Post-Christmas Day and pre-new year, I often find myself revelling in old games – even more than usual. This time, WWF No Mercy, the last in an illustrious series of wrestling games made by AKI and THQ for the N64 between 1996 and 2000.
I haven’t played a new wrestling game in over a decade, so I’m not really in a place to judge them against today’s efforts, but I do know that I will still happily play No Mercy and, even back then, I found myself tiring of the successors and returning to it; I can totally understand why many still think it the best wrestling game ever made.
Its strengths were abundant. There were storylines for every championship belt which ran on a clever branching path system, with wins and losses giving you different outcomes – some of these I’ve still yet to see after fifteen years, which speaks of its depth. Money earnt in this mode could be used to purchase extra wrestlers, arenas and other goodies. The game engine was simple to grasp, but very difficult to master, and rewarded strategy; even on easier difficulties, if you were caught being complacent or slow-witted, the computer opponent would capitalise and come at you with all they had, taking you to twenty or thirty minute wars. I remember finding this infuriating as a youngster, but now it just strikes me as perfectly aware of wrestling and the absurd drama that it is. It shouldn’t be a fair fight, and there should be a real sense of reward when you emerge the victor.
I also appreciated the custom creation suite, and how you could not only create your own superstars but edit the appearance of the in-game roster – this was something that wasn’t available in any other game at the time. It meant you could adjust their look in line with their real-life character. With emulation as it is, though, you can now take this a little bit further. Texture modding allows you to put pieces into the game’s graphics that weren’t there previously, meaning that you can effectively create textures for anybody. Having previously attempted a few this with the game’s predecessor, WrestleMania 2000 – of whom, Rick Rude, Andre and 1991 Undertaker stand at the head of this post – I thought I’d have a go with No Mercy now. I found it quite tricky mapping and aligning the textures correctly, since they are, of course, wrapped around the body and distorted accordingly, but I think I’ve finally started to get the hang of it.
Here are just a couple, firstly for “The Model” Rick Martel:
And next up, stand back, there’s a Hurricane comin’ through!
Needless to say, there are people who have taken this much, much further than just modding a few faces and outfits. Many have produced entire rosters of superstars, along with the according arenas and sound effects to transform the very much 2000 No Mercy into something quite different – be it the WWF of the eighties, WCW or a pack of movie superheroes and villains. I’m sure people will be playing with this for as long as the game endures.
The aforementioned WWF eighties mod did grab my attention – the HD graphics lifting the visuals, and the passion of its creator is evident – it’s great fun to play!
While we’re talking about wrestling and the classic era: I had a go at some bonus superstars for WrestleFest, too – two Stings and a Bret Hart. As fun as the N64 frolicking was, it was much more relaxing to sit and put some pixels together!