Forgive the rather inflammatory headline, but speaking with ESPN during a great rundown of the top 25 sports games of all time (except NBA Jam should be miles ahead of NBA Street), WWE Games creative producer Cory Ledesma had this to say regarding the number five choice, WWF No Mercy on N64:
“Why can’t you make the new WWE games like ‘No Mercy,’ and I don’t think I’m ever going to stop hearing that. It’s 13 years old and we still get compared to ‘No Mercy’ — how we compare to ‘No Mercy’s’ game play, and how they want us to bring back ‘No Mercy’ on Xbox Live. It’s a good thing because people still remember it fondly, but we also hope people realize how far the WWE gaming franchise has come since then.”
Why do people ask? Because the No Mercy engine, with modern enhancements, would slaughter the current crop of WWE software.
Spawned in the US from an unlicensed, unassuming Power Move Pro Wrestling on PlayStation 1, the grapple heavy engine morphed into WCW vs. the World, WCW vs NWO, Wrestlemania 2000, and finally, WWF No Mercy. Yukes designed a wrestling game surrounded by pacing, strategy, and detail, in addition to a generous helping of pro wrestling spectacle as the series blossomed.
And then, Smackdown happened, and set the course for floppy, imprecise wrestling games for three generations. Off-shoots, like the forgotten Royal Rumble on Dreamcast and RAW series for the Xbox, tried their own methodologies, yet never found the spark.
Smackdown turned into a yearly franchise, now labeled with WWE and a year after the logo. While the franchise has perked up with insatiable thirst for storytelling dynamics and match recreation, the bumbling engine has never come close to the enormity of those N64 giants. That is why people want No Mercy to return.
Aki’s carefully plotted design weighted the wrestlers, anchoring them to the ground so bodyslams and suplexes carried heft. A deep grapple system was effective in its simplicity, a boon to button mashers and strategists alike. Today’s WWE is so counter-happy that much of the match time is spent in reversals, and when hit, wrestlers speedily bounce around like on a trampoline. Even improvements to the limited walk animations make grapplers feel as if they’re floating, more than decade after the series was first realized.
Some of this mirrors the debate in pro football, wherein fans cling to the wonder of NFL 2K5, debating the “what if” as opposed to what the Madden series churns out. While 2K5 still dominates with its classy presentation, Madden’s modern fluidity has slowly conquered the bulky, often ungainly 2K football series. It took years to get there, and with WWE, those steps never feel as if they’re being taken.
So yes Mr. Ledesma, bring back WWF No Mercy, because it still conquers the core product being shuffled onto store shelves.
Image credit: VaughnsNetwork