Fire Pro Wrestling launched in tandem with the Game Boy Advance in June 2001. Although the game did not feature any identifiable wrestlers or bear the license of an official wrestling organization, it still sold very well, thanks primarily to its diverse range of moves and focus on realistic fighting. Fire Pro Wrestling 2 is a follow-up to the previous game. Surprisingly, while there are more available wrestlers and more custom edit options in this new game, there isn't much that is actually new, improved, or different when compared with the original release.
The best aspect of Fire Pro Wrestling 2 is its gameplay. Each wrestler has a set of 40 or 50 different moves that correspond with a multitude of situations. For example, if you're locked in a grapple, the A button may trigger a punch combination--but if the opponent is laying flat on the mat, the same button might cause your wrestler to perform a knee drop or choke hold. Most moves are performed with combinations of the A and B buttons and the directional pad, although the L and R triggers are used for headlocks, hammer throws, and running. In all, there are more than 1,200 different attacks in the game, and every possible fighting style is represented, including wrestling, grappling, martial arts, boxing, shoot fighting, and more.
Unlike in the majority of other wrestling games, button-mashing will get you nowhere in Fire Pro Wrestling 2. The timing for each grab and countermove requires that you input the command right when the wrestlers lock up. If your timing is precise, you'll execute the takedown that you want. Too late or too soon and your opponent may end up being the one to attack. At the same time, there are distinctions made between weak, medium, and strong attacks. Before you can successfully perform a vicious pile driver or atomic drop, you need to first soften up your opponent with punches and weak takedowns. It does take a little while to get used to timing your attacks in this fashion, but the overall result is that matches have a pace similar to that of real televised wrestling.
It is amazing just how much Fire Pro Wrestling 2 really does emphasize the details. Wrestlers have different levels of stamina for each section of their body--head, neck, arms, and legs--and focused attacks to one section will weaken them a lot faster. You can also improve the odds of a successful submission by first weakening the head or legs. Sometimes you will draw blood, which may dampen your opponent's stamina further or cause him or her to fly into a blind rage. Even breathing is a factor. You can press the L trigger while standing still in order to breathe and regain lost stamina. The list of these little details is huge, but some of the more notable ones include partner double-teams, slow counting referees, and random knockouts.
Fire Pro Wrestling 2 doesn't stack up to the current crop of Game Boy Advance games in terms of visuals or audio, but the spartan rings and chintzy tunes are more than adequate for the action inside the ring. The overall color depth is reminiscent of that of old Sega Genesis games, but the game makes up for this with the sheer amount of animation present in each move. If you've seen a move performed in Raw or SmackDown!, chances are it's in Fire Pro Wrestling 2 and is just as overblown and energetic. It also helps that the game is just so much fun to play that you rarely have time to notice the bland colors or looped crowd animations.
Match types include single, tag, deathmatch, gruesome, and handicap. Wrestling fans are probably familiar with the one-on-one, two-on-two, and one-on-two format of single, tag, and handicap matches, but the other two match types are unique to Fire Pro Wrestling. In a gruesome match, you can win only if the opponent is knocked out or gives up. Illegal moves, such as throat strikes and choke holds, are also much more powerful. A deathmatch is similar to a gruesome match, except that the ring is enclosed by an electrified cage that brutally shocks whomever is thrown into it.
The main mode in Fire Pro Wrestling 2 is called the ironman road, and its setup should be familiar to anyone who's played a wrestling or sports game. Each of the three difficulty levels offers a grouping of assorted matches: single, tag, deathmatch, gruesome, or handicap. You have to win one group to move on to the next, but your stamina carries over from one match to the next. Opponents increase in skill as you win matches, and each successful win against a new character unlocks him or her for use in all game modes. Progress is recorded to a battery backup, so you don't have to finish the ironman road in one sitting.
Besides the ironman road, there are two other significant game options. The first is the exhibition mode, in which you can set up a custom match and select from any of the various match types, ring locations, and referees, as well as set more than a dozen different parameters. The exhibition mode supports multiplayer play, so up to four players can participate. You can also set it so that the CPU battles itself, which comes in handy for testing your creations from the edit mode.
The edit mode is the other major game option in Fire Pro Wrestling 2, and it's the one you'll probably find yourself addicted to once you get used to all the many hundreds of settings and variables. Fire Pro Wrestling 2 has easily the most comprehensive and diverse create-a-wrestler mode found in any wrestling game. Not only can you select from a variety of body types, fighting styles, and basic skills, but you can also draw from the more than 1,200 available moves and organize the behavior that the character will exhibit when controlled by the CPU. There are 77 available slots for storing your custom creations.
Unfortunately, while all of the above are traits of a great game, they're actually not that far removed from the options found in the first Fire Pro Wrestling. The edit mode is basically identical, save for the fact that there are a few extra moves and more heads for female wrestlers. The ironman road effectively replaces the tournament and survival events from the first game, but there isn't a corresponding replacement for the league and audience matches that were somewhat complex but also quite challenging and fun. If you manage to complete all levels of the ironman road, you'll unlock a 10-person battle royal in which up to four characters fight in the ring at once and fallen fighters are replaced with fresh challengers.
Although the modes in Fire Pro Wrestling 2 seem geared toward a broader audience than the first game, fans of the original Fire Pro Wrestling should find themselves with a lot to do between unlocking wrestlers in the ironman road and updating their old custom wrestlers into the new game. In the interest of total disclosure, however, you should know that the Japanese version of Fire Pro Wrestling 2, called Final Fire Pro Wrestling, had a diverse role-playing mode called management of the ring. In this mode, you could form custom federations, advertise your matches, hire freelance wrestlers, and set up events against competing federations from all over the world. This mode was the most significant enhancement Final Fire Pro Wrestling made to the original Fire Pro Wrestling, and it is totally absent in the US version of Fire Pro Wrestling 2.
If you already own the first game, Fire Pro Wrestling 2 may not offer enough new features to warrant an upgrade. On the other hand, if you've never tried the Fire Pro series and you're someone who enjoys fighting or wrestling games, you really owe it to yourself to experience Fire Pro Wrestling 2. It may not have recognizable wrestlers or an official license, but it is easily the best wrestling or fighting game currently available for the Game Boy Advance.