variety of matches, though only a single player can take on the league challenge to win championship belts and unlock hidden wrestlers. The core gameplay is built around a simple and yet intricately challenging grapple, strike, and reversal system: players perform a light grapple by tapping the A button and a strong grapple by holding the same button. Pressing a direction on the D-pad in conjunction with either the A or B button will see their wrestler perform one of ten different grappling moves, while light or strong presses of the B button alone (or A and B together) will strike the opponent with a kick or a punch. Players can block incoming strikes with the R trigger and counter grapples with the L trigger. Players can also perform submission holds on a downed opponent, dash at their opponents to land running attacks or dodge around them, drag their prone opponent’s body around the ring, climb the corner turnbuckles, exit the ring and grab weapons from the crowd, or taunt by wiggling the analogue stick. Taunting, and successfully countering and landing moves, raises your wrestler’s Spirit meter; once it is full and flashes “SPECIAL!”, players can perform a strong grapple and wiggle the analogue stick to perform their wrestler’s finishing move and attempt a pin fall.

Nearly every wrestler has a Powerbomb as a Special move.

And good luck with that; World Tour has a steep difficulty curve, even on the easier settings, that can make some matches last nearly ten minutes at a time as you trade counters and moves with your opponent, constantly egged on by the rising and falling cheers and jeers of the crowd and the thumping bass of the in-game music. However, playing through each challenge and winning championships allows you to fight against, and unlock, a number of hidden characters to add to the already-substantial rosters (even Muhammad Ali shows up…as “Joe Bruiser”, whose entire moveset consists of punches!) Sporting a distinct cel-shaded appearance, WCW vs. nWo: World Tour is easily the simplest and least technically-impressive of the AKI/THQ wrestling videogames; there is no create-a-wrestler function (though you can alter the colours of the wrestlers’ attires) and very little options outside of the single and multi-player aspects. However, AKI/THQ took a significant step in the right direction with the subsequent release of WCW/nWo Revenge in 1998.

Some wrestlers came out with valets or managers.

Revenge took every aspect of its predecessor and improved upon it vastly; wrestlers now have individual entrances (sometimes including a valet or holding a weapon, though their individual theme music is unfortunately absent), there are more animations and variety for reversals, a cartoon referee appears onscreen to visualise pin falls and submission holds, an instant replay triggers whenever a wrestler hits their Special move or a signature attack, and arenas are modelled after those seen regularly on television and pay-per-view events. Players can now also steal their opponent’s taunt by rotating the analogue stick in a clockwise direction and a combo system, of sorts, allows certain wrestlers to string together strong striking attacks at the cost of some of their grapple moves. Wrestlers also enter the ring wearing their championship belt and sport more true-to-life finishers and signature manoeuvres thanks to the addition of multiple new animations and moves.

Customisation has always been an option.

However, there were some drawbacks; losing the cel-shaded appearance, characters now appear far more polygonal than before. The difficulty curve remained relatively consistent, meaning that even a dominating performance from a player and the successful delivery of a Special move would not guarantee victory in the majority of matches. Instead, players had to earn their victory, wearing their opponent down with counters, strikes, and grapples in order to win a championship belt and, again, unlock hidden wrestlers. Create-a-wrestler was still absent but the editing options for existing wrestlers was greatly expanded, allowing players to play about with existing attires in interesting and fun ways. WCW/nWo Revenge was the last of AKI and THQ’s titles with the WCW license; from here on out, they would take their revolutionary videogame engine and ideas and apply them to the WWF brands. WWF WrestleMania 2000 (Asmik Ace Entertainment/AKI Corporation/THQ, 1999) was the first of these endeavours and, as before, AKI and THQ took everything that worked in their previous videogames and expanded and improved upon them further still.

Just another chair shot for poor old Mick…

The improvements can be seen immediately; just as Revenge opened with a introduction sequence showcasing its roster and gameplay elements, WrestleMania 2000 begins by showcasing the best of the best of the WWF’s acclaimed Attitude Era. Following this, players are taken to a comprehensive menu screen where they can elect to play a single or multi-man match with the title’s exhaustive roster; while the roster is still arranged in groups, they are no longer organised into factions and the roster is comprised entirely of those seen on a weekly basis back in 1999. Whereas AKI’s WCW titles featured a rather simplistic series of one-on-one matches in the pursuit of individual championships, WrestleMania 2000 includes a lengthy career mode called the Road to WrestleMania. Players select a wrestler and a tag team partner and play a series of matches through one year, facing lower-card wrestlers, taking part in tag team matches, and winning championships in the pursuit of the WrestleMania main event.

After facing Foley’s personas numerous times, you’ll welcome this fight!

Winning multiple championships may mean that the player has multiple matches on one card and the better your progress, the more hidden wrestlers you will unlock; only a 100% success rate will reap the best rewards, which is a pretty tall order considering the mode’s difficulty spikes and drops depending on your success rate and the opponent you are facing. There will even be a few cutscenes in this mode where hidden wrestlers (usually one of the three faces of Foley) will challenge you to defend you championship.

WrestleMania 2000 introduced a proper create-a-wrestler mode.

Perhaps the most significant addition was the comprehensive create-a-wrestler mode, which also allowed players to freely customise their name, music, video, and appearance. Using the create-a-wrestler mode, however, players could piece together close approximations of wrestlers not included in the videogame, such as Kurt Angle or Tazz, in addition to those who hadn’t appeared in a WWF ring at the time, such as Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg, or entirely original characters. Players could choose from an exhaustive list of moves, many of which are carried over from the previous titles, to pretty much create anyone they could envision.

Only a 100% win streak will reap the best rewards.

In addition, players could create a custom championship belt to defend or entire pay-per-view events; wrestlers all have their own individual entrance themes and tag teams even came to the ring with their team name displayed. The only real downsides were the increased polygonal look of the videogame and the sharp difficulty spike in Road to WrestleMania mode, which could result in players struggling to put away the Godfather but dominating Chris Jericho within two minutes. Finally, the pièce de résistance, the crown jewel in the AKI/THQ partnership, WWF No Mercy. It’s strange to me that the follow-up to WrestleMania 2000 would take its name from a strictly B-level pay-per-view event but there was nothing B-level about this videogame. WWF No Mercy was the culmination of nearly six years of development, refining, and improvement, featuring the biggest and deepest roster yet, the most striking graphics available, the most intricate story mode of all of AKI’s wrestling titles, and the deepest create-a-wrestler you could ask for. There’s a good reason this videogame has been heralded as one of, if not the, best wrestling videogames ever made; more than nostalgia, it’s depth and replayability.

No Mercy believed in gender equality, if nothing else.

After the suitably over-the-top opening sequence, players could enter the Championship mode to compete in a series of matches and win a championship belt. Unlike WrestleMania 2000, players competed for each belt individually (or alongside a friend if they chose to go for the Tag Team Championships) and this mode featured multiple branching paths and cutscenes based on a variety of WWF storylines; for example, players could play through the entire WWF Championship storyline and fight against Triple H in exactly the same manner as Mankind did, even transforming into Cactus Jack for their street fight at Royal Rumble, or they may lose a match and branch off into a storyline mirroring Chris Jericho’s issues with Triple H from 2000. Once the player won a belt, they could play the mode again in order to defend it. With its multiple paths, no longer forcing players to win 100% of their matches, and far more manageable difficulty curve, No Mercy’s Championship mode was light years ahead of anything seen in AKI’s previous videogames and it’s a lot of fun to play differently each time to 100% each path.

Purchase new content in the SmackDown Mall.

New additions to the gameplay in this title included not only a graphical overhaul that makes wrestlers far lass polygonal but also the inclusion of running grapples, both from the front and behind, the return of blood (though early editions of the videogame would randomly wipe themselves due to some glitch involving the blood), guest referee and ladder matches, a breakable announce table at ringside, multiple backstage areas to fight in, a new version of the cage match to better display the in-ring action, the Survival mode (where players faced an endless Royal Rumble against every single wrestler in the title and in which you could unlock hidden wrestlers), and the SmackDown Mall. In the Mall, you could use the money you earn in Championship and Survival mode to unlock loads of extra content, from new moves and gear to use in create-a-wrestler to hidden characters and weapons.

You could create almost anyone in No Mercy.

Speaking of create-a-wrestler, this mode returned better than ever; the moves and attire options made available were more than extensive, allowing you to not only create WCW, ECW, and Japanese wresters not included but also modern day wrestlers to keep the videogame as up-to-date as you desire. The inclusion of wrestler faces (both as avatars and to use on your created wrestler) and certain attires also allowed you to create omitted wrestlers like Gangrel and the Mean Street Posse. Each attire slot could now be assigned entirely unique attributes, meaning you could use one slot to create four separate wrestlers and all that they are forced to share is a moveset. The developers even utilised this to put TAKA Michinoku and Funaki in the same slot, something 2K are seemingly reluctant to do in this day and age (despite proving they are capable of doing so in the past). There were, however, some drawbacks; wrestlers no longer had their entire entrances and tag teams no longer entered as a duo, multi-man matches suffered from slowdown that was not present in previous titles, there were no good mask options to create luchadors like Rey Mysterio, the Big Show was entirely absent from the videogame and (hilariously) replaced in Championship mode with Steven Richards (as opposed to, say, Chris Benoit or even the Big Bossman), and, as mentioned, early copies of the videogame featured a game-breaking glitch that would cause the data to be randomly lost.

Still the best multi-player wrestling videogame, for my money.

This was a major downside to the videogame at the time, as many players had corrupted copies, and even reissued copies of the videogame would often be prone to this glitch. Unfortunately, WWF No Mercy was the last videogame produced by AKI and THQ; despite apparently planning a third title, WWF Backlash, THQ and AKI parted ways, meaning the WWF videogames would follow the model set by the equally-enjoyable WWF SmackDown! (Yuke’s/THQ, 2000) up until the modern era. Since then, the standard set by AKI has not even attempted to be emulated much less imitated by THQ in their subsequent titles. Moving away from the simple, but in-depth grappling system developed on the Nintendo 64, WWE videogames now seek to closely emulate the televised product through simulated gameplay rather than arcade-style action. Although, graphically, AKI’s titles have not aged terribly well, nothing can take away that rush of nostalgia when starting up a new session on WWF No Mercy; instantly, I am transported back to a simpler time when me and as many as three other friends would spend all day and night playing match after match and pushing the cartridge to its very limits. No WWE videogame since has received that kind of constant love and attention from me, as online gaming and the realities of everyday life intervene with the simple pleasure of gathering around a television and throwing Spears at each other endlessly with the very best polygons money can buy.