IMPORT REVIEW: Most fans of US wrestling games simply don't understand Japanese wrestling games. While US games focus more on wrestling's superstars, their finishing moves, and raw attitude, the Japanese games are focused more on setting up matches or tournaments and diving right into the gameplay - which is usually slightly more complex than US wrestling games, for better or worse. Square's All Star Pro-Wrestling gets its complexity from slow, sluggish gameplay and an entirely different and unbearably annoying control scheme.
Once you've moved through the numerous options screens - which let you set up matches and tournament brackets, as well as choose what arena you'll wrestle in, who the referee is, and what the time limit is - the match begins with wrestler entrance sequences. These sequences are marked by heavy use of motion blur, which gives them a very surreal look. The entrances make good use of lighting effects, and they generally look neat. Once you're in the ring, the action clears up a bit on the graphical side. In the ring, all the moves are animated fairly well, and transitions between animations are smooth. The walking, however, looks stiff and unrealistic. There are some nice little graphical touches here and there. For instance, when a wrestler's head gets busted open, not only will his face become bloody but also drops of blood will occasionally drip onto the mat, where they'll stay for the rest of the match. Similar to Tekken Tag Tournament, there's a screen-capture option that lets you take a snapshot of the action and save it to your memory card. The game's sound is well executed, featuring lots of nice crowd noise and some decent announcer work. Of course, if you don't understand Japanese, most of the announcing will be completely lost.
Where the game really falls apart is in its control scheme. All Star Pro-Wrestling is controlled almost entirely using the analog sticks of the Dual Shock controller. The left stick walks you around the ring, and the different directions on the right stick are used to pull off moves. Pushing in both sticks lets you grapple with the opponent. There is an option to use the digital pad and the buttons, but this only makes the control more difficult.
If you're already well steeped in Japanese wrestling knowledge, All Star Pro-Wrestling may interest you with its real-life roster. But the shoddy control scheme and sluggish gameplay are more than enough to keep the PlayStation 2's first wrestling game from being any fun - and the game that results stands alongside Driving Emotion Type-S as another reason for Square to stay focused on its bread and butter, the RPG market.