Developer Mega Cat Studios has a true love of wrestling, and clearly a love for old-school JRPGs as well. That’s apparent from the moment you first load up WrestleQuest and dive head-first into its toybox fantasy of action figures that want to become superstars, win championships and travel the world on an epic quest to do so. With a colourful, charming presentation and a lot of references and even cameos for wrestling fans, WrestleQuest starts strong… but much like watching a 5-hour PPV with an overly stacked card, the longer you play, the less exciting it gets.
Wrestling has had its fair share of weird video game crossovers, but a JRPG is perhaps one of the most weird and wacky we’ve seen. At least, that’s what I thought going into WrestleQuest; it turns out that the mechanics of turn-based RPGs actually work quite well in the context of wrestling. With combat taking place in the ring (of course), various over-the-top moves and attacks are listed under Gimmicks (spells), with various options for Tag-Team maneuvers (combos) or even run-ins from managers to distract opponents. When the crowd is cheering and the lights are bright as you land a finisher and go for the 1-2-3, it’s incredibly satisfying, and the genre mash-up works swimmingly.
Other wrestling tropes pop up, including customising your entrance to the ring, cutting promos and insulting your opponents and more, which feel like fun nods to the industry that we love so much. They don’t come up as often as I would have liked, as the traditional RPG trappings take center stage, but it’s nice to have more elements of this wacky wrestling world as we know it incorporated with a reverence that could only come from true marks.
“…battles are against army men, Pez dispensers, plush toys, Barbies, and more.”
To add to the fantasy, these are not real wrestlers you’re playing with, but literal action figures who have come to life in this bizarre world. You’re essentially playing in a giant toybox, which means battles are against army men, Pez dispensers, plush toys, Barbies, and more. This allows for some creative match-ups, but also some truly creative and fun dungeons to explore, referencing Jumanji and Dungeons & Dragons among others. It’s exciting to hop between these different locations, and I enjoyed discovering what was around the next turn; visually, WrestleQuest is littered with small references and lots of detail that make it a pleasure to run around in.
Dungeon design however is not so enticing. WrestleQuest shows its old-school shortcomings here, with exploration becoming tedious and a bit of a grind as you move through areas with multiple switches you need to find to unlock other parts of the maze-like locations, enemies along the path (that aren’t really avoidable, even though you can see them coming, kind of like Pokémon trainers waiting to battle you within their line of sight). There’s no real mini-map, so it can be annoying to navigate; there’s an objective marker on a vague compass, but it’s hard to know which direction to take a lot of the time, resulting in annoying backtracking. Mega Cat Studios have at once created a wonderful world to get lost in and a slog to trudge through.
The turn-based combat system in WrestleQuest is also hit-and-miss, in many cases quite literally. You have a range of moves that you can do, and your party quickly forms into the RPG fundamentals of offense, healer and tank. What is fundamentally there works well, and you have a momentum meter that needs to be filled up and maintained (to keep the crowd entertained, naturally), in order to pull off some of the flashier, more damaging moves.
The vast majority of moves however, including your most basic attacks, have QuickTime events associated with them. Every. Single. Time. It’s not just that they give you extra damage, either; in many cases, if you miss the fast button press that flashes up, you simply won’t do damage at all, and even worse, your opponent will counter and damage you instead. At first I liked the inclusion, as it kept me more focused on each move of the fight. But after a few hours of play, I wished for an automatic function instead. The pin system is also another annoying QTE that you have to hit, or the enemy will “kick out” and regain health. Thankfully, the pin mechanism is one that can be changed to an automatic setting instead.
WrestleQuest has a story that starts off endearing with Muchacho Man, lover of the great Randy Savage, going on his mission to be the greatest champion of all the land. I found him likeable in a goofy way, this character who still believes wrestling is real, despite everybody else around him knowing that it’s scripted… all the while, all still being toys in the first place. The other main character, Brink Logan, is on a more heartfelt personal quest about balancing family lineage with his own personal triumphs. While these stories at their core are fine, they bounce between them at an alarming rate that doesn’t always gel. As you’re getting invested in one story, the game cuts and drops you in the middle of another. It’s jarring at best, and makes the long-winded narrative tricky to follow.
To be frank, I’m hesitant to slap a score on WrestleQuest that will forever live on the internet, as I’m yet to finish the game. It’s super long, clocking in at around 40-50 hours, and I have hit a point with it where I need to take a breather and perhaps come back to it later. Despite its charm, it has conflicting gameplay elements that become far too repetitive and would have been perfectly fine as an adventure at half the size with a clear endpoint.
I love how much Mega Cat loves wrestling and how much they love JRPGs. But this topsy-turvy narrative full of QuickTime events and annoying dungeon design is in much need of some editing, and feels like an Ironman Match between two wrestlers that you aren’t particularly invested in; it starts entertaining enough but eventually, they run out of gas and you’re just ready for it to be over.
WrestleQuest is available on all platforms, including as part of your Netflix subscription, so don’t hold back if you’re curious.