[Preview] WrestleQuest wants to be an RPG for everyone, not just wrestling fans
Posted on July 2, 2022 by Nicholas Serpa in Previews, Switch eShop
2017’s Golf Story proved that there is a market for sports-themed RPGs, and Mega Cat Studios’ upcoming title WrestleQuest is attempting to bring a similar style of retro-themed gameplay and role-playing to the sport of wrestling (or wrasslin’, if you prefer). Rather than taking a serious simulation-focused approach, WrestleQuest leans hard into the absurdity and humor that often takes place in the sport in real life and cranks it all up as high as possible. I had a chance to check out the game at Summer Game Fest recently, and although I don’t yet have a full sense for just how deep WrestleQuest’s RPG mechanics will go, wrestling fans will certainly find a lot to love here.
WrestleQuest takes the concept of idolizing one’s heroes to a literal interpretation, as the protagonist of the game – Muchacho Man – lives in a world where there are giant statues of famous wrestlers scattered all over the place. If you’re familiar with the major names in the history of modern wrestling – Macho Man Savage, Andre the Giant, Jake the Snake, etc. – you’ll run across quite a few cameos in the game that you can interact with in some capacity. These real-life athletes act as the main protagonist’s guiding sources of inspiration as he tries to get his wrestling career up and running.
And make no mistake – just like how NPCs in Pokémon games literally only care about Pokémon and nothing else, every inch of WrestleQuest’s world is focused on the sport. From stadiums to wrestling gyms to shockingly large face paint shops, the whole world is dressed up as a giant wrestling-themed playset, down to the level of characters looking like action figures.
You’ll explore this world from a top-down perspective, and while it remains to be seen exactly how much there will be to do in WrestleQuest in between matches, I was told during my preview that WrestleQuest should be a 30-40-hour experience. That should result in plenty of surprises, including some features that aren’t being talked about yet; I noticed a mysterious “bestiary” tab in WrestleQuest’s menus that my Skybound representative wouldn’t tell me more about. You’ll definitely be doing quirky wrestling-adjacent puzzles here and there, like locating table tokens so you can body-slam your way through tables (as all wrestlers do when exploring, obviously).
Of course, the main thing you’ll do in WrestleQuest is… well, wrestle. Interestingly, combat is mostly turn-based in this game, but also asks the player to hit some well-timed button prompts to determine the success rate of an attack. For example, you’ll select an attack from a menu, but then may need to quickly hit the correct button on your controller to actually land the attack. Pinning works similarly; after dealing enough damaging blows to your opponent, you’ll need to trigger some button presses in time with a moving meter a few times in a row to win the match. It’s a two-way street, too – if your opponent manages to take you down and pin you, you’ll need to time your button presses successfully to escape.
There are also a variety of special moves that can be unlocked as players progress through the game, although I only got to see one in my demo. And if you take too much damage during a match, certain special moves or items – like wrestling tape – can be used to help your wrestler recover some health.
Of course, modern-day wrestling is just as much about the flair and presentation of matches as it is about the fighting itself. That’s why WrestleQuest also has a Hype Meter, which gauges how the crowd feels about your wrestler’s performance in the ring based on certain criteria. An example that was explained to me was that sometimes the crowd might want to see you pin an opponent but then let them escape, before pinning them down again. You can even customize your moveset, taunts and your entrance into the ring to try and build as much as hype as possible. I’m curious to see how this will play out in the game’s “boss matches,” after my wrestler presumably has garnered more of a reputation.
And being an RPG, WrestleQuest plays around with some narrative decision-making that can affect how other characters view your wrestler. For example, early in the game, you’ll be asked to choose a manager to guide your wrestler’s career, but one of them might not have the best morals. Choosing that manager might result in you being tasked with some more “unsavory tasks” than if you had chosen the straight-and-narrow path, which can also affect your wrestler’s public perception outside of combat. It will be a challenge to gauge the full impact of this type of mechanic on the game until the final release, but I really like the idea of making these types of choices in a sports-themed game like this.
There’s also the option of customizing your main character’s physical appearance as the game progresses. On top of the expected level of customization – swapping out your one-piece wrestling suit, your accessories, things like that – you can take your action-figure protagonist’s limbs and exchange those, too. I’d be curious to see if or how that could affect combat and special abilities.
WrestleQuest is definitely a good position to meet the needs of gamers who are hungry for more sports-themed RPGs, of which there really aren’t that many. It feels too soon to say for sure if all the game’s ideas will mesh to their full potential, but the game’s role-playing mechanics might just be compelling enough to pique the interest of even those who know next-to-nothing about wrestling itself. It’s scheduled to launch on Switch and other platforms later this year.