RetroMania Wrestling Xbox One review: Wrestlefest

The state of wrestling games is in flux at the moment, between the horrid mess that was WWE 2K20 and the somewhat mixed response to the arcade-style WWE Battlegrounds. In fact, the only solace that gamers had for some time was the old-school Fire Pro Wrestling World – and without availability on all platforms, its audience was more limited than expected.

However, now we have RetroMania Wrestling, a game from Retrosoft Studios that takes the formula of the 1991 classic WWF Wrestlefest and runs with it in its own special way. Perfect it is not, as it doesn’t really have all the features needed to be a winner. However, there’s more than enough retro goodness to keep you putting fools in a headlock.

The gameplay works similarly to Wrestlefest when it comes to the attacks you can use. You have weak, medium and strong, but it’s all based around a system of timing. So aside from some grappling moments, it’s all about when you can hit the buttons the right way. Do so and you can gain leverage in a match. Don’t, and, well, we hope you like getting body slammed. Not everything is clearly explained, but RetroMania has an excellent “pick-up-and-play” mentality that works fundamentally well. In fact, after a few matches, you may be tempted to throw friends around locally (in-game, mind you).

That brings up an interesting flaw with the game’s lack of online multiplayer. Locally, it works really well, and makes for some good match-ups. Except without an online component, it’s a little more limited than 2K’s WWE fare. Perhaps a future update can fix that.

Fortunately, there’s more than enough variations of matches to keep you busy; and there’s a decent story mode that walks you through what this revamped wrestling world is all about. It’s not overwhelming, but not half-bad either. The game also has a superb roster for an indie game, including everyone from The Blue Meanie to Tommy Dreamer to Matt Cardona to a variation of John Morrison, in the form of Johnny Retro. It’s not hustling and bustling like WWE’s games, mind you, but it’s still pretty cool. And there’s more to come via DLC, as well. That said, it would’ve been awesome to have some sort of customization tool, so you could bolster the roster along the same lines as, say, Fire Pro. As it stands, though, not bad at all.

On top of that, RetroMania has a terrific style going for it. You can tell that the devs are big fans of old-school wrestling games, as this chews it up at every turn. The animations are sharp and the characters and in-ring details are very clear to see, even on a portable Nintendo Switch game screen. It runs very fluidly too, even with the default 2D camera set-up. Wrestlers barely overlap and you can see all the action clearly. The themes are a lot of fun, too, and the “attitude” is just about right when it comes to classic wrestling action.

Overall, RetroMania Wrestling is a nice blast from the past, especially considering we never got a console port of THQ’s Wrestlefest reboot from years ago. This feels like a title that flashes back to the good ol’ days of wrestling games, when it wasn’t really about the fantastic engine or the features, but the easy-to-adapt-to action and fun roster. It’s a bit light on certain features, and has no online wrestling community (at least, not yet), but as it stands, it’s a blast from the past that’s worth adding to your collection. And it sure beats taking a steel chair to the sternum, tell ya what.

RATING: 3.5/5

Interview: Hitting the turnbuckles with RetroMania Wrestling

Let’s be honest. The landscape of wrestling games these days hasn’t been earth-shattering. WWE 2K20 wasn’t the best AAA game out there by a mile; and WWE Battle Grounds, while an improvement, still fell victim to corporate planning via its microtransactions.

However, not all is lost. Fire Pro Wrestling World has a great community; and there’s also RetroMania Wrestling, a loving follow-up to the classic WWE Wrestlefest. Now, of course, it’s not licensed by any group, but it does have a number of superstars to its credit. The game has been out for Steam for a little while now, and it drops on Xbox One this Tuesday, with a release to follow afterwards on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.

We recently caught up with the game’s team lead, Michael Hermann, to discuss how the game came together, its reception, and what fans can expect in the long haul. What a rush, indeed.

First off, congrats on the Steam launch of the game! How has feedback been thus far?

So far so good. We had one little hiccup at the beginning but I am proud we are at 86% Very Positive rating on Steam which is awesome.

Why do you think it’s taken so long for a WWF Wrestlefest-style game to hit the market? Do you believe there just wasn’t any interest at the time in retro wrestling, or maybe something different?

I think it is because making wrestling games is pretty hard. There is a ton of artwork that goes into a game like this. It has been no easy task getting this done!

How did you go about putting the roster together for the game? Must’ve been difficult with so much talent belonging to official companies.

Licensing was difficult. We had to navigate ownership of all the wrestling gimmicks and seeing who we could get and who we could afford. But I really targeted guys I liked. We were really going for an eclectic roster and I think we have a great one!

What kind of modes are incorporated into the game? Are there any that are considered fan favorites at the moment?

Right now we have Story mode, 10 Lbs of Gold, Retro Rumble and Versus. I think everyone likes them all! It is a great mix of game modes to keep people busy trying all the different types of matches. 

How have the live broadcasts for the game been going? Any chance we can get a Blue Meanie show going?

They have been great! We love to pop into  streams and see who is playing. As for the Meanie, you never know!

Any word on the console versions just yet? We know they’ve been delayed, we assume you’re just making sure they’re good to go before they launch.

Xbox is coming March 23rd. Switch shortly after, just trying to confirm with Nintendo. We are waiting to hear back from Sony.

What’s the word on DLC? We’ve already seen some announced wrestlers, but is there anything else you can tell us about what’s in store?

Nothing at this time. We are planning our DLC and have already started to work on it. More details to come soon.

What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to making a “retro” wrestling game such as this?

Well, most of the difficulties have been due to my inexperience making games. Estimating time frames has been tough. Everything is always more complicated than you think it will be. But we are just about over the finish line.

And finally…what does the future hold for Retromania? Could we see a sequel down the road? Or is it too soon to tell?

Who knows?!? We are keeping our options open and we will see what happens after our initial launch.

Interview: Retromania Wrestling brings back the old-school headlock

The state of wrestling games right now is a little mixed, to say the least. Sure, we have Fire Pro Wrestling to keep us occupied. But there’s also WWE 2K20, one of the worst wrestling games released over the past few years, riddled with glitches and unwanted content.

While 2K attempts to fan the flames with the exciting-looking WWE Battlegrounds, there’s a new champ on the horizon – Retromania Wrestling. A spiritual successor to the classic WWF Wrestlefest from Technosthis classic looks to channel old-school gameplay and visuals, with a roster of indie favorites including Tommy Dreamer, The Blue Meanie and many more.

Michael Hermann of Retrosoft Studios sat down with us to discuss the forthcoming game, which will put gamers in a headlock on consoles and PC. Grab a steel chair and have a seat as we delve into this soon-to-be classic.

Getting Started

DVS: Why do you think big companies aren’t taking a chance on arcade-style wrestling games anymore? You’d think that something like a Wrestlefest or WWE All-Stars remake would be doing big business right now.

Michael: Well, in general, I think part of the reason is there is only one wrestling company up until recently for the last few years. We use to get a lot of different games but lately that has not been the case. Also, from a development standpoint, wrestling games are pretty challenging to make so that may be another reason you don’t see as many of them. 

Hey, fans, remember when you could watch wrestling in person…?

DVS: Where did you guys come up with the idea of doing your own wrestling game? Were you playing Wrestlefest one night and something just went off inside your heads, or…?

Michael: More or less, haha. Several years ago I wanted to figure out how to get the Macho Man into the original WrestlefestRetromania is the result. We could not get Macho Man, but we have a pretty cool roster none the less. This project started as a hobby and eventually morphed into a commercial project.  

Building the Roster

DVS: How did you go about putting the roster together? We see some “fantasy” stars in here, but also real wrestlers like The Blue Meanie.

Michael: Actually, all the wrestlers in the game are real wrestlers at this point. (we may add some fantasy start later). It was pretty easy to sign the guys. A person working with me by the name of Mike Archer was pretty connected to a lot of talent which made it easy for us to sign talent to the game. By the way, Blue Meanie is awesome!

DVS: How did some wrestlers react when you pitched them the idea of your wrestling game? Were they excited to be involved with the old school again?

Michael: It was mixed but all positive. Some of the guys are gamers and were really excited to be a part of it. Others were excited but it was more from a business standpoint and a chance to continue to build their brand. All the guys are cool to work with.  

Modes and More

DVS: How many different modes will be included in the game? Will there be a special steel cage match? We’ve seen hints of one.

Michael: Singles, Tag, 6 Man tag, 8 Man Tag, 3-Way, 4-way, Story mode, and Retro Rumble. And yes, there will be cages!!! 

DVS: How has the anticipation been for the game thus far? We heard you had a big showing at PAX East back in February.

Michael: It has been great! We get over 100 comments a day across our social media which has grown to about 65,000 strong. People are very interested in what we are doing and that feels great. PAX East was great. A couple of hundred people were able to play the game and we received a ton of great positive feedback. Definitely still a lot of work to do, but it was super encouraging that we are on the right track.

DVS: Is the game just about finished? Do you still anticipate a summer release?

Michael: Right now the target is July. But due to recent world events, we may have to push a little bit, but we are still working towards that goal. 

Did someone say Legion of Doom?

DVS: Will you be expanding the roster at all with additions?

Michael: We are now going to have 16 wrestlers at launch and will have some DLC. The amount will be determined by how successful the game is. 

The Dream

DVS: If you could have one old-school wrestler that isn’t in the game yet, who would you like it to be? Licensing be damned.

Michael: My first favorite wrestler was Magnum TA. He was in the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions. He was my favorite when I was 10 years old and I hope to be able to get him in the game someday. 

To learn more about Retromania Wrestling, be sure to visit its official page!