Inside Pulse Wrestling Games History: N64 WWF No Mercy Review

WWF No Mercy
Genre: Pro Wrestling
Developer: AKI
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: 11/17/00

First off I had ought to introduce myself. My name is Derek Kelley, A.K.A. AndreLeGeant on most message boards, and this is my first time writing for Inside Pulse. I was introduced to this site by Pulse Glazer, who writes the very interesting, albeit often misguided, opinion column A Modest Response for Pulse Wrestling, as well as The Most Dangerous Gamer for the Not A True Ending channel and East of Gotham for The Nexus. Go check him out and there’s his plug. Now, having taken a short shower so as to clean myself from all that shilling, I’ll get into the nitty-gritty. I’m a Classics major at the University of Michigan, so that means I spend a lot of my time digging into old, obscure, and unfortunately forgotten pieces of literature. Needless to say, I have a strong like for old things, and so when Aaron offered me the chance to write reviews for old wrestling games, I jumped at the chance.

The first game which I have decided to review is one often heralded as the greatest of all 3D wrestling games by the so called internet wrestling community: WWF No Mercy. Released in the fall of 2000 for the Nintendo 64, No Mercy was unexpectedly the last AKI made wrestling game released under the WWF — now WWE — banner. AKI had a storied past on the Nintendo 64 when it came to making wrestling games. They were the second company, the first being Yukes Media Creations, to ever make a 3D wrestling game. Though their first game was Virtual Pro Wrestling for the Sony PlayStation, it was the N64 edition of VPW which saw the creation of the famous AKI grappling engine. Over the next 3 years, AKI produced wrestling games for both American and Japanese wrestling promotions, which all led up to No Mercy, their most ambitious and extensive wrestling title to date. How did the game turn out? Was it more of the same, or truly revolutionary? More importantly, is it still even worth playing today, much less the greatest wrestling game ever made? Read on, fellow gamers, for the answers!

1. Story:
Story modes were relatively new in American wrestling games when WWF No Mercy was released in 2000. WWF WrestleMania 2000 had been the first to feature any type of mode which extended beyond winning match after match for the sake of championships, but the mode was very bare-bones and basic. Yukes’ WWF SmackDown! for the PlayStation, released a few months later, featured a more dynamic story mode, but was also quite basic. It relied upon random events occurring between your chosen wrestler, which would then lead up to having a match with them on a show.

Thus, when WWF No Mercy was released, it was as if WWF TV had been brought directly to your Nintendo 64. There are different story modes for each WWF championship: Women’s, Light Heavyweight, European, Intercontinental, Tag, and World. Once you select the path in which you wish to participate, you begin with a match or situation. From thereon out, depending on your wins and losses, your story will branch off into different paths. Occasionally, however, you will come to chapters in your story where you must win the match. Often these matches are handicap matches, and this can be quite annoying. Never do I remember seeing so many handicap matches on WWF television, and it is a bit of a cop-out on the developers part, designed to make the story mode more difficult. These types of matches become more prevalent as you take on larger titles, and are absent in lower-level titles, such as the Light Heavyweight championship. Thankfully, you do get multiple continues, so while life might not have any second chances, apparently wrestling does. Well, so long as your name isn’t Terry Taylor.

The actual stories in the game are abundant, since they change depending upon the results of each chapter, but they can bring on a sense of déjà vu to long-time wrestling fans. This is due to the fact that the stories are not original creations on the part of AKI or WWF writers, as we see in today’s WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw series, but are recycled stories from WWF television. While it is nice to actually play a part in a storyline which you happened to see on TV, it can seem boring or ridiculous as well. This is especially true when you play as a wrestler who did not actually participate in the feud as it was seen on TV. For example, in the world title scenario, you can relive the feud between Mick Foley and Triple H. If you, however, happen to not play as Mick Foley, you will still say all of Mick Foleys lines. Thus, for the first time ever, Stone Cold Steve Austin could actually say, “Have a nice day.”

Despite its flaws, nevertheless, the attempt is still entertaining and engaging. It was also the best story mode ever put into a wrestling game. In the end, it is perhaps the unrealistic amount of handicap matches, more than anything else, which can turn the story mode from something enjoyable to something quickly tedious. Furthermore, outside realm of wrestling fans, it will not earn any awards for being particularly creative. It is strictly for fans of the then current WWF product, designed to relive what they had been watching on TV in early 2000.

Story Rating: 6/10

2. Graphics:
AKI had always relied on very blocky characters, and No Mercy is no exception. Models are blocky on the whole, textures are minimal, arms are not attached to bodies, and faces are mere still shots of their real-life counterparts. Despite the fact that the N64 was quite a bit more powerful than the PlayStation, the models on the SmackDown! series looked far better even at that time. Today the in-game wrestlers just look downright ugly at times.

Animations, on the other hand, are unsurpassed to this day. Wrestlers flip, run about, and hit moves with unparalleled realism, despite a total lack of motion captioning. Every move in the game was created solely by AKI on computers, and truly shows their dedication to creating a realistic wrestling game. Again, I must reiterate, no game to this day has better animations than WWF No Mercy.

Aside from the actual wrestlers, the arenas, backstage areas, ring, etc. are all on par with most late Nintendo 64 games. They are not beautiful by any means, but they’re not ugly either. They are decidedly above-average, and certainly do get the job done quite well. The parking lot, in full 3D, is rather reminiscent to the one seen in Resident Evil 2, which is a rather nice accomplishment. When in the ring you see a full arena full of sprite-based fans, a step up from the previous WWF WrestleMania 2000 and something borrowed from WWF SmackDown!.

The main quarrel with No Mercy’s visuals, aside from the character models, lie in the entrances and with slowdown. First off, the entrances are rather unspectacular. While WrestleMania 2000 featured full entrances, No Mercy only shows the wrestler on the entrance stage. The reason for this has never made any sense, even to this day. Entrance videos, moreover, are badly compressed. While it is true that the N64 cartridges had far less room than CD media, they were not so small as to require that the entrance videos become a collection of blurry still-shots taken from the real-life ones. Slowdown is also something which found its way into No Mercy, but was not present in its predecessor. Whenever there are 4, and sometimes when there are even 3, wrestlers in a match, the game has a noticeable dip in speed. This gets particularly annoying on higher difficulties, since timing for reversals can be thrown off by quite a bit thanks to the slowed pace of matches.

All-in-all, No Mercy’s visuals are less than stunning. The animation truly stands out as top-notch, but it is muddled by slow-down, bland textures, and blocky models.

Score: 4/10

3. Sound:
The most apparent thing about No Mercy’s sound is its noticeable lack thereof. Every wrestler, except for the Undertaker, who was then using the licensed American Bad Ass by Kid Rock, has their theme in the game. It is shortened, however, so as to be just long enough for the 20 second entrances. There are multiple background songs which play during matches, but they all blend together as generic rock rifts designed to fill the silence that would exist without their presence. That said, the Nintendo 64 was never renowned for its ability to produce high-quality sound. Aside from the handicap of small carts, the actual system had difficulties in the sound department. While Nintendo was willing to work with this, and was able to produce some beautiful sounding games, most third parties were not. THQ and AKI were no exceptions. The sound quality, therefore, is comparable to most third party games made for the N64.

Score: 4/10

4. Control/Gameplay:
Ah, at last, the high-point of AKI made wrestling games: gameplay! The AKI engine bases itself around light and heavy grapples. Tap the A button and you attempt a light grapple. During this attempt, your opponent has a chance to reverse it with a hit of the L button. Heavy grapples work in the same way, but require the A button to be held. They also take longer, thus allowing for the opponent to have more time to reverse the grapple. They are, therefore, best used after an opponent has been warn down. Once in a grapple a combination of the A button and D-Pad does a weaker move, and a combination of the B button and D-Pad does a stronger move. Strikes happen in much the same way, with light and heavy ones done by the B button. These are reversed with the R button.

During a match, as you are successful, you gain momentum. When your momentum is in the red, you do a taunt by flicking the analog stick, thereby entering into special mode. In this mode you have a few moments where you are basically invincible, getting up from any move done to you, even another special. To hit your special, you enter into a strong grapple and flick the analog stick for a second time.

It is all very simple, but it works amazingly well. Matches flow in a very realistic pace, with the end often times being very exciting as both you and the computer — or a friend — attempt to hit big moves so as to increase your momentum, get your special, and finish the other off. This was a stark contrast to its counterpart, WWF SmackDown!, which had very quick and unrealistic matches. Matches in No Mercy can often last anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the quality of the players involved. There was no better playing wrestling simulation when the game was released, and to this day it has not been surpassed in the US. Most importantly, it’s just fun, something about which I can’t say for the current crop of WWE games. The only possible faults are the lack of tests of strength, present in Japanese and WCW games made by AKI, and the fact that the engine is identical to the one found in WrestleMania 2000, with no real attempt at improvement. That said, I really can’t think of any room for improvement, sans a stamina system perhaps.

Score: 9/10

5. Replayability:
The story mode can take quite a while to complete, especially if you attempt to go through every single chapter for each title. There is a ShopZone present in the game, at where you can purchase attires for CAWs and wrestlers, new moves, arenas, and hidden wrestlers like Ken Shamrock and Shawn Michaels. Aside from this, however, are just simple exhibition matches. To this day, I still play No Mercy more than any other wrestling game. Considering that it is almost seven years old, that is quite an accomplishment on the part of AKI. This also happens to have been greatly aided by the steep drop-off in quality which wrestling games have went through following the then WWF’s buyout of both WCW and ECW. Regardless, the only other game which I have played for as long as No Mercy is Super Mario Bros. for the NES. One never tired of amazingly realistic and just plain fun exhibition matches against both the computer and your friends.

Score: 8/10

6. Balance:
The game has a very balanced AI, and is never any better than the very best of No Mercy players. The handicap matches in the story mode, however, are definitely an unfair way to make the game more difficult. Triple threats can also get a bit one-sided, as two computer controlled wrestlers are more than willing to gang up on a human. Since both matches are heavily present in the story mode, which you must complete in order to unlock everything, this can lead to some strong feelings of anger towards AKI.

Score: 7/10

7. Originality:
No Mercy a wrestling game: a product designed to milk teenage fans of the WWF for their last dime. It is, moreover, one iteration in a long line of wrestling games, dating back to the Nintendo Entertainment System. Even for AKI made games, it isn’t very original, bringing no change to the gameplay system from previous editions. However, there are some nice inclusions, such as the already mentioned story mode, as well as the amusing and well-done addition of the ladder match — a first in wrestling games at the time.

Score: 6/10

8. Addictiveness:
I’ve been playing No Mercy for the last seven years, and sometimes for hours at a time. If you’re a wrestling fan, hardcore or casual, there is no more engaging of a wrestling game than WWF No Mercy. For those of you who do not like wrestling, however, the game will probably not hold your attention for nearly as long.

Score: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor:
This game should appeal to any fan of wrestling, sports, and fighting games. The engine is intuitive and unmatched, the roster represents the high-point of the WWF’s popularity, and the inclusion of a story mode and ladder match makes it a must for those searching for wrestling nostalgia and those looking for a quality wrestling game alike. Only those who hate sports and fighting games will not find something to like in WWF No Mercy.

Score: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous:
You can make adequate representations of nearly any wrestler in the Create-A-Wrestler mode. In-game wrestlers can also be edited in the CAW, meaning that you can keep Triple H’s beard up-to-date far in to the future. In fact, if you really want to, you can make everyone on the roster look like a porn star from the 1970s if you so desire.

Aside from the CAW, there’s also a Create-A-PPV mode, which lets you build your own PPV cards and save them for future playing. While this mode is nice, it lacks the rating system which was present in both SmackDown! and its sequel, SD!2: Know Your Role. This makes the CAPPV seem rather pointless, but for those who want to keep events saved, it’s there for you.

When you actually play matches, they are loaded with options. You can have first blood matches (only the N64 WWF games featured blood at this time), ladder matches, iron man matches, cage matches, tag-team ladder matches, hardcore brawls throughout the arena, battle royals up to 40 entrants, and any combination of four wrestlers of which you can think. Lacking, however, are the Hell in a Cell match, table match, and casket match which was found in SD!2. Nevertheless, this is still quite an impressive number of match types, for then and for today as well. Furthermore, when you select which wrestler you’d like to use in this plethora of match types, you will have over 60 to choose from, as well as any CAW whom you happen to create.

I should also note that, while I never experienced it in person, I know of quite a few people whose cartridges would delete the saved data at random. Some of you might also go through this, and so it is advisable that you save your data to a memory pack.

Score: 7/10

The Scores:

Story: 6/10
Graphics: 4/10
Sound: 4/10
Control: 9/10
Replayability: 8/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10

Overall Score: 65
Final Score: 6.5