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Fun grapples with weak gameplay in ‘WWE Legends of Wrestlemania’

When I was in elementary school, one of my Saturday morning routines was watching “WWF Superstars.”

I have no idea what little girls watched in the ’80s, but most of the boys I knew watched wrestling. It’s a pretty appealing product for young kids. You have a clearly defined good vs. bad and most characters were like superheroes. But like most, I stopped watching wrestling as I got older and found out it was fake. Wrestlers are tremendous athletes and great showmen, but it lost the sense of excitement and adventure for me when I knew that Hulk Hogan was just fine despite suffering a beatdown at the hands of Sid Vicious.

But THQ is targeting gamers like me who have long since stopped watching wrestling with the release of “WWE Legends of WrestleMania,” which comes just in time for Sunday’s WrestleMania 25.

The idea behind “Legends of WrestleMania” is to re-engage those former fans who grew up watching guys like Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, The Undertaker, Dusty Rhodes, Bret Hart and the Road Warriors.

The developers did an amazing job of recreating the 42 legends that make up the game — that number can go much higher with the ability to import superstars from “WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009.” Each superstar is accurately modeled and given his original entrance music. The developers also re-created the first 15 WrestleMania venues.

The game’s greatest success, however, is the WrestleMania Tour mode, in which gamers can Relive, Rewrite or Redefine past events.

In Relive, you control a legend from a past WrestleMania in a famous match in which you must achieve a certain number of objectives to win. If you play as Hulk Hogan in WrestleMania III, you will have to slam Andre the Giant at some point in the match. Rewrite allows you to change the outcome of a famous match, and Redefine changes the rules of a famous match, putting a regular match into a steel cage. Each match in this mode comes with a background video of the feud.

There is also a Legend Killer Mode in which you create your own wrestlers to battle the legends of the game.

The biggest drawback is the gameplay.

The developers gave “Legends of WrestleMania” an arcade-style gameplay, perhaps to again entice the casual or former fans. But the arcade style makes the game extremely repetitive. At times during matches, a chain appears that requires you to mash the correct buttons that appear on the screen. You have to do this to pull off any finishing maneuver, and if you push incorrectly, you lose one of your three chain levels. Also, your wrestler seems to take twice as much damage as the computer-controlled character, which can be extremely frustrating.

“Legends of WrestleMania” is a well-intentioned, fun game, but it does suffer from poor gameplay. It does, however, offer a nice history book for wrestling’s Super Bowl and does provide a little nostalgia for those who watched the sport as a kid.

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