Although many wrestling games pride themselves on featuring up-to-date rosters and letting you do any move you want during a match, Legends of Wrestlemania takes a different approach. It appeals to nostalgic wrestling fans, giving them the chance to play as classic wrestlers in historic Wrestlemania matches from the '80s and '90s. It also favors accessibility rather than complexity, and its simplified controls and limited moveset make it easy for anyone to pick up and play. However, this simplicity comes at a price, and the action quickly becomes repetitive. Matches feel the same no matter how many shiny, overmuscled legends you bring into the ring. It's good for a quick nostalgia fix, but Legends of Wrestlemania runs out of thrills faster than a Pay-Per-View event.
At the heart of Legends of Wrestlemania's appeal is its robust roster of wrestlers that stretches back a few decades to conjure such legends as Sgt. Slaughter, Ultimate Warrior, and Jake "The Snake" Roberts. It features main events ranging from the first Wrestlemania (Junkyard Dog vs. Greg Valentine) up through Wrestlemania XV (The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin). There are more than 40 superstars and managers, and even if you've never heard of such wrestlers as King Kong Bundy, you can still get psyched to relive his match against Hulk Hogan in Wrestlemania 2 thanks to the excellent video montages that play before each main event. These videos show clips from the encounters before the event as well as highlights of the matches themselves. They capture the all-important drama of professional wrestling and provide an exciting introduction to the action.
Once the actual match begins, you are introduced to the glistening character models, which appear to be smuggling large cuts of meat under their skin. The Hulkster was always a muscular guy, but in Legends of Wrestlemania he looks like ballooned-up action figure. These overdone characters are particularly jarring when you've just watched a video of the real wrestlers and have seen how they actually looked. This dims the nostalgic glow, but it becomes less pronounced with wrestlers in the mid-to-late '90s, who tended to be much more physically sculpted. Underneath their armored carapaces, the character models are pretty well animated and convincingly capture individual mannerisms such as Stone Cold's swagger and Undertaker's lanky rigidity.
The gameplay itself is quite simple. Most of the time you'll be using the buttons for strike, grapple, and block to damage your opponent and counter his blows. You can also climb on the turnbuckle, perform an Irish whip, take the action outside of the ring, and, of course, pin your opponent. It's easy to master the basics that you'll need to win matches, and there's not much beyond the basics. Scripted intros, finishers, and certain grapples will trigger quick-time events that challenge you to press the prompted button before your opponent does. These allow Legends of Wrestlemania to show your wrestler doing more-advanced moves, but you won't really get to watch him because you'll be so focused on the button prompt. There are some painful rapid-tapping sequences and a momentum meter that lets you do more powerful grapples, but these don't add much complexity to the gameplay. The action is ultimately shallow, and it's not long before all of your matches start to follow the same repetitive pattern.
One interesting attempt to spice things up can be found in the Wrestlemania Tour mode. Whether you are reliving a past event, rewriting history by competing as the loser, or redefining the event by changing the match conditions, each event has a number of objectives that you can complete to earn a gold medal and unlock small bonuses. These range from simple (taunt your opponent) to complex (attack your opponent from the top of each turnbuckle), and they can add some much needed variety to the proceedings. More-recent events have more-elaborate objectives, but having a longer to-do list doesn't make the match better, just longer.
There is also a Legend Killer mode that lets you pit your created character (or an imported character from Smackdown vs. RAW 2009) against grueling tiers of legendary wrestlers. You have to fight 10 consecutive matches to beat one of the six tiers, three of which are unlocked only with a Smackdown vs. RAW import. Each tier is long and painful. You carry the same health bar throughout the 10 matches, so you will become very familiar with the one taunt that regenerates a fraction of your health. Worse, you can't save your progress, so you have to do it all in one sitting. The action simply can't hold up during such a long session, which makes Legend Killer mode little more than a test of your tolerance for boredom.
Legends of Wrestlemania also sports a full array of exhibition match types and support for online matches. The robust creation toolset from Smackdown vs. RAW 2009 is included, with the notable omission of the fun Create a Finisher tool. Although it's great see so many legendary stars gathered in one game, Legends of Wrestlemania just can't live up to the hype. The gameplay can be fun for a little while, but it soon becomes an exercise in repetition and boredom. The highlight reels are really fun to watch, but when the most entertaining aspect of a game is a 10-year-old video montage, you're dealing with some serious mediocrity. And that's the bottom line.