Get ready to rumble because WrestleQuest bodyslams its way into the ring as nostalgia-filled love letter to wrestling. I’ve been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. The glory days of watching ‘The Rock’ face ‘Stone Cold’ in the squared circle in front of sold-out arenas while everyone huddled around a heavy box TV, were the stuff of legend. My favorite part of these events was re-enacting them with wrestling toys, creating dream matches, matches that make no feasible sense, and just general chaos that I swore would have been gold had it made it to TV.
This is where WrestleQuest enters the ring, a turn-based RPG with hilarious jokes, great characters, wrestling legends to dethrone, and a whole lot of spice wrapped up in beautiful pixel artwork. Oh, and it’s all told through the lens of, you guessed it, wrestling action figures! Ooh Yeah!
The story of WrestleQuest initially seems simple: you’re an up-and-comer named Randy Santos, and you want to follow in your idol’s footsteps, Macho Man Randy Savage. Santos is the spitting image of Macho Man, and he even speaks like him. From his outfit down to calling himself ‘Muchacho Man,’ Santos appears as a wrestling toy in-game, but he’s realized as a mega-wrestling fan going through the motions to make it big.
“WrestleQuest is what happens when you mix Earthbound with the film Ready to Rumble…”
There’s another protagonist, Brink Logan, who is actualized as a son of the in-game wrestling royalty (similar to the Rhodes or Hart families). Mega Cat Studios does a great job of shuffling these protagonists, especially when it is apparent that one of them is wrestling for one of the game’s arch-villains. WrestleQuest explores many behind-the-scenes operations of actual wrestling promotion, making it an entertaining spectacle filled with over-the-top scenarios while staying true to the quest. To avoid spoilers, I’ll stop there, but the storyline is easily one of the strongest points of WrestleQuest.
The beginning of WrestleQuest operates as an impromptu tutorial, teaching the player the ins and outs of combat and all the nuances of the wrestling world. The dialogue choices are superb here, as the characters use advanced wrestling terminology and immediately follow up with a small and warranted explanation of what the term means. Dark Matches and Shoot Matches are important parts of the wrestling world, and WrestleQuest makes it known.
WrestleQuest never takes itself too seriously, which is an excellent thing. Like South Park: The Stick of Truth, items like potions don’t exist; instead, HP can be gained by using Clear Tape or the more effective Duct Tape. Equipment is funny also, with items like ‘Hammer Arm’ giving combatants a stat boost, but unfortunately, equipment doesn’t change the outward appearance of the characters.
There are four methods of attack: Striking, Gimmicks, Items, and Taunts. Striking is your basic turn-based RPG swing and hit. Items like the Duct Tape mentioned above heal allies and provide boosts, but the other two categories are what separates WrestleQuest from being ‘just another RPG.’ Gimmicks are special moves players can unleash on their adversaries, and some even hearken back to actual wrestling moves. Santos’ South of the Border Stunner is a Stone-Cold Stunner renamed, and it inflicts heavy damage on opponents, while other moves, such as Patch Job, heal allies. There’s even ‘Jewel Smasher’, which hits opponents in their ‘Jewels’ for massive damage.
Taunting is a double-edged sword. A hype meter on the bottom of the screen provides the player with boons or burdens during a match, depending on how full or empty it is, and taunting can help boost this meter positively. Taunting leaves the character vulnerable to attacks though, so strategizing when to use them is key to winning a match. There are also ‘drama moment’ objectives the player must complete to get rare rewards after certain matches. These objectives can even involve letting a character lose all their health in a fight. This unexpectedly adds a large difficulty adjustment, just like in real wrestling. Putting over an opponent in an RPG is hard work.
Small quick-time events also occur during matches when hitting an enemy or receiving damage, and like Super Mario RPG, mastering the timing of these small moments can give you a serious edge in combat like extra damage or even stoppage of damage altogether. ‘Human’ enemies must be pinned, or they’ll keep getting back up, so when a character initiates a pin, a referee flies in out of nowhere to count. Although the pin mini-game is slightly too sensitive, WrestleQuest is good chaotic wrestling fun.
The world of WrestleQuest is vast, and there are many characters to meet. There are constant wrestling cameos thrown in as Easter eggs, such as a wrestler who’s having an identity crisis on whether to be gothic or wear bright face paint. This is a direct nod to the legendary wrestler Sting, who has wrestled as both. There are also fully realized legendary wrestlers like Diamond Dallas Page, who comes complete with his iconic finisher the Diamond Cutter.
“This is relatability at its peak: raptors in wrestling.”
While these cameos and appearances enrich the experience for wrestling fans, fans unaccustomed to wrestling can still enjoy these characters. Recruiting characters to your ‘stable’ (the wrestling word for roster) feels like playing Yakuza: Like a Dragon; it is incredibly random, but you end up loving every character and you’ll never expect who you will recruit next.
This is a call-back to playing with wrestling toys. I remember always having a few ‘random’ toys in my wrestler collection, and they would almost always be involved in matches. Funny enough, there were these Jurassic Park toys, the unmovable raptors that you can just look at. These very raptors are in WrestleQuest, and they do get involved in matches. This is relatability at its peak: raptors in wrestling.
While there has a lot to love about WrestleQuest, I have some gripes. While levels do have solid design choices, there are also baffling ones. At a junkyard level, there are MANY environmental hazards that can stop your progress and reset you back to the start. These include random exhaust from cars and searchlights that impede progress.
The flames have a very large hitbox, and getting around these hazards is incredibly clunky, especially with the small windows of time the player must work with. In a segment like this, the game demands swift solid play from the player, but WrestleQuest doesn’t deliver solid performance. Flames hurt the player when it feels you are nowhere near it, and the searchlights can drop party member health to zero, which feels unfair.
Environmental hazards are present throughout WrestleQuest and drain hype almost every time with jank. There’s also no way to escape fights once they start, at least none that I have found. Having to finish every single fight is tedious, but more importantly, it feels like having to finish these fights each time over-levels the character making hard matches more of a breeze. While the drama moments do make fights hard anyway (putting over an opponent is hard), players shouldn’t be punished for leveling up in an RPG.
WrestleQuest is what happens when you mix Earthbound with the film Ready to Rumble, a coming-of-age story in professional wrestling that has heart and is relatable to anyone who’s performed a powerbomb on their sibling in the backyard. The developers at Mega Cat Studios are proclaimed wrestling fans and it shows; nostalgia is delivered here in waves and with a dynamite soundtrack complete with stunning pixel artwork. WrestleQuest is a love letter to wrestling, playing with wrestling toys, and RPGs all in one neat package. A quest definitely worth undertaking.