One of the best wrestling games of last year (and also one of the least played) was Bandai and the AKI Corporation's Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generation for the GameCube. The game featured the license of the Ultimate Muscle Saturday-morning cartoon series and a variation of the renowned AKI wrestling engine--albeit an insanely sped-up version of it. At E3 2004, we took some time to see how the PlayStation 2 follow-up to that game, Galactic Wrestling: Featuring Ultimate Muscle, is shaping up.
Galactic Wrestling appears to play largely the same as its predecessor. You will still have strike, grapple, jump, and block moves as your primary functions. Strikes can be turned into combos with multiple hits or into one powerful hit by holding down the strike button. The same can be said for grappling, though there isn't quite as much grappling move variety as there has been in previous AKI games. When jumping, you can actually do a double jump off the ring ropes and perform a more powerful jumping attack. Each wrestler also has a three-tiered special move system; by pressing the right combination of buttons at the right time you will perform either a strong move, a super move, or a finishing move. These moves are much like those in the previous Ultimate Muscle game, making for some utterly ludicrous, but extremely entertaining, finishers.
Galactic Wrestling is not nearly as story-driven a game as its predecessor. There is no story mode in the game, but in actuality, you will be able to experience elements of the Ultimate Muscle storyline throughout the rest of the game's modes. Characters who have specific rivalries with one another and who are put into matches together will activate specific cutscenes that pertain to their particular storylines. In practice, this is probably a bit better than the static character model, talking-head cutscenes in the original. The game will feature all the expected match types, including single, tag team, five-on-five, and battle royal. A collection mode similar to that in last year's game, featuring collectible Ultimate Muscle figures, will be included as well, but with significantly more content to unlock.
The graphical style of Legends vs. New Generation was an excellent use of cel-shading. In Galactic Wrestling, the cel-shading has been toned down quite a bit, and the character models look a bit more like standard polygonal models now. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as all of the 48 different models look great. It's just a little disappointing that the nicely animated look of the last game has simply been abandoned. The game's sound presentation will feature anime-inspired rock music and the same kind of match commentary from the TV series' commentator characters.
Galactic Wrestling: Featuring Ultimate Muscle is on schedule for release late next month, exclusively for the PlayStation 2. We'll have more on the game as its release draws nearer.